Tim Cook came out; moved us forward

November 30, 2014


When Apple CEO Tim Cook came out, it was both an event and a non-event. It was a non-event because here in Silicon Valley, most of us knew he was gay–he’s never hidden it. Like CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he never talked about it. Like most executives of any sexual orientation, he kept his private life private.

But Cook’s coming out was a really big event for the world. Because if the head of what is arguably the most significant tech company in the world talks about being gay, it may well inspire young gay people still in the closet to come out.

The being gay part, though, is a non-event.  Because sexual orientation has nothing to do with anything. Oh, except sex. Let’s get that straight, so to speak. Well, maybe not straight in that way.  How about: let’s make that clear.

When we read the news in our morning paper that day, M. groused, “Well, it’s not like the CEO of General Motors came out. It’s Apple.  When the CEO of a big, traditional company comes out, THAT would be a big deal.”

Well, true. But it’s still a really big step for most of the country and the world.

I have to remind myself of that because California is an open place. Gay people are mostly out and proud. It’s a no-big-deal thing here.

But recent conversations have reminded me it’s not that way in other parts of the country.

M and I were discussing how we’d feel if we had a gay kid.

“It wouldn’t matter to me,” he said. “Either way.”

I agreed.

“In the past,” I said, “being gay was a harder life. Marriage and children were pretty much out of the question. But now, these are accepted and even legal in 33 states. It’s a far different scenario.”

But a friend who lives in an East Coast state, someone who is pretty liberal, had a different and surprising take.

“I’d rather my son weren’t,” she said.  “I’ll bet deep down you feel the same. “

Actually, I don’t. It’s all the same to me, either way.  And that’s probably because, as a gay friend pointed out, I’ve had far more exposure to the gay community than most Americans.

Her point was that it is still a harder life. That there is still discrimination.

I don’t see much of that where I live.

Here in California, it’s easy to forget that 17 states have bans against same-sex marriage. So every step out by a respected public figure is a step forward.

“I don’t see what the big deal is with gay marriage,” a young person said to me a few years ago. “If two people are in love and want to get married, why shouldn’t they be able to?”

I like seeing that the younger generation gets it.

Change always comes more slowly than we wish, but like a freight train, it’s coming and it’s going to be hard to stop. Thank God.

Tim Cook came out and moved us forward a big step. I think that’s pretty significant.

Oh, and while we’re talking about this stuff, let me say that I can not stand that word “tolerance” as it relates to gay people. Because the implication is there is something to be “endured.”

Acceptance seems to be a bridge too far for some. But tolerance? The term pisses me off.

By the way, if you didn’t see the powerful guest post my gay friend Gregory did on his coming out, you can find it HERE.

12 comments on “Tim Cook came out; moved us forward
  1. I will add that it pains me to see young people who cannot bring themselves to accept their sexuality and hide their orientation from their parents and friends leaving them to guess and worry. I look forward to the day NO announcements need to be made. I look forward to the day I can ask the question,”are you gay” as easily as I can ask the question “are you married.” And speaking of which, the signal a person is married is a left handed wedding ring. Maybe its time for a right handed wedding ring.

    • This is still happening, you’re right. There are still parents who would completely freak out. I see it more other places than here. I agree about the day no announcements need be made.

  2. As someone living on the East Coast, and within a short driving distance to Manhattan, let me say we’re pretty enlightened, too.

    I’d love my son the same if he told us he was gay. I am among lots of gay people while roaming around New York and, yes, even here in New Jersey. We are pretty cool. Not exclusive to the West Coast!

    I don’t see the big deal, I am glad Tim Cook decided he wanted to announce his sexual orientation. That was his choice. And if the head of GM or the President or anyone else in the world decides the same, it makes no difference. None at all.

  3. I do know what you mean about living here — it lends itself to blocking out the fact that there are areas that are less progressive. Thankfully the fact that same sex marriage is legal in 20 states and DC, means enlightenment is not limited to California.

    I have the EXACT same feeling about the word tolerance. I positively abhor it.

    • When I moved here in ’84 gays here didn’t just play tennis, they played “gay tennis” and “gay bridge” and all that. It was an eye opener for a girl who had lived in small, East coast cities.

  4. Laura Kennedy says:

    I have said repeatedly, “Boy, girl; hell, a good-lookin’ goat–I don’t care. I just want them all to find someone to love & be happy with.” And yes, deep down, that is truly how I feel. (Well…maybe not the goat.)

    • Ten years ago my almost-mother-in-law took me to see Albee’s The Goat, and it was probably the most shocking thing I’d seen, ever. Of course, I do have a broad tolerance for abberrance, but the goat was a bridge too far.

  5. Ruth Curran says:

    I too hate the word tolerance in this context. I am not even that crazy about acceptance because, although more enlightened, it still means there is a fundamental difference. As you pointed out, the real difference is sex and, being the classic prude that I am, I don’t really want to know about anyone’s sex life. For me, there is no fundamental difference.

    I am just worn out by the fear-based perceptions in the world Carol. Fear that stems from the unknown, the unseen, and the un-imagined…. Does fear of those not exactly like you = intolerance? If so, intolerance should be banished forever. My two cents….

  6. It is amazing to me that anyone cares about anyone else’s sexual preference, and I can’t wait for the day that no one has to “come out” because they just “are.” Good for Tim Cook, though. The more everything is out in the open, the better.

  7. It wouldnt’ matter to me what my kids sexual orientation is. My job is to love them unconditionally. I grew up in KY and now live in the “Bible Bet” and I know that we are far behind the rest of the world and it makes me sad to think that I live in a state that would make it harder for anyone to share their love, their life and their future if that is what they want to do. I also know that even in my own family I’m in the minority and that REALLY makes me sad.

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