Today Tim Cook admitted in a piece for Bloomberg what everybody already knew: he’s gay. It’s an open secret in tech circles. Out had already crowned him America’s most powerful gay person. And Gawker had speculated that he is into Asian dudes.
While it’s cool news that the CEO of one of the most important companies in the world is now out-and-proud (especially for young gay people or those working in tech), many people have wondered why it took so long for him to acknowledge it. Apple clearly wants to be on the right side of history; as a California-based company, it employs many gay people and many more straight people who want their company to show its support for a cause that’s deeply important to their gay friends, family members, and neighbors. Silicon Valley’s progressives and libertarians both tend to take liberal views on marriage equality and other social issues. And they’re largely unreligious. A Christian polling group estimated that less than 5 percent of the areas population is at Church on Sunday.
Given that context, I’d argue that Cook’s announcement buries the lede:
While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.
This framing is important becuase he’s not just coming out as gay (which everyone knew), he’s also coming out as God-loving. Conceiving as one’s sexuality as a “gift from God” is a very specific way of thinking about gay identity. It seeks approval and tolerance for gay people within Christian communities (and mainstream American society) rather than reacting against the homophobia of religion and creating alternative institutions.
Of course, a cynical take on this is that it’s Cook’s apology to the Christian Right (and other Conservative Apple consumers) before he’s even finished telling them he’s “a sinner.” But it’s possible that religion is important enough to him that he wants to push Christian communities toward increased tolerance for gay people, by emphasizing the naturalness of being gay. He may as well have tweeted #BornThisWay. (He has not mentioned God and religion when given a prominent platforms to do so in the past, like a commencement address at Aurburn or in an interview with The New York Times, although he did once quote Jesus in an official capacity, according to a tweet from pastor and author Adam Hamilton.)
The fact that someone who creates beautiful objects that change the world is gay isn’t really news. Gay people have long been some of humanity’s most creative, artistic and visionary. No Apple consumer will be impacted by the news that the $300, white-and-gold device he’s using to take dick pics was created by a gay man, in the same way that no lover of Calvin Klein jeans would be that upset to find out that the designer who made so many asses look great in denim is gay. As gay-hating and god-loving Senator Ted Cruz reacted to the news, “Those are his personal choices. I’ll tell you, I love my iPhone.”
So as Cook struggles to either appeal to both sides, or stay true to himself, the more interesting question is not what it means for Apple that the CEO is gay (the answer: absolutely nothing). What I wonder about more is what does it mean that the creator of deeply magical, transformative technologies like the iPod, iPhone, etc. cares so much about God.
Zak Stone is the Sex & Culture Editor for Playboy.com. Follow him on Twitter @_zs