Ethan Jong • Published May 22, 2024

Out of the Boardroom (Closet) – a series of blog posts dedicated to shining a spotlight on the brave, intelligent, and pioneering lives of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and their coming out stories.

Tim Cook - A Living Legend

Out of the Boardroom (closet): Tim Cook Gay Apple CEO

This man needs no introduction, but to those unfamiliar, here is a brief introduction to the life of Tim Cook.

Tim Cook - CEO of Apple, Inc.

Timothy Donald Cook is Apple’s current CEO (at the time of writing) and was inducted as the CEO of Apple in August 2011. Prior to becoming the CEO of Apple, Cook served as Apple’s chief operating officer under the tutelage of the great Steve Jobs.

Cook graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree and from Duke University with an MBA. His mother, Geraldine Cook, worked at a pharmacy while his father, Donald Cook, was a shipyard worker. Cook was born in Mobile, Alabama.

To come out or not to come out, that is the question

For years prior to Cook’s coming out, he had never tried to hide his sexuality. In fact, many of his colleagues knew that he was gay. Some online articles had even mentioned Tim Cook being gay. But to most of the world, his sexuality had never been confirmed.

Emails and Letters from LGBTQ+ community

Apple CEO Tim Cook

All of this changed when Cook began receiving emails and letters from LGBTQ+ youth writing about their experiences being bullied, ostracized, and abused because of their sexuality. The young people who wrote to Cook had read online rumours regarding his sexuality which prompted them to reach out to him for support.

Cook, reading these heartfelt emails and letters, began to feel a sense of empathy for LGBTQ+ community around the world. Email after email, letter after letter, Cook started to ponder the idea of coming out to the public in order to help these young people.

Global Corporate Pressures

Tim Cook on stage at Code with Kara Swisher. Photo Credit: Code Conference

Cook realized that to come out to the world would mean a lot to the LGBTQ+ community, especially to all the people that had been writing to him. But how would his coming out be received by non-LGBTQ+ supporting people, organizations, and countries?

After all, Apple is a multinational corporation, and some of Apple’s operations lie in countries where the mere fact of being gay could get you incarcerated. How would Cook’s coming out affect sales in those countries where being gay was looked down upon by the law? Would shareholders be upset at the possibility of declining revenues, or happy for Cook’s authenticity and transparency?

Cook's Final Decision

Martin Luther King Jr.

Everyday when Cook walks into his office, he is greeted by photos of two remarkable men – Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Cook looks up to both of these figures for guidance and inspiration.

One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes that Cook recalls is:

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"

Upon reflection of this quote and the lives of all of the LGBTQ+ folks that had written to him, Cook realized that his coming out would do more good for the world than would keeping his sexuality private.

With that, Cook’s decision was set. LGBTQ+ people around the world wanted his support, and he did not want to disappoint his heroes.

The anti-LGBTQ+ shareholders, naysayers, and critics would all have to wait this one out because Cook was ready to make his leap of faith.

But before he would come out, Cook wanted to reach out to an openly gay man for some advice on how to handle the forthcoming situation.

Reaching Out to Anderson Cooper for Advice

Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen. Photo Credit:

In 2012, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper came out to the world as gay. Having been through the coming out process as a celebrity, Cooper was able to offer Cook some words of advice. The two chatted about the best way to navigate the coming out process and the importance of doing so.

After receiving guidance and support from Cooper, Cook felt that he was finally ready to come out of the closet.

Coming Out - Bloomberg Businessweek (October 2014)

Tim Cook comes out - credit: Getty Images CNN

With his motivations in mind, and the support from Cooper, Cook was ready to come out to the world. What followed was an essay written by Tim Cook and published by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Cook explains with exuberance and pride his personal journey with his sexual orientation, his reasons for coming out, and the broader political and social impacts of coming out.

"So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

The essay was swiftly picked up by the media, and before Cook could say “Apple”, he became the talk of the town.

A Rush of Support and Love for Tim Cook

In the weeks and months following Cook’s coming out, Cook was bombarded with love and support. Celebrities and organizations welcomed Cook with open arms.

Nancy Pelosi support for Tim Cook coming out as Gay
GQ Support for Tim Cook coming out as Gay
Bill Clinton Support for Tim Cook coming out as Gay

As for the concerned shareholders, Apple’s stock price and sales revenues remained relatively stable during this period. In other words, Cook’s sexuality did not affect consumer behaviour.

