Why Coming Out Still Matters

Yesterday, Tim Cook, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple, came out as a gay man. He penned an article on Bloomberg Businessweek and for the first time publicly acknowledged his sexuality.

"Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me."

Rumors about Cook's sexuality are not new. Recently, speculation grew when he attended the San Francisco Pride event earlier in the year. Apple and its leader have been strong supporters of gay rights and marriage equality going back many years. Still, yesterday's announcement made news all over the world.

Tim Cook
Tim Cook

I am not gay but I believe that coming out, and making a proclamation of it, is vitally important to our society.

Bravo to Mr. Cook for taking this step. He didn't have to come out. I believe he truly did it to further the advancement of equal rights for everyone.

"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."

But wait, there's more. On the other side of the coin, reading some of the comments online about Cook's announcement it's clear that not everyone recognizes the importance of his announcement. Some comments were supportive and some were not.

Of the later:

  • "Why do all the [expletive deleted] think we care about their sex life?" (link)
  • "I don’t really like all these ‘coming out’ news stories" (link)
  • "And you have to come out and make a big announcement BECAUSE???? NOBODY CARES!!!!" (link)
  • "I have nothing against gays except that they need to shove their sexuality in my face. A hetero couple doing this offends me too." (this one earned a great response: "Heterosexuality is shoved in gay faces every day 24/7. Get over yourself.") (link)

It seems to me that most of the comments like this were made by heterosexuals. One of the most common themes of the negative comments were of the "why is this even news?" type.

Why is this news?


The CEO of the most valuable company in the US is gay. The CEO of one of the most iconic companies in the world announced he is gay. He is the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to publicly announce that he is gay.

So, yes it matters.

It matters because being gay still means discrimination, bigotry and hate is still a part of your life. Because being gay means you can't be married to a same-sex partner in 18 states. Because being gay means that in 29 states, employers can fire you based on your sexual orientation. Because, bottom line, being gay means that you aren't afforded the same rights as other Americans, all because of your sexual orientation.

Coming out still matters.

As I said, I am not gay. I am a heterosexual, able-bodied, white male. Sure, I'm (barely) over 40, but other than that, in this society, I will never be the target of discrimination. I can't even imagine being discriminated against. I have had gay friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, employees (writing that, it sounds patronizing, I realize that) and have heard a little (tiny, tiny, little) about some of the obstacles they face in our society. I simply cannot fathom what it is like to treated the way some of them have been treated.

Yes, coming out matters. Because, coming out publicly may help the next person. And it is a reminder that we have  a long way to go.

Until being gay is as universally accepted as being left-handed, coming out will be important. Until gay-marriage is as accepted as non-gay-marriages it's okay to make a big deal of it. Until we, as an entire nation, protect the rights of gay Americans and non-gay Americans alike, coming out still matters!

Yes, coming out still matters! Thank you Tim.

Photo courtesy of Andy Inhatko, Flickr