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Walmart Gets Better.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
— Andy Warhol

Yesterday I had a conference call with Walmart public relations manager Ravi Jariwala, and Crosby Cromwell, a manager for constituent relations. We discussed the fact that I wasn’t able to use the word “gay” in my review on the Walmart web site for the new, marvelous book It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living.

Oh, and I kind of blogged about it across the whole wide world on all sorts of LGBT sites, saying how much it pissed me off.

walmart image“I apologize that this situation has been created,” Ravi began. “It was a systemic oversight, in which ‘gay’ was on a list of filtered words. Certainly it makes absolute sense for you to include this word in your review… This is a no-brainer for us.”

He said other nice things. Crosby said nice things. No one laughed at me or called me names. They were focused on resolving the issue and pledged to have their list of flagged words changed within 24 hours.

I’m pleased to report that “gay” is now a perfectly acceptable word to include in posted comments on Walmart’s site. Other words have also been cleared, including lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgendered. And my review of the book, as I originally wrote it, has been posted on the Walmart site.

Here is Walmart’s official statement on the matter:

Recently it was brought to our attention that Mark King was unable to complete a review of the book “It Gets Better” on Walmart.com. We regret that a filter did not allow his review of the book to post and we quickly worked to resolve this technical issue.

We reached out to Mark directly to discuss the issue and, as an extra measure, we have reviewed the system to ensure that it will allow the use of all appropriate words related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

There is probably no national retail chain with as problematic a reputation as Walmart, and I can only imagine the topics that other advocates would have wanted me to broach with these corporate representatives. But I had one issue, one specific complaint that I asked to be addressed. And on this day, on this issue, Walmart did right by the LGBT community.

Now, everybody go buy It Gets Better.


ElizabethTaylorIt’s impossible to overstate the impact Elizabeth Taylor has had on HIV/AIDS awareness and funding since the earliest days of the epidemic (Ms. Taylor died earlier today).

Since the early 1980’s, when people were still wearing masks and gloves around AIDS patients, Ms. Taylor (Elizabeth to her friends, never Liz) has been at the forefront. She organized the very first “commitment to Life” event in 1984 for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) — and while doing so, learned her friend Rock Hudson was dying of the disease. She co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) in 1985, and her own Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1993.

Oh yeah. And she was an Oscar winning movie star, the likes of which we may never see again.

I watched her walk onstage, in evident pain from chronic back problems, at an APLA event in the late 1980’s in Los Angeles. “With every breath of my being,” I remember her saying, “I will fight this disease and for the rights of people with AIDS, until the day I die.” And that, my friends, is exactly what she did.




  1. J.R. in Texas March 23, 2011 at 10:25 am

    God bless Elizabeth Taylor. Ms. Taylor, I trust God will be watching over you and your kind heart in heaven. My condolences to her family & loved ones. Mark, thank you for sharing this on your site.

    J.R. in Texas

  2. Layne March 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Mark, Job well done. Bravo!

  3. Larry Prater March 23, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Mark, good work on the Walmart situation. You did good. Larry

  4. Rich March 23, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Thanks for staying on top of this and taking action. I have AIDS and am on disability. In January my part D Medicare (prescription plan) was switched to Humana Walmart with out my consent or permission. I have long had issues with Walmart and at first kicked and screamed to change, which I can but ultimately decided to stay. I feel we have an obligation to be the change we want to see in this world, sometimes even force it, like you did.
    I still haven’t decided what good it is for me to get my drugs at Walmart ($3600 a month) but until I feel it does no good at all I’ll keep doing it.

  5. Dab Garner March 23, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I was at the same event celebrating her birthday in the late 90s in LA. She was one of a kind and a champion for our community. May she rest in peace. big bear hug

  6. Ben March 23, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Way to go, and way to get the squeaky wheel greased. To Walmart’s credit, they responded promptly and positively. To your credit, you prompted this change with America’s largest retailer, in contrast to Lady Gaga who broke off her relationship with their rival, Target, having failed to get them to revise various policies. I’m very proud of you, Mark. Well done.

  7. Roy March 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I too was able to meet Ms. Taylor when she opened the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center (whitman walker clinic) here in DC. She was a frequent visitor over the years and always was visible, caring and a hand holder. The world is better off having the likes of her being in it. She will be sorely missed, but we’ll keep her flame alive, because of who she was. She perhaps was our biggest ally over the years. We owe her a lot.

  8. Robby March 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    WOW! How great that you took control and got something so very important changed at Walmart. it is actually good for their business, but no one took the time to figure that out for them Conratulations and much appreciation.

  9. Ravi Jariwala March 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Mark,

    It’s Ravi from Walmart’s media relations team. We’re glad that you brought this to our attention and are happy we could get the issue resolved quickly. Thanks again.


  10. Jeff March 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS activism helped sustain my own work in various aspects of the epidemic, a set of experiences that shaped me and helped prepare me for the challenges we will face in our lifetimes as we continue to strive for improving life on our precious planet. Anyone who’s not seen “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” should do so right away. It defines the phrase tour de force.

  11. Scott in Wilton Manors March 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks, Mark. for years I have to refused to shop at Walmart, I will now begin to do some shopping there.

  12. Subversive Librarian March 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Good work, Mark. You did the footwork, and so did Joe.My.God, and so did Walmart. I think you were absolutely right to avoid other issues with Walmart. Especially considering that the problem only arose to begin with because Walmart took the initiative to sell a potentially controversial book. Congrats to everyone involved.

  13. Donna Gore March 23, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Wow, maybe WalMart is finally coming around. Good work.
    I never had the honor to meet Ms. Taylor but I did get to see her up close at a public appearance in the early 90s when she was pushing her perfume. She was absolutely stunning. Jaw dropping gorgeous.
    (PS, I love this Warhol quote)

  14. Sue March 26, 2011 at 9:50 am

    You forgot to mention how Elizabeth got upset with you.

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