By Chris Clarke-MacDonald, Director of Workforce Management, Walmart Canada
I love Walmart. This is where I belong. As a gay man, it took me years to feel this.
Growing up in Newfoundland in a very conservative Christian family, I always felt like I didn’t belong.
As a child, I preferred to play dress up and organize tea parties with girls. It really upset my parents.
In high school, I saw people express themselves in their own way. I realized that people don’t have to conform; they can be themselves.
I knew I was gay, but I was in denial. I blamed myself for not being the person my parents wanted me to be. For years, I tried to “pray the homosexuals”. Every night I sat up 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 now 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 and dropped out of high school. I had to find work to support myself. Some workplaces were toxic. Colleagues told me to “keep it down” and “stop being so animated”. People didn’t take me seriously. I was just myself.
I had enough. I wanted a new opportunity. I graduated from high school and applied for a job at Walmart in Wasaga Beach, Ontario as a part-time unloader.
I expected people to judge me as they had in the past. To my surprise, this never happened. Everyone treated me like I was just another person. That’s all I ever wanted. It was an incredible feeling. I told my husband, John, that I liked Walmart and decided to stay. When he needed a job, Walmart hired him too.
I took on new roles and worked my way up the corporate ladder. Today, after more than eight years at Walmart Canada, I am proud to be the Scheduling Systems Manager within the Workforce Management team.
I feel very lucky 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 am proud to be part of the Walmart family. It’s that place where everyone is included. It’s the feeling of belonging that means everything to me. That’s why I keep “it’s this place” on my email signature. It’s that place where I can be me.
That’s what it’s about. That’s why I love Walmart. Thank you for letting me be me.