Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chief of Apple Takes Bite Out of LGBT Stigmatism


Tim Cook Says He’s Gay

Although Tim Cook was out to his friends, on October 30, he made a bold move by announcing that he was gay in a Business Week essay.  According to The New York Times of the next day, “no business executive of Mr. Cook’s stature has ever done something like this before.”

Tim works in a creative environment at Apple in a state with liberal laws against sexual discrimination and gender identity.  He is really rich and is protected by anti-discrimination laws; he is not about to be fired for his confession despite the fact that Silicon Valley has few prominent executives who are openly gay. While it may be “cool” to be out if you’re a celebrity, this new trend of self-realization via the airwaves is not necessarily carried over to most businesses.

“La-La Land” Not The Real World

In twenty-nine U.S. states, your LGBT son or daughter could get fired because of their sexual orientation.  There is presently no federal law protecting workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or identity.  Some states and cities have their own protections, but the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would protect all LGBT Americans working for employers with at least fifteen employees, hasn’t passed. It’s been ten years since it was introduced in 1994.

Being fired, contracting HIV, verbal daily harassments, assaults, these are all issues that many straight parents fear for their LGBT children.  Does their child have to stay closeted amid rumors about his/her private life?  If word gets out, will their child stay at the lowest rung of the corporate ladder?

Although our country is more progressive with thirty-two states boasting marriage equality, the concerns delineated by the former CEO of Ford, Allan Gilmour, still hold true in many offices today.  Gilmour, who congratulated Cook for outing himself, said as a “gay man, he kept his own sexual orientation a closely guarded secret, but there were rumors...” He was twice passed over for the top job. Retired at age 60 in 1995, two years before Ellen de Generes outed herself in Time magazine, Gilmour waited until after his retirement to announce he was gay. Said he, “my life had a new, and wonderful dimension. I didn’t have to dissemble, lie, exaggerate change the subject, etc. I was what I was.”

Some  LGBT children find it hard to compartmentalize their life: office vs. personal.  It’s a constant balancing act that dances around the issues: Do I appear too gay for the office?  Do I have to hide whom I spent the weekend with?  Do I not bring my significant other to the office Christmas party?  How many excuses do I have to make up to get out of being fixed up with a cohort’s friend?

Cook As Role Model – “Proud To be Gay”

Tim Cook’s motives for outing himself in a Bloomberg publication appear to be altruistic. He certainly doesn’t need the attention or fame.  As quoted from the essay, “hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with whom 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.” According to Bloomberg’s Senior Executive Editor Josh Tyrangiel, Cook had sought and received the approval of Apple’s Board before making the announcement.

Even Cook Gets Criticized

Generally, Cook’s proclamation has been praised.  However, in his boyhood Bible Belt state of Alabama, one of the twenty-nine states without protections, Cook has criticized Alabama for not being quick enough to protect the rights of LGBT people.  For his activism, he has been maligned.

Recently, Putin’s Russia, concerned with the “gay agenda” removed the statue of Cook’s predecessor Steve Jobs.( Sixty percent of Apple’s sales are outside the United States in countries where homosexuality is considered punishable.) But back in the good ole’ U.S., at least, it’s started a dialogue, and who knows, maybe a movement.