Why I’m talking about Tim Cook’s sexuality

By Felix Salmon
August 26, 2011

Every so often I put a blog post up, start getting feedback on it, and realize I’ve got things horribly wrong. And then sometimes, very rarely, the opposite happens: I put up a post and discover that I was more right than I ever suspected. My post yesterday on Tim Cook’s sexuality is one of those times.

Which is not to say that it’s uncontroversial. I’ve had significant pushback on it, and on the video above, from both inside and outside Reuters. The negative responses fall into a few broad categories:

Haven’t we moved on?

This is rarely accompanied by an elucidation of exactly what it is we’re meant to have moved on from. If it’s the kind of world where people are scared to come out at work, then, first, I’m sorry, but we haven’t. There are, obviously, no reliable statistics on how many LGBT people are out at their work, partly because “out” isn’t the nice, binary concept that a lot of journalists would seem to like it to be. (More on that later.) But I can tell you that I’ve had a lot of private feedback from gay professionals thanking me for my post, saying that it’s still hard for them to come out in the workplace, and that more open discussion and open acceptance of executives’ homosexuality is something we’re only beginning to work towards.

It’s still not normal, in most workplaces, to have an open and accepting culture where all gay employees feel comfortable being open about who they are and who they love. Apple, by all accounts, is very good on that front, and Steve Jobs’s other billion-dollar startup, Pixar, is even better. But the very fact that neither Apple nor Tim Cook has ever said anything about this aspect of his identity is a clear indication that people are still worried about it. The closet is an institution designed to protect LGBT individuals from scorn and hatred; without that scorn and hatred, it would not exist. It exists. And, lest we forget, neither the federal government nor most states gives equal rights to gay couples; in most states, including California, it’s still entirely legal for a company to fire someone just for being gay.

More generally, it’s still the exception rather than the rule for successful gay people in the public eye to be out. Some gay people who achieve success feel a responsibility to serve as role models and advocate for equality and public acceptance. That’s great. But what we see very little of is the people who simply don’t hide who they are, and who don’t make a big deal of it — the non-political gays. And the reason we see so little of it is because it’s a very tricky act to pull off. Instead, we have the institution of the “glass closet”. Which is clearly just a stepping stone on the path to full acceptance. So I think it’s reasonable to say that we’re a very long way from having “moved on”.

Why should shareholders care?

The number of things that shareholders care about, with respect to any given company, is as varied as the number of shareholders itself. But certainly there’s no particular or obvious reason why Tim Cook’s homosexuality is relevant to Apple’s shareholders, qua shareholders. As journalists, however, the media has a responsibility to more than just a company’s shareholders: its responsibility lies to the public as a whole. Including millions of gay professionals, their friends, their families, and people who aspire to being gay professionals. For these people, seeing Tim Cook rise to a position of such prominence and power is something to celebrate. If the media keeps that news on the down low, we’re therefore doing a disservice to that large and important part of our readership. Meanwhile, if shareholders don’t care, that’s fine. Most news is of no interest to most people. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be published.

What business is it of mine what Tim Cook does with his genitals?

This isn’t an issue of sex, it’s an issue of sexuality — a central part of who all of us are. It’s about attraction, and identity. Not genitals.

Now admittedly Tim Cook’s sexual identity isn’t any business of yours either. But it’s worth asking who exactly we’re protecting here. Tim Cook hasn’t complained about coverage of his sexuality, but a lot of straight people who don’t know him seem to be very upset about it. It seems a bit like the old attitude of “I don’t care what consenting adults do in private, just so long as they don’t stick it in my face.”

All too often, secrecy surrounding someone’s sexuality is imposed upon that person by the straight society surrounding them. It’s the “I don’t want to hear about it” attitude which reached its nadir in the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Many gay professionals — I’m tempted to say most gay professionals, at least outside the creative industries — act very much in line with an implicit policy of don’t-ask-don’t-tell; coming out to co-workers is done individually, on a case-by-case basis, and acts as a sign of deeper friendship and outside-of-work socialization. And it contrasts quite sharply with the overt displays of straight employees who happily plaster their cubicles with photos of their spouses and children or unselfconsciously talk about the attractiveness of members of the opposite sex.

This is irrelevant, so we should ignore it.

Not when ignoring it is the problem. As commenter Hamranhansenetc said on my original post, “what you mean by ‘ignoring Time Cook’s sexuality’ is ‘pretending he is straight.’” It’s rude to do that. And skirting the issue of Cook’s sexuality only encourages and exacerbates that problem. As Hamran continues (you should really read the whole comment, it’s great), “In the larger sense, it does not matter that Tim Cook is gay and not straight. However, it does matter when the media pretend Tim Cook is straight and not gay. And that is what we are talking about here.”

Another commenter, RaidV92C, reacted a rather different way, but just as accurately: “This is not newsworthy, it’s west coast, liberal media, hollywood forcing homosexuality as NORMAL on the general public.” Yes. Exactly. Homosexuality is normal. And people who object to stories which cover an executive’s homosexuality as being as unexceptional as another executive’s wife and children are exactly the people who are winning if no mention is made of Cook’s sexuality.

Do we report that executives are straight?

Yes, all the time, especially when we talk about their families. And more generally straight is the default option — people are assumed to be straight unless we’re told otherwise. No LGBT person likes it when they’re assumed to be straight, but it happens every day.

Isn’t this a salacious invasion of Tim Cook’s privacy?

