Apple CEO Tim Cook is speaking out about his sexuality, for the first time openly since he was accidentally outed by a CNBC anchor back in June. He’s coming out publicly to announce that he is proud to be gay, and to speak about the things his sexuality has taught him — and how his coming out may help others.

Back in June, a CNBC anchor was discussing the story of John Browne, a former CEO of BP, who left his job after being publicly outed by a tabloid paper. In response, host Simon Hobbs commented that there are many openly gay CEOs, and listing Tim Cook as one of them. His co-hosts quickly moved to silence him.

The Apple CEO never responded publicly to the gaffe. Now, though, in a piece for Business Insider, Cook is answering the question, and making it clear: he’s gay, and proud.

Cook’s entire piece is deserving of a read, but here are some highlights:

Why Cook has never come out openly before:

I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

However, as a man who made Out‘s list of top most powerful openly gay public personas, he hasn’t exactly been hiding his sexuality either. On that, Tim says:

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me.

Why is Cook speaking out publicly now?

I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important.

and

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.

He goes on to say that privacy is still important to him, and he’d still like to retain some. He says his focus during waking hours is on his work at Apple, and that it’s important to realize one’s sexuality is only a small part of their identity.

I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I’m best suited for and the work that brings me joy.

Still, he says being gay is one of the greatest gifts God has given him, and explains why it’s been such a boon:

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

As the CEO points out himself, not everyone is so fortunate to be able to work at a company that appreciates employee talent, without judging them by their personal lives. However, when people like Tim Cook speak out, we move further toward a world where everyone is so fortunate.

[photo credit: igrec]