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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Apple CEO apes Ellen's 'Yep, I'm Gay' Time magazine coming out

Ellen DeGeneres 'Yep, I'm Gay' Time Magazine cover April 14, 1997
PHOTO: In 1997, the famous comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out on the cover of the national "Time" magazine with the caption, "Yep, I'm Gay." (See "The Best TIME Covers: Yep, I'm Gay," Time Magazine cover April 14, 1997 at )

The Apple computer company CEO Tim Cook has been widely known to be gay , but he had never publically come out until BusinessWeek magazine published his opinion piece: Tim Cook, "Opening Remarks: Tim Cook Speaks Up," BusinessWeek, Nov. 3-9, 2014, p. 12-13 posted Oct. 30, 2014, in which Tim Cook starts off by excusing his silence by saying, "Throughout my professional life, I've tried to maintain a basic level of privacy," which is a statement I find eerie to read because one of the key insights recognized by Stonewall activists in 1969 was that the historical demand by society to "keep homosexuality private" was a method society used to oppress gay people. Likewise, Cook eerily wrote, "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," which I suspect he wrote to counter the common homophobic accusation that the act of someone "coming out" makes you a political activist unworthy of respect. Of course, in 1969, it took bravery for Stonewall era activists to come out and they did view it as a political act, however, today coming out has become so normal it is no longer a political act. Cook also gently addressed the common racist assumption that the gay rights movement is not comparable to the black civil rights movement by saying, "When I arrive in my office each morning, I'm greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don't pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I'm doing my part, however small, to help others."

Also see newspaper story by Mae Anderson, AP, "Apple CEO publicly acknowledges that he's gay," Gazette-Times, Oct. 31, 2014, p. A6 and "Tim Cook" accessed Oct. 31, 2014 -- Cook was born November 1, 1960 and joined Apple in March 1998 -- B.S. degree in industrial engineering in 1982 before working 12 years in IBM's personal computer business, VP for Corporate Materials at Compaq for six months until 1998 when Steve Jobs hired him to work at Apple.

Although I view Time Cook's coming out as a positive event that he should be thanked for doing, I also find it sad how Tim Cook's background represents the quintessential closeted gay person who becomes successful by marrying his job at the expense of being able to also have a husband and a family to share his life. I hope the next Fortune 500 Company CEO who is gay will be able to better balance their professional and family life.

From a business perspective, I find Tim Cook's background of being an industrial engineer and MBA (Masters of Business Administration) to be a perfect fit for Apple -- I saw people with his type of background excel in hi-tech Silicon Valley companies where I worked because it provided them with a perfect balance between the engineering nerds who start these companies and their technical genius that often lacks the business and human side of things necessary to be a broadly successful company, not just a niche supplier of components for computers or software.

Just as Tim Cook was handpicked by Steve Jobs, John Young, an Oregon State University electrical engineering graduate from the Class of 1954, was similarly handpicked by Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett to be the first non-founder CEO of Hewlett-Packard where he lasted in the job for 20 years and built it into to a large company. It will be interesting to see if Tim Cook will also be able to the same for Apple Computer over the next two decades.