In what may be the biggest 'coming out' of all -- and that includes Ellen DeGeneres, George Michael, Elton John, and maybe even Michael Sam -- Apple CEO Tim Cook declared to the world a long-rumored but never publicly declared truth, stating "I am a proud gay man" in an op ed for BloombergBusinessweek.com.
Homophobic business and financial leaders, and conservative politicians probably share limited respect for prowess in music or the arts, but when the global leader of arguably the world's most talk-about and valued brand adds himself to this ever-growing 'out and proud' list, it changes the game (except in places like Russia).
The fact remains in our society that success, money and power equals respect, and can also shatter stereotypes. Cook is without doubt one of the world's most influential, powerful business leaders, so it's safe to say that homophobia in the boardroom will be more frowned upon than ever thanks to Cook's declaration.
In his thoughtful piece, the 53-year-old Cook also speaks to something equally important -- there is no singular definition of 'out and proud' anymore. To be sure, the LBGT community owes a mountain of debt to those brave souls - such as Harvey Milk, Larry Kramer, and so many others -- whose coming out paved the way for massive progress such as gay marriage and other civil rights victories.
But long-known as an intensely private person (though always publicly supportive of LGBT issues), Cook clarifies his very public change of heart:
I don’t consider myself an activist, 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.
Coming out isn't a one size fits all scenario. Being gay doesn't mean you can't be shy, or prefer the intimacy of 'coming out' to a few important people, in your own time, versus sharing your entire life on a blog or social media. Coming out privately to your best friend can take every bit the courage that Cook just showed, and be every bit as heroic.
As Cook so aptly states:
Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender. 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.
Without a doubt, being fully who you are is essential to living a healthy, happy life. As Tim Cook has demonstrated so personally and profoundly, the timeframe and setting you use to declare who you are is yours, and yours alone. Writing this historical piece is Cook's way to "know that I’m doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick."
Now it's your turn. What's your 'brick' when it comes to helping pave that road to justice? Leave your comments and discuss!