On the fifth anniversary of his public coming-out, Tim Cook has absolutely no regrets.
The Apple CEO, 58, reflected on his journey to living authentically last week at the 2019 GLSEN Respect Awards in Los Angeles. Cook was on hand to accept GLSEN’s Champion Award in recognition of his “ongoing commitment to fighting for LGBTQ rights and creating safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ community.”
Fittingly, Cook shared messages he’d received from people from around the world who’d thanked him after he opened up about his sexuality for the first time publicly in a 2014 essay published by Bloomberg Businessweek.
“It was my hope that pulling back that curtain on my own private life would help someone, anyone out there,” he told the star-studded crowd, which included “Mean Girls” actor Jonathan Bennett and another one of the night’s honorees, Octavia Spencer. “I truly did not expect the response I received in the days, weeks and years that followed.”
One such note, Cook explained, came from a 62-year-old closeted gay man who has been married to a woman for 28 years and “repressed, suppressed [and] denied” his true self.
“I fought acknowledging who I was because it was not the way things should be,” he said, reading from the man’s letter. “It makes me happy to know that there are others who are struggling who will give up the struggle and not travel the road that I chose.”
Dedicating his award to the man who’d written the letter, Cook added, “I trust that the world is a better, more honest, and more beautiful place when we have every opportunity to be ourselves.”
Cook told journalist Armando Correa this week that he’s proud to have made history as the first leader of a Fortune 500 company to publicly identify as gay. He went on to note that there were “many meanings” behind his decision to speak out.
“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,” Cook said. “Being gay is not a limitation. It’s a feature.”
By going public, Cook said he was hopeful he could help set an example for parents who may be struggling to come to terms with an LGBTQ child’s sexuality or gender identity.
“Some parents — I know because they’ve reached out to me — some parents struggle,” he said. “My message to them is that it doesn’t have to be like that.”