There is nothing salacious about someone being straight, or being gay. Insofar as you think it’s salacious, that’s because you think that being gay is somehow naughty, or shameful. Is this an invasion of privacy? To a certain extent, yes. More people know more things about Tim Cook now than they did a few weeks ago. That’s what happens when you become the CEO of Apple.

In any public corporation, there’s a small number of people whose jobs are outward-facing, and at the top of the list is always the CEO. He’s the public face of the company; if you see a corporate profile on the cover of a glossy magazine, chances are it will be illustrated with a big picture of the CEO. If you don’t want your face splashed across the world’s media, then you shouldn’t be CEO of a massively valuable company which touches millions of people. Sometimes, as in the case of Mark Zuckerberg, entire movies — and not particularly accurate ones, either — are made about you and your personal life. Reporting that Tim Cook is gay is absolutely nothing, in the invasion-of-privacy stakes, compared to The Social Network. But CEOs, especially CEOs of public companies, are public figures. Their salaries are a matter of public knowledge. When you’re a public figure, you lose a certain amount of privacy. And the higher your profile rises, the more privacy you lose. Tim Cook knows that; he knows that it’s silly to expect to be the CEO of Apple without the world knowing that he’s gay. So let’s stop pretending that we’re not talking about this subject for his sake.

Finally, one critical note I got went so far as to say that “I would think people who are gay don’t care” that Cook is gay. Which is almost hilariously, completely wrong. All the feedback I’ve got indicates, unsurprisingly, that LGBT people really care about this — they care about it a lot, and they want to see it celebrated as widely as possible. It’s perfectly natural to feel pride and joy when a member of your community rises to a position of great success and prominence.

I’ve been incredibly heartened by the thanks I’ve got from gay friends, gay acquaintances, and gay people I’ve never run across before, all saying that they wish there were many more people pushing this line of argument. And I was also heartened, when I talked to John Abell about this yesterday for the video above, that he thinks the same way: not only should the media cover Cook’s sexuality in a more matter-of-fact way, but that they will, as well. Cook himself need do nothing.

At the same time, though, I agree with Nicholas Jackson that it would be great if Cook was more open about his sexuality. The glass closet is not an unpleasant place to be. The more transparent the glass, the less likely you are to have people making you uncomfortable by assuming that you’re straight. And at the same time, by never “officially” coming out, you get to avoid having to talk about your sexuality in public — something very few people like to do.

It’s sad and rather silly that gays have to make some kind of formal and official statement about these matters; certainly straights don’t. But without such a statement, as we’ve seen, the media gets cold feet talking about sexuality, and perpetuates the stigma associated with homosexuality. A very common response to my piece from journalists was to question my sourcing: how did I know that Cook is gay? Do I have first-hand knowledge? (No, and if I did, I would never have written my post.) Do I have reliable sources? (No, I’m simply passing on information which is in the public realm, just as I do with dozens of other pieces of information every day.) And isn’t it unethical to talk about something unless you know for sure that it’s true?

What’s unethical, I think, is perpetuating the false idea that Tim Cook is straight — an idea which, it turns out, many people had. One person said it was “disappointing” that I disabused her of that notion. Why she should be disappointed to learn this news I can only guess, I haven’t asked. But honest journalism has to be honest. If I allow you to continue to believe a falsehood, that’s a form of dishonesty. And I, for one, am not comfortable with that.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Honestly Salmon, I really, really don’t care about Tim Cook’s personal preferences, be they sexual (ity) or otherwise. If others do then that’s fine.

AAPL up or down, That’s more interesting.

Posted by ottorock | Report as abusive

I agree with you and keep fighting the good fight.

Posted by netflix2 | Report as abusive

@ottorock, AAPL up or down doesn’t interest me in the slightest, sorry.

Posted by FelixSalmon | Report as abusive

I still believe it is up to Tim Cook to decide how he wants it to be treated. It’s not that dissimilar to Steve Jobs and the chatter about his cancer. We’re a gossip nation, modeled after the UK.

Posted by GRRR | Report as abusive

As a CEO you want to be known for your creativity, your decisions, your leadership, and your results. And for anything else that is done in concert with the company that you work with. Personal notoriety for ANYTHING, good or bad that is not in concert with the company is a problem. It is not helpful to you. It simply creates problems for you most of which are political.

He will do the very best if he says nothing and acknowledges nothing. And in that action he is the best symbol for everyone regardless of sexual preference.

Posted by CurtD59 | Report as abusive

You pretty much described what I go through every day in every job I have ever held.

Anyone saying “I don’t care what you do in private” probably doesn’t work on Mondays in Corporate America. When your boss or colleague asks you what you did last weekend, do you reply with “Sorry, what I do in my private life has no bearing on my job and I don’t want to shove it in your face”?

There is a social and personal element to every work interaction, and the glass closet serves to devalue that interaction. Period.

Posted by Wyso | Report as abusive

Thanks Felix, I was one of the many gay professionals truly inspired by the news.

Posted by Stevensaysyes | Report as abusive

“@ottorock, AAPL up or down doesn’t interest me in the slightest, sorry.”

And that’s fine by me too.

Posted by ottorock | Report as abusive

I don’t know Apple’s internal culture. In one organization of mine, I asked if this should be an issue, meaning more discussion of it, and the answer from the LGBT members was the felt so integrated that it wasn’t an issue at all.

