Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said he is “proud to be gay,” publicly commenting on his sexual orientation for the first time and becoming the most prominent openly gay executive in the business world.
In a personal essay published by Bloomberg Businessweek, 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.”
Cook, 53 years old, said he didn’t come out before because he strongly values his privacy but decided to do so now because he felt it might help others.
“I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others,” he wrote. “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.”
Cook had long been rumored to be gay, but he had never discussed the matter publicly. In his essay, he said that many Apple colleagues know he is gay. In the past, he has been outspoken about equality, including writing in The Wall Street Journal to support a federal bill to prevent job discrimination based on sexuality. In the essay, Cook said being gay allowed him to empathize with others who are in a minority.
Art Levinson, Apple’s chairman, said the board supports and admires Cook’s “courageous” statement. “His decision to speak out will help advance the cause of equality and inclusion far beyond the business world,” Levinson said in his statement. “On behalf of the board and our entire company, we are incredibly proud to have Tim leading Apple.”
With the essay, Cook became one of the few openly gay CEOs of a major company. Apple is the world’s most valuable company by stock-market capitalization, and some leaders said Cook could inspire other gay leaders to come out.