Frank Kameny was certainly not known to be a technophile, but rather a slow and reluctant adopter of modern communication technologies. Until his death last month, the pioneering gay and lesbian freedom advocate was still using a Web TV connection for Internet access and an archetypal word processor for the limited electronic correspondence he undertook. Unlike most of us, not a single Apple product graced his daily life.
Nonetheless, he and Apple co-founder and, until shortly before his death within a week of Kameny’s, company CEO Steve Jobs shared a number of things in common.
Not the least of these was their undeniable influence — albeit profoundly direct and largely indirect, respectively — on the acceptance of LGBT equality and the civil rights we enjoy today.
Apple’s market share and stock price seem to continue to rise in tandem with the growing acknowledgment of our humanity. More than that, though, is the now increasingly universal belief that cultural change — whether in the form of human convenience technology or acceptance of those different from us — is both cool and good, and that it “just works” to the benefit of all.
Growing up in a less enlightened time, who among us doesn’t remember the colorful rainbow-stripe-infused Apple logo or the advertising suggestion to “think different?” In a world where being different came with a price equivalent to the higher dollar amount associated with the brand and the value of its products, many of us found ourselves rooting for the spunky computer outlier on market differentiation alone.
Even the iconic Apple “1984” television commercial — which famously aired only one time, during that year’s Super Bowl — struck a chord with those of us yearning to break free of the sexual conformity that was at the heart of our societal alienation.
An affinity for the nonconformist Apple also developed easily and naturally for a disenfranchised community appreciative of the sense of style and “otherness” of its products. Simplicity, ease of use and intuitiveness were welcomed qualities in a world that offered little of that for our own lives.
Not only were we then — more so than now — proud of our collective “renegade” status and reputation as early adapters of things new and bold and cutting-edge, but Apple’s machines were integral components of many a gay or lesbian work life in design, art, publishing, fashion, music, architecture, communication and other creative pursuits.
Cultural evolution springs from many wells and the reinforcement from respected sources that diversity is a reality and the embrace of it is right always packs a punch. Apple’s perfect score of 100 and high ranking among the Fortune 1000, on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and inclusion on HRC’s 2011 “Best Places to Work” list is commended by all of us who pilgrimage to one of the corporation’s “Temple of Shiny New Objects” retail stores.
With new Apple CEO Tim Cook — honored as the most influential gay or lesbian person on this year’s fifth annual Out magazine “Power 50” list — now at the helm, the LGBT community shares a refreshed affinity with the world’s leading tech company and innovator.
Frank Kameny taught both our community and the world that “gay is good” and Steve Jobs instructed all of us that being outside the mainstream could be “insanely great!”
These two public personalities also shared other traits on their distinguished paths — certainty in their convictions, single-mindedness of their focus, commitment to their goals and an unwavering belief in new possibilities.
We owe a heartfelt debt of gratitude to both of them for the ways they changed our lives and the world around them.
Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.