My point is Apple is one thing and society is another. Apple may not, seems not to have, an issue but obviously society does or the leading GOP presidential candidates wouldn’t be pushing gay conversion (and the idea that gay people are possessed by demons). So it may not matter for Apple but it is worthwhile in a larger discussion. No one can say it doesn’t matter in American society.

Posted by jomiku | Report as abusive

Look, quite honestly this is old news, announced when Tim Cook suddenly became more important as acting CEO. That would have been the time to discuss this, when it made a difference.

Of far more relevance to Apple investors should be the “second man” effect. From politics to Business, over and over again we see obedient, effective No 2s taking over from dominant No 1s, and the company silently slides off to some completely different place. Look at Thatcher to Major, Reagan to Bush I just for starters. I can’t think of any names offhand in the corporate world, but they are there, and many of them there are too.

Maybe the US does have a problem ‘growing up’ in the world. It’s not restricted to sexuality though single-sex marriages did seem to give GBII his second Presidency. There’s still problems with race, poverty, attitude to foreigners, foreign policy, image v substance and so many other things that Europeans don’t even see as issues any more.

As for US politics, I pity you guys who have to live with it. So backwards, ignorant and twisted so often. I would think sexuality would be the last thing to worry about – although there have been that many gayGOPs outed in the last few years i can only assume they use this card to get the ignorant to vote for them in spite of any other policy they hold.

Where I live, it’s legal to have same sex marriages, to be gay at work, and to be honest live your life like any other person would. Why does America have to be so different that it becomes a topic on a Reuters Finance blog? I guess I’m just used to having see that happen 30 years ago here.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

What kind of selfish person wants to “out” someone? People are all different, have different families and not everyone wants their private life broadcasted.
Outing someone makes you a selfish bastard.

Posted by DavidBarkerUK | Report as abusive

Maybe a little off topic, but to that Abell cat… there comes an age when the goatee just makes you look creepy!

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive

Your message was positive and therefore no pushback from me. (overdone, yes… but had a message that many gays very happy to hear, so still positive)

America is not moving forward! When a Presidential Candidate is one who began her political career and runs on an anti-gay agenda (and her husband makes a living which abuses the healthcare system by counseling to convert gays) we know that is anything America is going backward.

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

> Do we report that executives are straight?
> Yes, all the time, especially when we talk about their
> families.

This is pretty close to my thought on it: don’t report “Tim Cook is gay”, just report that he’s been in a relationship with so-and-so for n years, or once dated so-and-so. Certainly don’t shy away from reporting the other things that are normally reported, but I’m not sure this needs this kind of emphasis.

> And more generally straight is the default option —
> people are assumed to be straight unless we’re told
> otherwise.

This, more or less, is what we’re supposed to have moved on from, at least on some level.

On some level, though, we won’t, because most people are straight. Similarly, most people are right-handed. Don’t doctor photos of left-handed people signing documents, and don’t report on the family situations of people only if they’re straight. I’m not sure either needs to be emphasized outside of a piece that is intended as biographical, though.

I kind of think the media should lead on this. Making a big deal of it will continue to make it a big deal. Even if we’re not there yet, the media should, if not pretend we are, at least not enable it to too significant a degree. If we don’t want people to be boxed in — professionally, or in other parts of their lives — by their sexuality, we shouldn’t put them in those boxes.

Posted by dWj | Report as abusive

Ironic isn’t it; Reuters finance worries about Tim Cook’s sexuality while Apple-centric MacRumours gossip website talks about his ten year financial lock-in as Apple CEO, RSUs and his form 8-k for the SEC.

http://www.macrumors.com/2011/08/26/appl e-awards-tim-cook-1000000-shares-of-stoc k-as-ceo-bonus/

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

I must object to your statement, “Homosexuality is normal.” No, it isn’t, by the very definition of the word, “normal”. What you mean is that homosexuality is not (or at least ought not to be), exceptionable. This is more than a minor quibble. When you use the word “normal” to mean “unexceptionable”, you are tacitly conceding the major premise of all bigotry, that anything different is, ipso-facto, wrong, while trying to simultaneously convince your opponent that one particular, favored kind of abnormality somehow doesn’t count — to which the logical bigot (if Dante could have a logical demon, I think I may be allowed a logical bigot) quite understandably replies, “The hell you say, fudge-packer,” and proceeds to beat you to a bloody pulp.

Posted by John_W_Kennedy | Report as abusive

I agree with what you say, Felix, but just fyi, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (Govt. Code sec. 12940) specifically prohibits discharging a person because of his or her sexual orientation. That’s not true in every state, but it is here.

Posted by sn100 | Report as abusive

Felix writes: “The closet is an institution designed to protect LGBT individuals from scorn and hatred; without that scorn and hatred, it would not exist.”

…is that true? Do not some people stay in the closet because they value their privacy? When any public figure keeps any relationship private isn’t that similar to being in the closet? Example prince William kept his relationship with Kate as seceret as he could for as long as he could. Did he fear scorn and hatred… no he just didn’t want press following her around evey waking minute.

I tend to think that the more people ignore Tim Cooks sexualality the more tolerent we are not less.

As an example to Felix’s headline… if I am not to ignore Tim’s sexuality what am I to do with it. Acknowledge it… how exactly? Should we do more than acknowledge it… should we celebrate it? Again how… or why?

I’m all for equal rights and non-discrimination but when I read that I shouldn’t ignore Tim Cooks sexuality I’m kind of thinking that Tim Cook probably wishes we all did ignore it.

