I'm glad that Tim Cook has finally come out publicly. Everyone should. Living in the closet is not healthy, even for a giant of the tech industry. The Apple CEO broke open his closet doors in an essay in the latest issue of BusinessWeek.
"Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I'm gay, and it doesn't seem to make a difference in the way they treat me," he writes, adding that his company has been in the forefront of fighting for gay rights, including supporting a workplace equality bill in Congress and marriage equality in California as well as opposing an anti-gay bill in Arizona.
"When I arrive in my office each morning," Cook says, "I'm greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don't pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I'm doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick."
One thing Cook doesn't address in the essay is the question of what, if any, responsibility people in his position have to the LGBT movement that paved the way for him to come out? Let's face it, he's not personally risking much. Apple is not going to fire him for being queer. I doubt that anyone in the business world is going to stop dealing with him. There won't a boycott of Apple products. The worst that will happen, I imagine, is that crazy fundamentalist church in the Midwest will add Apple to its list of people and entities that their twisted god hates.
The question of responsibility is an important one, especially for the CEO of a company whose employees are often seen as helping to create the housing crisis in San Francisco, a city of refuge for LGBT folks and others. The influx of thousands of well-paid tech workers from Apple and other Silicon Valley companies is one reason rents have soared and landlords are evicting long-term rent controlled tenants paying below market rents. The other reason is real-estate speculation, which unfortunately accompanies any housing boom. Has Apple come out in favor of Prop G, a measure on the November ballot that will dis-incentivize that speculation?
The San Francisco LGBT community has been hit hard. Last year's citywide homeless count reported that 29% of those without housing identify as LGBT, with an additional 3% identifying as transgender. 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. District 8, which includes the Castro, has the highest rate of evictions via the Ellis Act ( a state law ), one of the means by which speculators have been evicting long-term rent controlled tenants so they can flip their buildings and make huge profits. With average rents at about $3,500, the reality is that San Francisco is now completely unaffordable to those who throughout the past four decades have fled here to escape homophobic harassment and violence, individuals who helped create an environment that makes it easier for people like Cook to emerge from their closets. Many of those folks have been evicted or made homeless because of the tech boom in Silicon Valley.
Obviously Cook can rest on his laurels, satisfied that he's laid his brick. His coming out will surely help others all over the world feel okay in their sexuality. That's a sizable contribution.
It's just that as someone who every day sees the horrible effects of poverty and the housing crisis on the LGBT community ( especially among youth, people with AIDS and seniors ), I want Cook to do more. I want him to help us wage war against poverty in the LGBT community. I want him to support efforts to feed, house and provide healthcare and jobs to everyone in our community. I want him to recruit those with money and connections in the LGBT community and elsewhere to get involved in the fight.
Don't just lay a brick, Tim Cook. Build a road to economic justice and equality for all.