Diversity and inclusion

Finding Pride in unexpected moments

June 4, 2024

A photo of David standing in his Zehrs uniform inside the store.

Nearly 21 years ago to this day, marks what would become a life-changing journey both personally and professionally, for David McDonnell-Lye, Health and Wellness Manager of Zehrs® in Welland, Ont. It was a time when he would announce being a member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community…by accident.  

“As far back as I can recall, I knew there was something different about me,” says David. “I didn’t understand what it was at first, but then it became very clear.” Coming to that realization triggered David’s worst fears. It was a daily mental battle of ‘what ifs’, especially being raised in such a close-knit family. “You try to prepare yourself for the absolute worst. What will happen when my family finds out? What if they don’t want anything more to do with me?” says David.   

Fortunately, these fears were put to rest after he spilled the beans while he was visiting his family during some time off. David wasn’t spending as much time as he typically would with his family, since he was in the early stages of his relationship with his partner (now husband) Sean. “You know what it’s like when you first meet someone,”, says David. “You want to focus on getting to know them, spending time together and doing all of the things in hopes of building a future with them.” David’s mother knew he was hanging out with someone; however, she had no idea it was on a romantic level.   

“It just kind of slipped out. I couldn’t believe what I had just said,” says David. “When my mom left the room to go talk to my dad, I immediately called Sean to tell him what I did.” After processing the initial shock, David’s parents returned to the room with the same love and support they have always provided. They, along with David’s siblings, were accepting and encouraging of his newfound partnership. “We were so grateful to have that because many people don’t,” says David. “Even with how far society has come, there is still such terrible treatment and inconceivable reactions in these types of situations.”    

When it comes to his 25-year career with the Loblaw Companies organization, David says he’s the happiest he’s ever been, thanks to having such a close group of colleagues, Store Manager and ASMs he calls family.  “I don’t have to be anyone but me,” says David. “I truly feel blessed being able to go in to work each day and enjoy myself as much as I do.” 

David thrives on the authenticity of the store staff and the safe space that’s been created. He describes his team as having open and honest communication and being extremely supportive of each other.  

“It truly is remarkable to see how far we’ve come as an organization,” says David. “It’s beyond just treats in the lunchroom or fun merchandise displays. I am accepted and respected for who I am and what I bring to the table, not for what my sexuality represents.” 

Celebrating Pride hits differently for David. This spirited, inclusive and colourful time is also a reminder of his adversities and how he persevered to be his true, authentic self. “It’s not about promoting an agenda or specific way of living,” says David. “It’s about showing the world that similar to other cultures and societal groups, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community still has to fight for respect and equality.”