I think Tim Cook would like people thinking about how Apple is going to make my TV and my computer work togeather better and cheaper than they currently do!

Posted by y2kurtus | Report as abusive

“….And it contrasts quite sharply with the overt displays of straight employees who happily plaster their cubicles with photos of their spouses and children or unselfconsciously talk about the attractiveness of members of the opposite sex.” Or worse. Chester the molester is nearly always making the point that the female employees are to be judged by their ass, not by their work. Guys who think that gay sexuality shouldn’t be “in my face” are usually exerting privilege, which is the privilege of being successful at your work and still being sexual. Women who do that are bitches or dykes or both.

Posted by Eastvillagechic | Report as abusive

@John_W_Kennedy, I think we may disagree on the meaning of the word “normal.” To me, the normal state is diversity of gender, skin color, religion and sexual preference. That means that homosexuality is simply one possibility within the normal range.

I get the feeling that you think that homosexuality is not “normal” because it’s not “the majority’s orientation.” If that is the case, then we do disagree.

Posted by Dollared | Report as abusive

Until the latest round of retrospective articles, I had no idea Steve Jobs was adopted, that his biological father was Syrian, that his sister is a semi-famous novelist, or even that he’s married with kids. What I did (try hard to) know about Steve Jobs was the stuff that mattered, the stuff about shaping the future.

Similarly, I just don’t need to know or care about anything about Tim Cook other than what he will accomplish professionally. That can wait until he too retires.

Seriously, with this latest tl;dr double-down, you’re starting to come across a bit like Andrew Sullivan with his weird obsession over Sarah Palin pregnancies.

Posted by anon242 | Report as abusive

Neither Apple nor Cook has said anything about his orientation because it’s not relevant to the company. Apple looks to be a leader in the markets they address, and I don’t get the feeling Cook wants to be a leader on any social issues, just a leader of the best run and most successful company in the world (most successful meaning they have the happiest employees, shareholders, and customers).

If Cook has spoken out about other social issues, you might have a case, but he only publicly speaks about Apple and Apple products. That’s the role he wants to play. Not everybody wants to be an advocate for something.

Posted by KenG_CA | Report as abusive

For my money the comments of KenG_CA and DavidBarkerUK are directly on-point.

Can’t help suspecting, Felix, that there’s more than a little talking your own book with these Tim Cook posts.

To quote y2kurtus:

I tend to think that the more people ignore Tim Cooks sexualality the more tolerent we are not less.

[per] Felix’s headline… if I am not to ignore Tim’s sexuality what am I to do with it? Acknowledge it?… how exactly? Should we do more than acknowledge it?… should we celebrate it? Again how?…

I’m all for equal rights and non-discrimination but when I read that I shouldn’t ignore Tim Cooks sexuality I’m kind of thinking that Tim Cook probably wishes we all did ignore it.”


Posted by dbsmith1 | Report as abusive

I worked with Tim back when he was at Lenovo and he was not a homosexual then and I doubt that he is today. Anything is possible because, after all, it is a CHOICE and Apple is located near Sodom, California. But again, I doubt it.

The crux of the claim seems to be that he is homosexual he is a lifelong bachelor. You homosexuals have an obnoxious habit of trying claim as one of their own anyone not always married, currently married, and happily married. It is a non sequitur. If you are going to slander Tim, then cough up some proof … a picture, an email, and public statement, or something. Put up or shut up.

Posted by jollypants | Report as abusive

If Tim Cook hasn’t publicly said anything one way or the other, are we not dealing with rumor and supposition? Or worse, violating an expressed preference for privacy?

We might reasonably suppose that he is gay, and reasonably suppose that he is only refraining from a public admission from fear, but we might reasonably suppose many things. I’ve usually found it safer to stick to facts.

As for some of the other comments, a co-worker who shares pictures or anecdotes of his spouse and kids is NOT celebrating his sexuality. He isn’t making an effort to hide it, perhaps, but neither is he focusing attention on that fact. Gay co-workers I have known do much the same.

In contrast, a co-worker who makes crude comments about the attractiveness of female co-workers (or female movie stars) isn’t “exerting privilege”, he is being crude. And at least at places I have worked, the promotions do not go to employees who are habitually crude.

So I shrug… It doesn’t seem to me that we have much information to work with, or that we are welcome in this line of speculation, which puts this speculation at only a slightly higher level than that of a crude co-worker commenting on T&A.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

Thank you Felix for this post, it was great. As a gay executive with a C in front of his name, I can tell you personally that the glass closet is a terrible place to be. And like it or not, we’re not at a point where it doesn’t matter. And people who say “it’s irrelevant all I care about is the stock etc” as you point out, miss the point.

I feel great pride in knowing that one of us can achieve a great measure of success. And I always hope we get to that place where we can say, as an aside like we do for straight people “Tim’s partner X who is a whatever at XYZ corporation…” as part of his bio, like we do on our corporate site. Until then, it’s an issue and you’re on the money with your post.

Posted by skyman123 | Report as abusive

Clearly Tim Cook is brilliant and generous, a rare gem, and the world is lucky to have him. His lineage could be a special one and I therefore will go ahead and say that this rumor, if true, means the next generations may shine a little bit less brightly. And I don’t find that to be cause for dancing in the streets.

When we appreciate or even celebrate someone’s family life, we are not celebrating sexuality (duh!), we are celebrating new life and the nexus of the present and future generations.

