Tim Cook says he came out as gay to inspire kids

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Tim Cook
Tim Cook at the iPhone 8 keynote.
Photo: Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook says he made the decision to come out as the first openly gay Fortune 500 CEO in an effort to inspire kids who wrote to him, not as a way to get more CEOs to come out.

Cook, who came out publicly in 2014, told CNN in an interview today that he’s happy about his decision to be open about his sexuality, even though he’s a private person. He said he decided to go public because children wrote him letters saying they had been bullied or abused because of their sexual orientation.

“I was public because I started to receive stories from kids who read online that I was gay,” Tim Cook told CNN’s, Christiane Amanpour. Cook views being gay as “God’s greatest gift to me,” he said. “I’m very proud of it.”

Tim Cook’s sexual orientation had been widely speculated before he even became the CEO of Apple. Even though he was named CEO on August 24, 2011, Cook didn’t share the details of his sexual orientation until October 30, 2014. More CEOs of top companies have since come out, but Cook said that wasn’t even in his mind at the time.

The Apple CEO has been more vocal on social and political issues than his predecessor Steve Jobs was. Cook said he wanted to use his position to show children that they can be gay and still do “some big jobs in life.” Coming out also helped him be a better leader for Apple and gave him a thicker skin from all the prejudicial comments.

“I learned what it was like to be a minority. The feeling of being in a minority gives you a level of empathy for other people who are not in the majority,” Cook told CNN.

The full interview with Tim Cook is set to air Thursday on CNN International at 8pm CT and on PBS at 11pm ET.