The Most Powerful Gay Man in Silicon Valley Stays Quiet on Being GayS

Everyone knows Tim Cook is gay. Valleywag said it in 2011. His colleagues say it now. It's a social triumph that the arguably most powerful businessman in the world is also gay. So why, at one of the rare moments that Cook's sexuality actually matters, won't he finally say it?

In a characteristically succinct, no-nonsense Wall Street Journal op-ed, Cook makes one point, and makes it very well: "Workplace Equality Is Good for Business." The brief article is written in support of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, "a bill now before the U.S. Senate would update those employment laws, at long last, to protect workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity." It should go without saying in 2013 that this is a good and necessary piece of legislation, but at a conservative bastion like the Journal, it's particularly poignant—and an order of magnitude more poignant coming from a man who has overcome bigotry, from his Alabama upbringing to the stodgy c-suite. Cook isn't just making a powerful political point, he's making a powerful personal point—right?

Sort of. What follows is an oddly removed argument for the bill, written by Cook as if describing a man like Cook, but never identifying as that gay man who knows the reality of workplace intolerance: "Those who have suffered discrimination have paid the greatest price for this lack of legal protection. But ultimately we all pay a price." This is of course hugely laudable from a man in such a position of power, particularly in a right-leaning business publication. But it's just as much a missed opportunity. Cook writes "People are much more willing to give of themselves when they feel that their selves are being fully recognized and embraced," and that "If our coworkers cannot be themselves in the workplace, they certainly cannot be their best selves." Who better to say this than the most powerful gay man in the history of of modern capitalism? Who else could persuade regressive Journal readers than the man whose company they worship?

Cook's piece rings so true not just because it's true, because he's lived that truth and struggled through its absence. But we won't know that, because Cook still won't say it.

Photo: Getty