Posted by DanHess | Report as abusive

“If Tim Cook liked to have sex with farm animals, would that be news-worthy for a financial publication?”

Uh… Yes? How can this even be a question?

But homosexuality isn’t illegal, it isn’t shameful. It is simply private (as long as individuals choose to keep it so).

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

For those exact same reasons, you, the wirter, should give us details about your own sexuality. Are you gay ? Straight ? curious ?

I think actually, we need to go deeper than that. We need details on what your significant other is like physically and mentally, and what you do with him/her sexually and socially. For example, many hetero practitioners of sodomy fear mentioning the subject in public. If you do practice it, it is your moral duty to advertise it, and describe precisely what makes for a good sodomy.

All those are extremelly relevant details to put your prose in the right context. I’m counting on you to pony them up, with some extra info about your early sexual experiences, wich everyone agrees are important in forming one’s adult personnality.

Eagerly awaiting the “I did as I said” follow up column. Or ar you an a-hole ?

Posted by obarthelemy | Report as abusive

How are we even to know how Tim Cook feels about this? Even if he hates what you are doing, Felix, he can’t possibly speak up without pissing off a lot of people.

If he ever tries to get married and have a family now, will he be considered to have betrayed a cause and ‘be living a lie’? David Bowie lived as a gay man before marrying and having a family a couple of decades ago. He wasn’t just openly gay, he was flaming. And then he wasn’t. Don’t remember?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpcldXhsM pI&feature=fvsr

Would that be even possible in 2011 or would Bowie be forced back to the 1970s version of himself, or else be told he is “living a lie” and betraying people like you who want to wave gays around like a flag?

I am sure a lot of people remain ‘in the closet’ because they sincerely don’t know what their future will be. Honestly, what gives the right to define someone you don’t even know?

Posted by DanHess | Report as abusive

Since Felix Salmon is apparently such a strong advocate of transparency and making sexuality an issue, I demand that he disclose full details of his sexuality and other personal behaviors. Fair is fair. But II doubt that he will. Such is the conceit and hypocrisy of his assertions.

Posted by groupeone | Report as abusive

Since Felix Salmon is apparently such a strong advocate of transparency and making sexuality an issue, I demand that he disclose full details of his sexuality and other personal behaviors. Fair is fair. But II doubt that he will. Such is the conceit and hypocrisy of his assertions.

Posted by groupeone | Report as abusive

DanHess, you can turn that around the other way as well… There are countless men who marry, raise families, and eventually (sometimes after their kids are grown) declare themselves gay.

Marriage and children do not define sexuality. For that matter, I’m not sure what DOES define sexuality outside of a personal statement of preference. A statement which (to my knowledge) Tim Cook has not made publicly.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

This article reminded me of this post on Tumblr:

http://synthezoid.tumblr.com/post/837500 0333

Full disclosure: I am a queer person (in terms of both sexuality and gender) and the whole idea of publicly “celebrating” Mr. Cook’s sexuality when it appears he’d rather not strikes me as disrespectful at best and despicable at worst. Really, outing people? Do not do this.

Posted by stomachlining | Report as abusive

TTF, do you see a difference between bosses making crude comments about their female employees or==vs. about movie stars? Just asking what you think is going on when a guy talks about a woman as a sex object among people who actually know her.

Posted by Eastvillagechic | Report as abusive

substitue Jew/Christian/Muslim/Hindu/Wiccan/Cathol ic/Mormon/Baptist for gay and religion for sexuality.


you see how stupid this entire discussion is

Posted by vera_comment | Report as abusive

As a member of the LGBT community, I’m thrilled whenever someone who is in the spotlight and can be a positive role model comes out. Notice I said ‘comes out’ not ‘is forcibly outed’. I’m joining the call for Felix to reveal for us *his* sexual orientation, right here, in public. I’m willing to bet it won’t be forthcoming. Because outing is something that is done *to* people. To people who the person doing the outing thinks don’t have a right to live their lives as they see fit. If Felix gave a damn at all about the LGBT community and how we’re portrayed in the media, he would have done a story about Tim Cook and his boyfriend and treated it exactly like any story about a straight celebrity that included their romantic relationship. This is nothing but someone using another person’s personal life to make a name for themselves, and too bad if that other person didn’t want to be a public tool to advance the career of a stranger.

Posted by BB76 | Report as abusive

Also dont forget your messing with the new ceo of Apple. Apple has many fanboys around the world. We don’t like it when you mess with our new leader;)

Posted by rpaloalto | Report as abusive

Fact is, you don’t know what sexuality he has since you didn’t investigate but merely wrote down your opinion. Another fact is that you humbly opinion isn’t of any value to anyone but yourself and therefore Reuters shouldn’t have allowed you to publish it since it has not even remotely anything to do with news, what you and Reuters did is unprofessional. You underline your poor decision of selling you opinion as news, with this article in which you desperately and with invalid arguments try to explain why you wrote the first one.

Posted by joushikijin | Report as abusive

“TTF, do you see a difference between bosses making crude comments about their female employees or vs. about movie stars?”

Obviously there is a difference, but you leaped from one to the other in your earlier comment. I was simply trying to bring it back closer to what Felix said.

Both behaviors, however, can create a hostile work environment for women to varying degrees. There is no “privilege” for straight men to behave this way.

Do you not see a difference between crude sexual comments and sharing family pictures/anecdotes with colleagues?

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

“Tim Cook’s sexual identity isn’t any business of yours either.”

