Apple CEO Tim Cook recently sat down with Stephen Colbert on the Late Show, and discussed, among other things, his reasons for coming out the closet last year.
The conversation began by Colbert commenting on Cook’s altruism and interest in charity, which has a direct correlation to Cook’s decision to make his orientation public knowledge. With so many young people getting bullied, disowned by their parents, and even taking their own lives simply because they are gay, Cook realized that his coming out could actually help these kids and their families. It made me wonder, what if every closeted public figure had the same courage?
Cook said in the interview that he values his privacy tremendously, but that this was in many ways more important than that and bigger than just him. Celebrities often cite privacy as a way to dodge questions relating to their sexuality, which in many ways seems as retro as Cary Grant. In 1978, San Francisco Mayor Harvey Milk encouraged everyone to be honest about their orientation, saying, “Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out. ... Once and for all, break down the myths; destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.”
Cook said in the interview that he values his privacy tremendously, but that this was in many ways more important than that and bigger than just him.
That was 37 years ago, and while much progress has been made, there is still much to be done. There are still celebrities who aren’t ready to be public about their sexuality. And while many of them might say, “Why do you care? Why does it matter if I’m gay?” I say, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the correlation between how many people are openly gay and how someone reacts when someone in their lives comes out to them.
Of course, the decision to come out is deeply personal, and I can’t imagine what that must be like for someone (regardless of celebrity status). But I wonder if it’s as excruciatingly difficult (and dangerous) for a public person to come out as it is for young people. Even in the most cosmopolitan of cities, it’s still a huge risk for a kid to be honest with themselves, their parents, and their friends. Maybe, though, with a little altruism and sense of responsibility, more people like Cook will open the closet door wide enough for all those who are ready to walk through.
Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY, which is the most unoriginal sentence she has ever written. You can look at her silly drawings on Tumblr, Rad Drawings, or read her silly tweets @LilBoodleChild. Enough about her, she says: how are you?
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 9: Apple CEO Tim Cook waves as he arrives on stage during an Apple Special Event on at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium September 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Apple Inc is expected to unveil latest iterations of its smart phone, forecasted to be the 6S and 6S Plus. The tech giant is also rumored to be planning to announce an update to its Apple TV set-top box. (Photo by Stephen Lam/ Getty Images)