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This is that place where I can be me: My Walmart Pride story

By Chris Clarke-MacDonald, Workforce Management Manager, Walmart Canada

I love Walmart. This is that place where I belong. As a gay man, it took me years to feel this way.

Growing up in Newfoundland with a very conservative Christian family, I always felt like I didn’t belong.

As a child, I preferred to play dress up and have tea parties with girls. That really upset my parents.

In high school, I saw people expressing themselves in their own way. I realized people don’t have to conform; they can be themselves.

I knew I was gay, but I was in denial. I was angry at myself for not being the person my parents wanted me to be. For years, I tried to “pray the gay away.” Every night, I sat in my bed and cried. I didn’t want to be gay. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be loved.

It’s the feeling of belonging that means everything to me.

There was nowhere to hide. I lived in constant fear of people finding out, especially my family.

When I was 17, I finally told my friends I was gay. It was such a relief to say those words. We laughed, cried and rejoiced. I was on an emotional high.

I thought this would be the best time to tell my parents. I was wrong!

It was one of the worst decisions of my life. My mother didn’t take it well. I was forced back into the closet. I felt alone and isolated. It was worse than my deepest fears.

I was forced to move out and dropped out of high school. I had to find work to sustain myself. Some workplaces were toxic. Co-workers told me to “tone it down” and “stop being so animated.” People didn’t take me seriously. I was just being myself.

I had enough. I wanted a new opportunity. I got my high school diploma and applied for a job with Walmart in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, as a part-time unloader.

I expected people to judge me like they had in the past. To my surprise, that never happened. Everyone treated me like I was just another person. That’s all I ever wanted. It was an amazing feeling. I told my husband, John, that I loved Walmart and decided to stay. When he needed a job, Walmart hired him, too.

I took on new roles and worked my way up through the company. Today, after more than eight years with Walmart Canada, I’m proud to be the scheduling systems manager on the Workforce Management Team.

I feel very fortunate to work for Walmart, a place that accepts me for who I am. When associates see me, they see Chris – the guy who loves his dogs, camping and video games. Yes, I’m also gay, but that doesn’t define me. There are so many more interesting things about me.

I’m proud to be part of the Walmart family. This is that place where everyone is included. It’s the feeling of belonging that means everything to me. That’s why I keep “this is that place” on my email signature. This is that place where I can be me.

That’s what Pride is all about. That’s why I love Walmart. Thank you for letting me be me.