When Apple CEO Tim Cook came out, it was both an event and a non-event. It was a non-event because here in Silicon Valley, most of us knew he was gay–he’s never hidden it. Like CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he never talked about it. Like most executives of any sexual orientation, he kept his private life private.
But Cook’s coming out was a really big event for the world. Because if the head of what is arguably the most significant tech company in the world talks about being gay, it may well inspire young gay people still in the closet to come out.
The being gay part, though, is a non-event. Because sexual orientation has nothing to do with anything. Oh, except sex. Let’s get that straight, so to speak. Well, maybe not straight in that way. How about: let’s make that clear.
When we read the news in our morning paper that day, M. groused, “Well, it’s not like the CEO of General Motors came out. It’s Apple. When the CEO of a big, traditional company comes out, THAT would be a big deal.”
Well, true. But it’s still a really big step for most of the country and the world.
I have to remind myself of that because California is an open place. Gay people are mostly out and proud. It’s a no-big-deal thing here.
But recent conversations have reminded me it’s not that way in other parts of the country.
M and I were discussing how we’d feel if we had a gay kid.
“It wouldn’t matter to me,” he said. “Either way.”
“In the past,” I said, “being gay was a harder life. Marriage and children were pretty much out of the question. But now, these are accepted and even legal in 33 states. It’s a far different scenario.”
But a friend who lives in an East Coast state, someone who is pretty liberal, had a different and surprising take.
“I’d rather my son weren’t,” she said. “I’ll bet deep down you feel the same. “
Actually, I don’t. It’s all the same to me, either way. And that’s probably because, as a gay friend pointed out, I’ve had far more exposure to the gay community than most Americans.
Her point was that it is still a harder life. That there is still discrimination.
I don’t see much of that where I live.
Here in California, it’s easy to forget that 17 states have bans against same-sex marriage. So every step out by a respected public figure is a step forward.
“I don’t see what the big deal is with gay marriage,” a young person said to me a few years ago. “If two people are in love and want to get married, why shouldn’t they be able to?”
I like seeing that the younger generation gets it.
Change always comes more slowly than we wish, but like a freight train, it’s coming and it’s going to be hard to stop. Thank God.
Tim Cook came out and moved us forward a big step. I think that’s pretty significant.
Oh, and while we’re talking about this stuff, let me say that I can not stand that word “tolerance” as it relates to gay people. Because the implication is there is something to be “endured.”
Acceptance seems to be a bridge too far for some. But tolerance? The term pisses me off.
By the way, if you didn’t see the powerful guest post my gay friend Gregory did on his coming out, you can find it HERE.