Apple CEO Tim Cook has long been assumed to be gay, but he has never publicly spoken up about his sexuality despite the persistent speculation. But today, all that changed, as Cook publicly came out as gay in a guest editorial published on Bloomberg Businessweek.
"While I have never denied my sexuality," he wrote, "I haven't publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."
Despite being one of the most significant figures in the tech industry, Cook has made an effort to keep his personal life out of the spotlight. "I'll admit that this wasn't an easy choice," he said of his decision to speak out today. "Privacy remains important to me, and I'd like to hold on to a small amount of it."
But, as he explained, his position as a public figure gives him the opportunity to offer some inspiration and hope to those around the world who have to suffer in silence for fear of being persecuted or discriminated against in some way due to their sexuality.
"I don't consider myself an activist," he explained, "but I realize 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."
Some may question why a CEO announcing that he is gay is even being reported as news. Perhaps, one day, there will come a time when human diversity is universally celebrated to the point that such matters are no longer newsworthy.
For now, though, inequality and discrimination remain persistent foes in the tech industry and beyond, and it is still important to highlight that a gay man in a senior position, such as that of a CEO, is just a matter of fact, not something that needs to be met with alarm or ridicule.
"Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one's sexuality, race or gender," Cook explained. "I'm an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I'm best suited for and the work that brings me joy."
Cook's decision to come out won't change the world - he acknowledges as much himself - but his words may well help some people to step out of the shadows and into the light, inspired by the realization that they should never have to deny who they are for fear of the reactions of an ignorant few.