Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed his sexual orientation for the first time in an essay published in Businessweek on Thursday, leading many news outlets reporting it as headline news.
Cook publicly identifying himself as gay is a major step forward for the LGBT movement, becoming the most prominent American chief executive to publicly identify as gay.
"While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven't publicly acknowledged it either, until now," Cook wrote.
"So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."
While Cook’s announcement certainly breaks barriers, the question has to be asked, why is this news?
In the essay, Cook wrote “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realise how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy”.
The issue with the announcement shouldn’t have anything to do with Cook’s sexual orientation. And it’s not a question about why the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world feels the need to make such an announcement. The issue is why he needed to make it in the first place.
While many people like to believe that homosexuality isn’t as big an issue as it was twenty, ten, even five years ago, and while people like to believe that a celebrity or public figure coming out isn’t a big deal, and that there’s not going to be townsfolk running down the street with their pitchforks, the fact that announcements like these still need to be made in 2014 proves that it, wrongly, still is a big issue.
“For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation: Cook says in his op-ed. “Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me.”
Homophobia is alive and well, and it is sad that rich old conservative men who hate all the gays still run the world and could have an actual influence on who the big cheese is at huge corporations. It’s certainly a positive thing that Cook had the courage to make his statement, but when are these announcements or declarations going to be unnecessary? When is it going to stop being a ‘brave’ statement and instead a normal statement for a man to say, “yeah, I like dudes”.
The Human Rights Campaign hailed Cook's move, saying he had made good use of his influence as leader of the world's most valuable company.
"Tim Cook's announcement today will save countless lives," Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign President, said in a statement.
For Cook’s announcement to be worldwide news is the sin here. Editors sitting at their desks writing headlines should have skipped over this press release in the same way they would if it read “Apple CEO likes to jog”. It’s irrelevant and not news, and certainly has no effect on how Apple is run as a company.
Unfortunately, inequality in the workplace is widespread, from the lack of women in top positions to racial and cultural prejudice and lack of openly gay men and women in general. And while it is good the media is there to spread the word when someone stands up against this prejudice, until the day comes when mainstream media can choose a headline that doesn’t read “Apple CEO Tim Cook declares he is gay”, the prejudice isn’t going to stop.