“Do I have first-hand knowledge? (No, and if I did, I would never have written my post.)”

Felix himself admits the major objection to what he wrote. He simply chooses to ignore it, claiming it is for the benefit of LGBT everywhere. It isn’t any of our business — so much so that anybody who KNOWS the truth first-hand would hesitate to talk about it publicly.

The message this seems to send to LGBT is that the “glass closet” won’t be permitted. If anybody even suspects you are gay, it will become the focus of the way people perceive you.

The Board of Directors at Apple surely doesn’t care whether Tim Cook is gay or straight. Yet they must surely cringe when they read something like this. To them it is a distraction from the near-impossible task of keeping Apple on top without Steve Jobs. Is this distraction good or bad for Tim Cook?

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

TFF, Felix did not create the annoying distraction. Tim Cook has been managing it his whole life. (I could add here, “just like everyone who’s not straight, white, male and otherwise mainstream,” but some people might think that was heavy-handed.)

I agree no one should care, or even mention, whether Mr. Cook is gay or straight, or whatever, or mention whether he has a partner, of any gender, or has ever been romantically linked with anyone, or supported a charity traditionally associated with gay-friendly people, or lived in a neighborhood popular with gays, or joined — or socialized with people who joined — organizations that have many gay members.

Once you get to the level of CEO of a major publicly traded company, this is unrealistic. That’s what public means. No one is suggesting his sex life should be the main topic of conversation. Just that if he has a male partner, or supports among his charities a couple of gay-friendly ones, or whatever, this should not be a secret. And yes, if you look at the way female CEOs/CFOs or politicians are covered by the press, they get a lot more intrusive silly stuff about their hair clips and kids and makeup and handbags than anyone is suggesting Tim Cook put up with.

Posted by SelenesMom | Report as abusive

“Tim Cook has been managing it his whole life.”

Understood. What I don’t understand is why Felix insists that his approach is better than what Tim Cook chose for himself.

“Once you get to the level of CEO of a major publicly traded company, this is unrealistic.”

There is a difference between secrecy and privacy. I know that Bill Weldon is the CEO of J&J. I suppose his marital status and the names of his children are a matter of public record, but I don’t know (or care) about either one. Yet Felix enjoined us, “Don’t ignore Tim Cook’s sexuality.” I presume he has no objection to us ignoring Bill Weldon’s private life, as long as he does nothing shameful, so why is Mr. Cook not permitted the same degree of personal privacy? I would feel very differently if Mr. Cook were choosing to put this out there — but he hasn’t.

“if you look at the way female CEOs/CFOs or politicians are covered by the press, they get a lot more intrusive silly stuff about their hair clips and kids and makeup and handbags”

Do you feel that is appropriate? I don’t. Moreover, I would take exception to any journalist who wrote an article titled, “Don’t ignore Carly Fiorina’s hairstyle.” It isn’t simply that Felix is venturing into the grey area between public and private, against the apparent wishes of the individual in question, but that Felix is doing so with such self-righteous fervor.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

Straight people jumping in to defend Mr. Cook’s privacy need to realize that the corporate closet exists in part because some LGBT people want to protect themselves from negative attention, and in part because straight people don’t want to feel uncomfortable at work. I’m gay and out, but I’d be more open about who I am in the office if I didn’t believe that there was a small but real chance that it would upset someone, or put a straight coworker in an awkward position. The “implicit policy of don’t-ask-don’t-tell” that Felix mentioned hit the nail on the head. For many of us, it’s more about protecting straights from their anxieties than us guarding our privacy.

Posted by eightzeroone | Report as abusive

“For many of us, it’s more about protecting straights from their anxieties than us guarding our privacy.”

For the sake of argument (and I agree it is likely), let’s say this is Mr. Cook’s sole rationale for not being more open. Does this give us the right to ignore his preferences?

Felix may be right that drawing attention to this is good for society, but if it were good for Tim Cook then he presumably would have done so himself.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

“what Tim Cook chose for himself.”

Any Gay people I know would choose to be themselves, but they are looked down upon when they are. Is there really a choice in most work environments?

“if it were good for Tim Cook then he presumably would have done so himself.”

For most gay men to feel comfortable and safe at work, they feel obliged to suppress who they are. It is really stressful and can cause depression and anxiety. Sadly, as mentioned above, many feel compelled to fake the life of a heterosexual, and that just makes a whole other can of worms.

I know 2 such women whose lives were turned upside down while living within that lie. It certainly wasn’t the preference of the men involved, to be in those marriages and feel they had to hurt others while living that lie.

There is still a lot of fear for some men and women because homophobia doesn’t just still exist, it is rampant. Look at Michelle Bachmann, running from the washroom screaming she was being held hostage, because she felt the 2 women who were asking her questions were likely gay.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/20 11/06/14/michele-bachmanns-unrivaled-ext remism-gay-rights-to-religion.html

For the smug few who say we are “all done with that issue” perhaps ask yourself… how can that be when such a bigot is considered a contender for President?

This woman is running on an anti-gay agenda (although she now says who is she to judge, being her staff is coaching her every step) and her husband is counseling gays to convert back to heterosexuality, using taxpayer money to do so. And she is not the only one with an anti gay agenda.

