It has been four years since Tim Cook made history by becoming the first head of a Fortune 500 company to announce that he is gay, and when addressing his sexuality today, the Apple CEO rehashed the same metaphor that he used to express his liberation then.
“I’m very proud of it. To me, it is God’s greatest gift to me,” Cook told Christiane Amanpour during a CNN International exclusive scheduled to air on PBS later this week.
Many of the headlines that have sprung from the Amanpour interview report on how Cook doubled down on his demand that the government tackles federal privacy law in the internet age. It is a topic fitting of as much buzz as it can garner, especially seeing how the 57-year-old tech exec had just taken to a podium in Brussels to call the feds and Silicon Valley out for enabling a phenomenon he dubbed the “data-industrial complex.”
It is also a topic that rather ironically turned out to be fundamental to how Cook’s open identity came to be in the world.
Cook’s sexuality was a subject that the media had broached for years before he officially made it known in an essay that Bloomberg published on October 30, 2014. In its coverage of the Amanpour chat, Fortune draws up records of publications outing Cook as far back as 2011. In the years that spanned between that point and his public revelation, he had been active in various LGBTQ causes, earning him a spot on Out Magazine‘s 2013 power list, and was even mistakenly put out by a segment that MSNBC had televised four months ahead of the Bloomberg article.
The way Cook explained it to Amanpour, he very well may have gone about preserving his right to continue living his life without ever disclosing the truth, had it not been for the youth.
During their discussion, Cook recounted how many emails he received from young people who looked up to him as a homosexual man who was living his best life. Many of them shared stories of how they were trying to hang on to their dreams, yet were on the cusp of succumbing to hate, intolerance, and bullying.
“I started saying, ‘You know, I am a private person. And so, I’ve kept me to my small circle.’ And I started thinking, you know, that is a selfish thing to do at this point,” said Cook. “I need to be bigger than that. I need to do something for them, and show them that you can be gay and still go on to do some big jobs in life.”