-by Isabelle Bastian- “I’m proud to be gay,” wrote Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, in his coming out essay published in Bloomburg Buisnessweek on October 30. Cook had been open about his sexuality to family and coworkers but didn’t announce it publicly in order to maintain his privacy. He chose to come out publically now because he realized, “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 media has responded to his coming out very well overall, but there was some international tension when a statue of Steve Jobs in Russia was taken down soon after Cook’ declaration.
Cook is especially inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quotation, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”’. He recently posed this question to his home state as he advocated for equal rights for L.G.B.T. people during an Alabama Academy of Honor Event. Cook is the first openly gay CEO of a fortune 500 company, and his coming out marks a major step in the fight towards equal rights for L.G.B.T. people in work environments. As a recent study by Human Rights Campaign shows, 53% of L.G.B.T men and women have not come out at work. Many people feel coming out is unprofessional or fear discrimination or harassment from their coworkers. Now that Cook has come out, he shows other L.G.B.T. people that one can have a successful career as an openly gay man. His actions bring a new wave of confidence for the L.G.B.T. community. If an L.G.B.T person can be the CEO of Apple, it sends a message that anyone with any gender identity or sexual orientation can succeed at whatever job he/she strives to have. Sophomore Alexandra Farina, a member of GBSTA club, further expands on this idea, saying, “I think that his coming out is not necessarily the biggest part of this–the fact that [the CEO of Apple] is actually advocating for the community is the most important aspect because he is using his place as a powerful figure for the good of LGBT people.” Rebecca Koppel, Class VII head of GBSTA, agrees, adding, “Wanting to show other people in the [L.G.B.T.] community that they’ll be ok, is extremely admirable. Having celebrities who come out or express that they are allies shows society that it is a normal thing, and these people we regard as great embody exactly what someone may be ashamed or insecure about. Hopefully, this event and many others will help to build pride in the [L.G.B.T] community.”
Cook’s actions are the first step to gain equal rights for L.G.B.T people, but we still have a ways to go before we can achieve true equality in the workplace. Only 15 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws which prohibit discrimination of based on gender identity and only 21 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, Tim Cook’s coming out will send a message to L.G.B.T people that they can succeed despite the unfair discrimination that they face. Because such a prominent businessman is advocating for equal rights, other businesses will have to stop ignoring the discrimination towards L.G.B.T people and start making a stand either for equal rights or against it. If businesses are publicly against equality for people with different sexual orientations, L.G.B.T people can use their buying power, which is approximately $790 million, to not support that business. In this case, L.G.B.T people will have more control. Cook’s coming out can make businesses have to address both L.G.B.T employees and customers. Apple CEO Tim Cook has truly made a difference for L.G.B.T people by advocating.