Yes, it is a positive move to show gay people that they can have normal lives and aspirations and ARE normal human beings. Now would be a very good time to speak up about that…

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

Having given this cynically-provocative blog more thought that it is worth, I’ve concluded: No matter what Tim Cook’s sexual preferences may be, he will never be “a member of (Felix Salmon’s) community” because there is no indication that Cook has any interest in joining a bunch of bitchy, treacherous, self-righteous gossips. Nor does he express any interest in wearing a “pink triangle” on all items of his clothing.

If Salmon is an example of what it means to be “gay” — then anyone who respects privacy and values other human rights — will have to look elsewhere for their “community”. If anyone considers this blog to be journalism (Reuters?) it’s an example of bottom-of-the-barrel journalism — down there with talk-radio hosts who will say anything, whether it is tastelessly true or utterly false, out of a need for self-promotion at the expense of others.

Posted by uponrefelection | Report as abusive

As a service to my fellow straights, I offer a quiz:

ARE WE, IN FACT, OVER ALL THAT? By SelenesMom, Wharton MBA

1) You are a heterosexual man and work in an office. A new colleague joins your team, and you get the impression he may be gay. You:
a) Do nothing, but stop striking up conversations about sports with him
b) Reach out by dropping your other gay friends into the conversation until he feels comfortable coming out to you
c) Profess a love for old Pet Shop Boys songs
d) Attempt to fix him up randomly with some other single gay man in your circle of acquaintances
e) Well you get the idea. This closet thing doesn’t lead to “privacy” so much as us straight people don’t have to look at the awkwardness of it all.

Posted by SelenesMom | Report as abusive

SelenesMom, can I choose “none of the above”?

First, I am typically the last person in the office to find out about stuff like that. I tend to focus on work, not social chatter, and somebody’s sexuality does not typically come up in work-centric conversations.

Second, I don’t know how I would “get the impression he may be gay”. Either he says something that leaves no question (mentioning a husband/partner/date) or there is no reason for me to even wonder about it. Furthermore, it would be pretty ironic for me to engage in that kind of speculation given the instances throughout my life in which somebody has speculated/accused me of being gay. (Yes, I am soft-spoken and perhaps a bit effeminate in my mannerisms. Works for me…)

Sports? Pet Shop Boys? Fixing him up? Whatever happened to WORKING in the work place? And valuing somebody based on their accomplishments? I’ve run across a dozen articles on Tim Cook this week, variously praising his background and wondering if he can keep Apple moving in the right direction.

Felix Salmon is the only journalist who seems to think his sexuality is relevant — and the only journalist who HASN’T prominently mentioned his talents and accomplishments. Praise can be just as objectifying as criticism, when it focuses on who somebody is rather than on what they have done.

We have very different perspectives on how the workplace should operate, it seems.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

I am not so sure that we do have different perspectives on how workplaces should operate. But as a woman who has spent some large part of her working life in male-dominated environments, I don’t think workplaces always operate the way I think they should.

As for how someone’s gay partner might come up in conversation? Pay attention to the pronouns. If a person has been talking about another person who is important in his or her life for any length of time without using a pronoun, it’s up to you, TFF, to do something to indicate that it’s OK by you if this important person is a person of the same sex. At least I think so. Some people won’t agree. Some people might think that it’s somebody’s preference to talk like that.

Posted by SelenesMom | Report as abusive

“As for how someone’s gay partner might come up in conversation? Pay attention to the pronouns.”

Sure… Except that I really don’t gossip much at work. (Yet another example that privacy and secrecy are different?)

“it’s up to you, TFF, to do something to indicate that it’s OK by you if this important person is a person of the same sex”

Hopefully by continuing the conversation naturally using whatever pronouns and phrasing the person I’m talking to used? Relationships are complicated enough that anything else is dangerous.

What is the alternative? Stopping the conversation, wide-eyed, and declaring, “Oh, you’re gay!” And then telling them, “But really, that’s okay with me. That’s perfectly fine. I have lots of gay friends, and would love to set you up with some of them.”

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

Imo, shareholders should care about whether or not a company creates at least a neutral environment for LGBT individuals because a) you don’t want to lose talent and b) at some point, legal prohibitions against discrimination are going to expand to sexual orientation, and you might as well get on board now. Additionally, while I recognize that a company’s responsibility is to its bottom line and its shareholders, I diverge from Milton Friedman in thinking that corporations also should do the right thing.

Posted by weiwentg | Report as abusive

If something is entirely personal and utterly irrelevant (this is both), “investigating” it, turning it into a topic of public debate, is just a tabloid-style violation of privacy.

The right to privacy is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is explicitly protected by the US Constitution. That one is the CEO of a major company does not vitiate that right in matters irrelevant to the performance of one’s duties.

The assertion that not debating the topic will perpetuate “the false idea that Tim Cook is straight” is amazing. It is objectionable not merely because it is irrelevant, but because it is such a tortuous twist of illogic put forth as an excuse — a feeble one, at that.

No-one, journalist or otherwise, has the unilateral right to publicize what is private, and utterly unimportant to the public at large, contrary to the wishes of the individual concerned. It is inappropriate behavior in a civilized society. It’s why we object to hacker groups and why online commentary on the demise of the News of the World is almost universally “good riddance.”

Bringing up this subject *at all* has turned a completely unimportant, nobody-cares irrelevance into an artificially generated “issue,” to the benefit only of the journalist, no-one else.

That is not ethical. It is despicable.

Posted by gngcreative | Report as abusive

“The right to privacy is … explicitly protected by the US Constitution.”

