Five years after coming out, Apple's Tim Cook says he has 'not regretted it for one minute'
Apple CEO Tim Cook in an interview published Thursday discussed his decision to publicly come out as gay in a 2014 editorial, saying he "has not regretted it for one minute, not at all."
Cook, the first head of a Fortune 500 company to come out publicly, revealed his sexual orientation in an open letter published by Bloomberg in October 2014. The executive sat down with People en Espanol to explain the obviously difficult decision and why it was important to come out when he did.
In his 2014 essay, Cook wrote, "While I have never denied my sexuality, 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."
"There's many meanings behind this," Cook said. "One is, it was His decision, not mine. Two, at least for me, I can only speak for myself, it gives me a level of empathy that I think is probably much higher than average because being gay or trans, you're a minority. And I think when you're a majority, even though intellectually you can understand what it means to be in a minority, it's an intellectual thing."
In past interviews, Cook said his resolve to come out publicly stemmed from a desire to help children. The executive would regularly receive letters from young fans — both of Apple and Cook himself — grappling with personal dilemmas related to being gay and, in some cases, coming out to friends and family. He went a bit deeper on the subject with People.
"They were depressed. Some said [they] had suicidal thoughts. Some had been banished by their own parents and family. It weighed on me in terms of what I could do," he said. "Obviously I couldn't talk to each one individually [who] reached out, but you always know if you have people reaching out to you that there's many more that don't, that are just out there wondering whether they have a future or not, wondering whether life gets better. From there I really decided."
It took about a year for Cook to "get the words exactly like I wanted" and select a "right time" for the announcement, which Apple's board of directors "unanimously" supported. As a diligent corporate leader, Cook did not want his revelatory letter to upend his business, but felt the message was important enough to share. It would also mean lifting the veil on a closely guarded private life.
"What I thought about or what I considered was, I thought about the company," he said. "Not so much whether I would have support in the company because we have a very open employee base. I didn't worry about that. But outside of Apple, yes, because the world is still not friendly to gay or trans people in many countries but also within our country. I mean you look at it there's still half the states or so where you can be fired for being gay or trans."
In looking for inspiration for what would become in part a contemplation on modern LGBT rights in America, Cook sought input from CNN's Anderson Cooper. The news anchor came out publicly in an open letter published by the Daily Beast in 2012.
Cook shared a message to kids struggling to come out, as well as those who do not understand how to treat people who are gay.
"Gay is not a limitation. It's a characteristic that I hope they view, like I do, that it's God's greatest gift," he said. "That's what I hope: to get that message out there to all the young kids struggling with their identity who aren't certain that they're resilient enough or good enough, or [they] are made to feel inferior in some way, or worse, are ostracized or whatever."
He went on to offer advice to parents whose children are gay.
"Some parents — I know because they've reached out to me — some parents struggle," Cook said. "They think their child's potential is less because they're gay. They think they can't achieve. They think they'll be bullied. They think that it's almost a life sentence to not have as good a life, to not have a happy life. My message to them is that it doesn't have to be like that. It starts with them because if they treat their child with respect and dignity, just like we treat each other, then that child can do anything they want, including [being] the CEO of Apple, or to be the president or whatever they want. Being gay is not a limitation. It's a feature."
Beyond sexuality, the interview addressed Apple's ongoing efforts in the area of U.S. immigration reform. Most recently, Cook and SVP of Retail and People Deirdre O'Brien earlier this month signed a letter to the Supreme Court supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and those protected by it.
"Sometimes people get confused and think of it as a numbers thing. But these are people. These are people with real stories behind them. And they're every bit as American as I am," Cook said. "When I speak to them, I'm speaking to Americans from my point of view. They're American in every respect except they don't have the paper. So let's give them the paper and do the right thing. I became worried that we're only a court ruling away from the wrong decision. So that's the motivation of really putting our company and personal name out there to push."
Finally, Cook covered Apple's commitment to environment initiatives including the now-completed task of transferring all company operations to 100% renewable energy. Also mentioned were forestry programs, renewable energy projects around the world and ongoing recycling efforts, the latter of which enables Apple to incorporate reused material in newly launched products like iPhone 11.
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