Apple chief Tim Cook said that he is “proud to be gay,” becoming the most high-profile CEO to come out, in a column Thursday that he said he felt compelled to write to help establish equal rights for people regardless of sexual orientation.
In a column in Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook said he’s been open with many people about his sexual orientation but never publicly discussed it before.
“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,” he wrote.
Cook assumed the top spot at Apple — the biggest technology company in the world — in August 2011, taking over for the company’s charismatic founder, Steve Jobs, who died that October. Cook is less of an on-stage showman than his iconic predecessor; before being named CEO, Cook was Apple’s chief operating officer.
“Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself,” Cook wrote in the column.
He said he was coming out as gay as part of a lifelong commitment to advocating equality for all people. “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,” Cook wrote.
The Apple CEO also said that “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.”
Prior to joining Apple in 1998 as SVP of operations, Cook worked at Compaq and spent 12 years at IBM. He has a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Auburn University and an MBA from Duke University.