"Being gay is not a limitation. It’s a feature," Tim Cook told People en Español
It’s been five years since Tim Cook made history when he came out as gay — the first leader of a Fortune 500 company ever to do so — and he says he has “not regretted it for one minute, not at all.”
The Apple CEO, 59, recently sat down with People en Español editor-in-chief Armando Correa to look back on the milestone moment.
Cook had announced his news in a personal essay published in Bloomberg on Oct. 20, 2014, famously writing, “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
All these years later, Cook told People en Español he still “strongly” believes that.
“There’s many meanings behind this,” he said. “One is, it was His decision, not mine. Two, at least for me, I can only speak for myself, it gives me a level of empathy that I think is probably much higher than average because being gay or trans, you’re a minority. And I think when you’re a majority, even though intellectually you can understand what it means to be in a minority, it’s an intellectual thing. It’s not intellectual for me to be in a minority. I’m not saying that I understand the trials and tribulations of every minority group, because I don’t. But I do understand for one of the groups. And to the degree that it helps give you a lens on how other people may feel, I think that’s a gift in and of itself.”
During his tenure at Apple, Cook has been notoriously private — which left Correa wondering why he decided to publish such a personal column about his sexual orientation.
According to Cook, he was driven to come out publicly after getting notes from kids who were struggling to do the same thing.
“They were depressed. Some said [they] had suicidal thoughts. Some had been banished by their own parents and family,” Cook recalled. “It weighed on me in terms of what I could do.”
“Obviously I couldn’t talk to each one individually [who] reached out, but you always know if you have people reaching out to you that there’s many more that don’t, that are just out there wondering whether they have a future or not, wondering whether life gets better,” Cook said. “From there I really decided.”
He added: “There’s been a lot of people that came before me that made it possible for me to sit here today, and I needed to do something to help those people that were in a younger generation.”
Cook didn’t jump into the decision by any means. He took about a year to “get the words exactly like I wanted” and to pick “the right time for the company.”
“I didn’t want it to be a distraction and so forth,” Cook said, stressing that Apple’s board of directors “unanimously supported it.”
He also turned to a famous friend for advice: Anderson Cooper.
“I was looking for examples of people who had come out in a way that I thought would be similar to my kind of thinking, and he was one of the people I had identified,” Cook told People en Español. “When I’m doing something complex that I’ve never done before, I try to make a list of people who have come before … and he was the first one on the list.”
The CNN anchor had never met Cook before, the Apple CEO recalled, but still took the exec’s request for a meeting.
“He was very open about it,” Cook said. “He didn’t know what it was about. We had never met before. It was an interesting discussion to say the least. I talked to him several times that year to get his advice on different things, and I have a friendship with him now because of that.”
Ultimately, Cook stressed that, “Being gay is not a limitation. It’s a feature.”
That’s a message especially important for parents.
“Some parents — I know because they’ve reached out to me — some parents struggle,” Cook said. “They think their child’s potential is less because they’re gay. They think they can’t achieve. They think they’ll be bullied. They think that it’s almost a life sentence to not have as good a life, to not have a happy life.
“My message to them is that it doesn’t have to be like that. It starts with them because if they treat their child with respect and dignity, just like we treat each other, then that child can do anything they want, including [being] the CEO of Apple, or to be the president or whatever they want.”