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Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly acknowledged he's gay for the first time. 

In an op-ed for Bloomberg Businessweek, the 53-year-old said he hopes his openness will help others struggling with their sexuality and help establish equal rights for people regardless of their personal leanings.

"While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven't publicly acknowledged it either, until now," Cook wrote. So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

Today, in this case, has been a long time coming. Cook's sexuality was well-known within Apple and the technology sector, but he's never confirmed it publicly until Thursday. His announcement makes him one of the highest-profile openly gay CEOs in the business world.

Shortly before Steve Jobs' death in 2011, Cook was appointed CEO of Apple, automatically catapulting him into a powerful position he is now using for good. 

"I don't consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I've benefited from the sacrifice of others," Cook wrote. "So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy."

The legalization of same-sex marriage is sweeping across America. But in Cook's opinion there is still a lot more work to be done until being gay is completely OK, and it's something he hopes his announcement can change.

"The world has changed so much since I was a kid. America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation."

Cook says he was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., citing the quote "Life's most persistent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" 

"I often challenge myself with that question, and I've come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important," Cook wrote. "That's what has led me to today."

Apple has long led the way to improving gay rights in the workplace, Cook notes. The California-based company took a stand for marriage quality in the state, opposed a "discriminatory bill" against the gay community that passed in Arizona, and wrote a letter in the Wall Street Journal demanding Congress pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

"We'll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, would do the same," Cook wrote. "And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up."