Seth Culp-Ressler | Asst. Features Editor
Last Thursday CEO of Apple Inc. Timothy Cook, in a self-authored Bloomberg Businessweek exposé, came out as gay.
“I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” he wrote in the emotional statement.
As CNN Money reported, of the 700 largest corporations in the world Cook is now the sole publicly gay CEO. Upon first glance, this is a monumental milestone reflecting a recent surge of major accomplishments for the gay community. As of today 32 states allow for legal gay marriage. Fifteen of those 32 have joined the ranks in 2014 alone.
Yet, as Cook duly points out, there is much more to be done. As he explained there are still places where someone identifying as gay can be evicted from their home, or barred from visiting a sick partner. Abuse of non-heterosexual individuals is alarmingly frequent. A frightening number of states allow for employers to fire someone purely for their sexual orientation.
That last point is one that, at least personally, hits very close to home. My mother, a lesbian, spent quite a few years of her life working at a job that had such policies on the books. Her day-to-day life was one of concealment and stress, an existence that takes a hefty toll on one’s wellbeing.
Nobody should have to live their lives in measured words and carefully phrased explanations. Nobody should be forced to keep family pictures hidden out of fear. Most of all, nobody should have their job on the line because of who they may be or whom they may love.
My mom has since left that employer, moving on to an accepting workplace. The difference is remarkable.
As Cook went on, “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.”
An important note to make, and one that Cook himself seems to understand, is that this is not an end. It would be easy to point to the expanding marriage equality and acceptance of the gay community throughout the nation as a light at the end of the tunnel. And, hey, compounding that fact, a CEO of one of the world’s most powerful corporations is now out as gay! Looks like we did it folks, what more could you want?
As I would contend, quite a lot.
Cook’s proclamation is a step in a progression. I caution with everything I can muster not to look at this event with the attitude of “great, we’re done!” This is merely a step, and a small one at that. After all, when it comes to the minorities Cook said he identifies with — in many ways rightly so — he barely squeaks into the group. As a white gay male he fits into the minority most accepted within society.
Still, what he has (hopefully) done is create momentum. A precedent. An example of a non-heterosexual individual being among the most powerful people in the world.
Again, you could say this is the culmination of years of work and activism, that the elite ranks of the world are finally infiltrated. Really, however, this is just the beginning. No doubt a good start, but there is still a long way to go.
As of now there is a highly influential role model for white gay males to look up to. Proof that someone like them can really make it in the world. They can be truly successful and accepted. The problem is, that is a small community with regards to the vast amount of others who face insurmountable odds of discrimination, limited opportunities and erasure.
The lesbian community. The bisexual community. The pansexual community. The asexual community. The transgender community. The agender community. The list goes on and on. All groups who don’t have representation within the highest echelon of the world’s leaders. Many don’t have much of anyone to look up to at all.
I am in no way oblivious to that fact that I myself am writing from a position so vastly different than any of the aforementioned groups. As an upper middle class heterosexual white male I am the epitome of privileged. My life is one that many can never even dream of, I have had and will have opportunities that afford me a position not to be taken for granted.
What I also have is this space. This place where I can try my best to remind everyone — especially those in a position similar to mine — that there is still so much to be done. Tim Cook got the ball rolling. Now we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t stop.