The Spark that Ignites the Flame

Cook’s coming out acted as a testament to LGBTQ+ people around the world that LGBTQ+ people can and do achieve greatness. That if you are being bullied, ostracized, or abused because of your sexuality, your life matters because there is a road of greatness ahead of you. But to embark on this path of greatness, you need to stay true to who you are and never, ever deviate.

Cook Continues to Carry the Torch

Cook knew that his coming out was just the tip of the iceberg to his LGBTQ+ advocacy journey. Today, Cook is at the forefront of LGBTQ+ advocacy and will not stop until justice is achieved.

An NBA Star, Rock Star, and Tech Titan Walk Into a Bar...

Tim Cook, (frontman of Imagine Dragons), Ryan Smith (owner of the Utah Jazz)

In 2021, Dan Reynolds (frontman of Imagine Dragons), Ryan Smith (owner of the Utah Jazz), and Tim Cook (you know who) donated $4 million to build eight new Encircle homes in the U.S.

Encircle homes are houses that LGBTQ+ youth can visit to interact, learn, and have fun with other LGBTQ+ youth. Each house serves 10,000 LGBTQ+ youth annually. With the addition of eight new Encircle homes being built, 80,000 more LGBTQ+ youth annually get to experience the joys of Encircle.

Thank You, but We've Got Work to Do

Tim Cook gay CEO of Apple

In 2014, Cook – being an influential Alabamian – was inducted into Alabama’s Academy of Honor alongside others like Nick Saban and Jeff Sessions. Cook was the only person of the eight inductees to give a speech during the event.

During Cook’s speech to the Governor of Alabama and Alabama state officials, he urged the State of Alabama to advance their equality laws regarding minorities – including those of LGBTQ+ people.

To accept an induction into a prestigious statewide honorary society, and then criticize that same state, is a courageous move to make. But Cook’s decision to speak up for LGBTQ+ rights was certainly the right decision to make.

'Don't Say Gay' Bill

In March 2022, Florida Gov. Ron ‘Don’t Say Gay‘ DeSantis signed a bill that would prohibit classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through grade three.

Soon after the bill’s signing, Cook took to X to share that he felt “deeply concerned about laws being enacted across the country.”

Tim Cook response to Florida's don't say gay bill

Yet again, Cook used his proud voice to showcase his strong stance on LGBTQ+ rights. If classrooms must be silent about LGBTQ+ matters, then surely, Cook would not be.

Your Future is in Your Hands

Tim Cook Gay Apple CEO Love

Some may look at Cook’s journey and be inspired to take action as well. Only to realize that they do not have the same social and financial leverage to make the same kind of changes that Cook has made.

You may find yourself thinking:

  • I do not have millions of dollars to donate for the development of Encircle homes.
  • I do not have millions of followers on X to share my advocacy with.
  • I do not have the prestige to be asked to speak at events.

But what you must realize and understand is that:

  • You do have the opportunity to volunteer time with LGBTQ+ charities.
  • You do have the opportunity to support your LGBTQ+ friends and family members.
  • You do have the opportunity to speak up against anti-LGBTQ+ activism.

Heroes are made through applying courage in the face of fearful situations – regardless of whether that fearful situation is learning how to drive or coming out as gay while being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Every day, you have the opportunity to look fear in the eyes and choose to be courageous.

Cook’s only question to you is: will you?


What is Tim Cook's net worth?

Tim Cook’s estimated net worth is $2.1 billion USD (at the time of writing).

When did Tim Cook join Apple?

Tim Cook joined Apple in 1998 as the senior vice president for worldwide operations. Tim Cook assumed the role of CEO in August 2011 when Steve Jobs resigned and passed away.

How close were Tim Cook and Steve Jobs?

Tim Cook and Steve Jobs were quite close given that they had worked together for more than a decade prior to Jobs’s passing. When Jobs’s health began to decline due to pancreatic cancer, Cook offered Jobs part of his liver after Cook found out that they shared a rare blood type. Jobs declined Cook’s offer.


Other notable openly LGBTQ+ CEOs include Sam Altman of OpenAI, Jim Fitterling of Dow Chemical, Martine Rothblatt of United Therapeutics, and Beth Ford of Land O’Lakes, Inc. 

Out of the Boardroom (Closet) Series

Calan Breckon

Calan Breckon

Calan Breckon is an SEO Specialist and Organic Content Marketer who uses search engine optimization tactics to generate more website traffic and leads for his clients. Calan has worked with companies such as Cohere and Canada Life and has been a guest on the "Online Marketing Made Easy" podcast with Amy Porterfield as well as featured in publications like Authority Magazine and CourseMethod.

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