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Apple CEO Tim Cook said he decided to come out as gay after reading letters from kids struggling with their identity

Tim Cook has said he was motivated to come out as gay after receiving letters he received from children struggling with their sexual orientation.

The usually private Apple CEO publicly came out in 2014, revealing his sexual orientation in an open letter published in Bloomberg Businessweek. This made him the first-ever openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

In an interview with People en Español published on Thursday, the 58-year-old spoke about a range of topics related to sexual orientation and young people.

Discussing his 2014 coming out, he said: "What was driving me was [that] I was getting notes from kids who were struggling with their sexual orientation. They were depressed. Some said [they] had suicidal thoughts. Some had been banished by their own parents and family.

"It weighed on me in terms of what I could do," he continued. "Obviously I couldn't talk to each one individually that reached out, but you always know if you have people reaching out to you that there's many more that don't, that are just out there wondering whether they have a future or not, wondering whether life gets better … From there I really decided."

Though Cook said he "didn't worry" about how Apple staff would react to his coming out, he did admit to worrying about the reaction "outside of Apple," and noted that "the world is not friendly to gay or trans people in many countries but also within our country [the US]."

In a direct message to to kids struggling with their sexual orientation, he said: "Life gets better … you can have a great life filled with joy. Gay is not a limitation. It's a characteristic that I hope they view, like I do, [as] God's greatest gift."

Cook added that being gay gave him a lens into how other people think and feel. He said: "I'm not saying that I understand the trials and tribulations of every minority group, because I don't. But I do understand for one of the groups. And to the degree that it helps give you a lens on how other people may feel, I think that's a gift in and of itself."

Cook's comments come at a challenging time for Apple and Cook himself, with the Apple CEO accused of pandering to Chinese state demands.

Earlier this month, Apple removed an app from its App Store that let Hong Kong residents track police movements, with the app having received heavy criticism in Chinese state media the previous day.

Cook and Apple drew heavy criticism from US lawmakers including Marco Rubio and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In a memo sent to Apple employees first obtained by Bloomberg, Cook defended his decision on the grounds that the app was being used to "maliciously target individual officers for violence".

More recently, Cook accepted a chairman role at a prestigious Chinese university whose board members also include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.