Really? Where? Which clause? which article? Some judicial decisions have found a right to privacy IMPLICIT in the constitution, but they have had to talk about “emanations” and “penumbra” in order to do it. And you do know the difference between “implicit” and “explicit,” right?

It any case, although that right is understood to protect one’s sexual activity, prophylactic decisions, etc., … it has never been understood to impede anyone else from talking about those aspects of one’s life.

If “privacy” is supposed to be a right to shut people up it sounds like tyranny.

Posted by Christofurio | Report as abusive

It is simultaneously hilarious and disgusting how many of you are being quite explicitly homophobic while apparently fully convinced that you are the good people. There is absolutely nothing wrong with observing and writing about a known fact, and it is a known fact that Mr. Cook is gay. There is, however, something very wrong with pretending that writing about this is wrong.

Why is it wrong? Answer that. And be honest, for a change. For every single one of you, the real answer is that you, personally, are uncomfortable with confronting the blatant heterosexual privilege in the society you live in. You are uncomfortable with admitting that, yes, we straight people get an awful lot of advantages merely by being straight. But you don’t want to admit to your discomfort, so you hide it behind nice-sounding platitudes. You blather about privacy, or decency, or you pretend to be offended for Mr. Cook’s sake.

This is an important subject that shouldn’t be hidden away. The reason being that homosexuality is not the least bit abnormal or indecent. It is you closet homophobes (for lack of a better term) who are the real problem, not Mr. Cook nor the article author Mr. Salmon.

Posted by MrMath | Report as abusive

MrMath: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with observing and writing about a known fact, and it is a known fact that Mr. Cook is gay.”

Is Tim Cook, himself, the authoritative source of this “known fact”? If so, do cite chapter and verse.

Posted by uponrefelection | Report as abusive

Still legal to fire people for being gay? Even in California?

I am flabbergasted. How come every gay American doesn’t just jump to Europe? Here it is illegal to refuse a gay couple a hotel room because they are gay.

But anyway… “The closet is an institution designed to protect LGBT individuals from scorn and hatred”

Only half true. I know quite a few gay people who are pretty at ease with who they are in social and professional life, but who wouldn’t want to explain it at home. The closet exists for all sorts of reasons. Many of them exist largely in the closet builder’s mind.

Posted by Dafydd | Report as abusive

Felix wont be happy until all gays are wearing little pink signs around their necks declaring that they have the flavor for fellatio.

If you know Felix just a little bit, you know that it angers him to no end that folks CHOOSE to keep their sexuality private. Felix equates privacy with shame and that it is HIS moral obligation to expose the truth, regardless of the consequences or the wishes of his subjects.

This is typical of gay journalists; they resent those who hide in the closet and retaliate with a keyboard and blog.

Felix, you angry little man, please crawl back under the rock or rectum you came from. We don’t care.

Posted by dpw516 | Report as abusive

dpw, why do you assume that Felix is gay? Has he said so? (Admittedly I haven’t read everything he has ever written.)

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

dpw516, Felix didn’t say any such thing. Your stupid first line shows what a dork you are… and perhaps homophobic as well? I think you might be the reason this post is still necessary. (trying to reaffirm your macho by hiding behind your remarks and bravado and belittling others )

So you know Felix? Why would you make a new account for Reuters? Why not post under your usual name? Why not just make yourself known then and “come out” and debate rather than berate?

Felix isn’t the angry little man here, I assure you dpw516…

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

What level have our journalists fallen to if they are treating “ohhh look, he’s gay (snigger)” as important journalism? Whilst a robust business will certainly have a diverse and inclusive workforce which will embrace all, regardless of age, gender, belief, status, orientation etc etc, do we have to peddle this as a news story? Sure, the world moves on and we are in a different place to where we were in 1851 but peerleeze, let’s not align ourselves with the gutter press and let’s write the stories that make a difference to the world. Felix – write us some real news! I’m sure you’re capable. If you want to draw a salary each month with a clear conscience, add some value back to the business and tell us about Apple’s business strategy. Keep your petty thoughts about Cook’s personal life to a non Reuters blog.

Posted by Gerbils150 | Report as abusive

Steve Jobs must have picked his best choice. So why worry about a person’s ‘other side’ without fist waiting for delivering what the new man is supposed to?

Posted by adreutex | Report as abusive


You challenge people to posit why they are ‘against gay’ lamenting they would have no argument – and then you say imply that to be anti gay must mean that one is a ‘closet gay’.

Your upside down premise (‘Mr Math’???, really???) of asking people to provide ‘valid arguments’ and then spewing something such stupid and childish positions that don’t deserve a reasonable response – in fact only validates how you and the ‘gay agenda’ are miserably ideological.

I’m not making an anti-gay statement.

I’m making an anti-gay supporter statement.

You losers claim ‘morality’ and then go on to make absurd claims.

Homosexuality is a disease. It is the misalignment of gender, and sexual orientation. Just as most complex forms of behavior are learned – they can be unlearned. We are in fact biological machines – and we will one day have the ability to create an adaptive environment that creates outcomes we desire – including sexual orientation.

That we don’t yet have the ability to correct homosexuality, and that gays can live otherwise healthy and normal lives, does not change the fact that it is a medical condition that would otherwise be cured.

100 years ago, were someone to have discovered a cure, or therapy for ‘gay’ that worked – gay simply would not exist for the most part, certainly not the extent that we have a disproportionate minority of bit&es in the media raving about it all day.

Posted by jammer11 | Report as abusive