UK: Retailer John Lewis Slammed for “Inclusivity” Ad Featuring Employee Who Is A Transgender BDSM Fetishist

CONTENT NOTICE: This article contains photos which might be considered Not Safe For Work. Reader discretion is appreciated.

A British retailer is under fire after featuring a transgender BDSM fetishist in a new ad campaign highlighting “diverse” employees. To commemorate LGBT+ History Month, John Lewis Partnership (JLP) released a photo exhibition called the Identity Project, which highlights staff who identify as transgender or queer. The content was created as part of JLP’s 32-page internal magazine, Identity, which was distributed to the company’s 80,000 employees.

Yet critics on social media swiftly pointed out that some participants in the photography project had troubling backgrounds — including one trans-identified male who had been uploading disturbing bondage fetish photos to his Flickr and Facebook accounts.

Marc Geoffrey Albert Whitcombe, who was positively profiled in the campaign, has worked for JLP at Waitrose Brighton for over two decades. In February 2021, Whitcombe legally changed his name to “Ruby Geoffrey Michael Porcelain Whitcombe,” in accordance with his self-declared transgender status.

According to the image produced in collaboration with photographer Chris Jepson for JLP, Whitcombe began to identify as transgender in 2015 “after accessing mental health support.” The photo of Whitcombe depicts him in fetish attire, wearing a wig, and holding a multi-tailed whip.

“[He] came out to [his] friends and family and started transitioning, presenting more and more as female, and [he] now presents as female full-time,” reads the copy, referring to Whitcombe with feminine pronouns. “[His] transition brought about a new confidence that saw [him] start performing at local competitions and open mics, culminating in lip-syncing for Graham Norton in the grand final of one of Europe’s biggest Lip Sync competitions and singing live on stage at one of Europe’s biggest trans Pride events.”

Prior to identifying as transgender, Whitcombe had been performing as a drag queen at burlesque shows under the moniker Tran-Tula. A Facebook account used to promote his events is described as “a page for my kinky and trans-drag performing alter-ego.”

Posting under the alias Ruby Porcelain online, Whitcombe has uploaded hundreds of images of himself in fetish gear, bondage, and lingerie. Some photos depicted Whitcombe in dresses, spreading his legs to reveal himself in women’s underwear, and others show Whitcombe holding sex toys in his mouth.

Under a now-deleted Flickr account, Whitcombe can be seen in a variety of sexual poses, holding handcuffs, wearing a police uniform and brandishing a whip, or sporting thigh-high PVC boots.

Pornographic images seen by Reduxx that were saved under Whitcombe’s favorites folder depict other “sissy” crossdressing men in bondage, hogtied and gagged, or alternatively decked out in silicone costumes designed to resemble women — part of a fetish subculture known as female masking.

One of the first groups joined by Whitcombe, according to his profile, is a crossdressing fetish community where men share similar content, captioned with pornographic language, such as “Sucking cock: the ultimate turn-on,” and, “Who goes out in public?”

Ruby Whitcombe.

An alternative Flickr account run by Whitcombe interacts with dozens of groups dedicated to photos of graveyards. Whitcombe uses the account to share hundreds of his own images of cemeteries and tombstones as a participant in a taphophilia subculture that celebrates a compulsive interest in the rituals of death. In one Facebook post dated April 2020, Whitcombe states that he regularly frequents graveyards in order to “exercise.”

Following the revelation of Whitcombe’s sadomasochistic proclivities, JLP Executive Director James Bailey released an internal staff memo that was leaked by former barrister and advocate James Esses.

“You may have seen coverage in the press and on social media over the past 24 hours following the publication of the Identity magazine,” reads the memo. “We have an ambition to become the UK’s most inclusive employer, because celebrating diversity will make us a better business. That means creating an environment where everyone feels welcome irrespective of their backgrounds or beliefs.”

The statement went on to offer mental health support to any individual who had been “affected” by any of the “coverage,” without mentioning the fetish content and pornography that had been publicly shared by Whitcombe.

Other JLP employees featured in the LGBT+ campaign included a nursery advisor in bondage gear associated with the so called ‘pup’ and furry community, which incorporates a sexual interest in dressing up as animals. Additionally, Liberal Democrat councillor Sean Macleod, of Lewes and Eastbourne, was profiled despite being publicly criticized last year for a “misogynistic” social media post which read, “Fuck the TERFs,” a euphemism for women who oppose gender identity policies.

In 2019, public outcry erupted after John Lewis’ clothing retail shops were discovered to have adopted a ‘gender-neutral’ policy for its changing rooms, which, as critics pointed out, allowed men who declared a transgender status to use the fitting rooms reserved for women.

In the days leading up to the most recent controversy, which saw John Lewis trending on social media platform X for two days with calls for a boycott, Esses had criticized what he called the “trans takeover of John Lewis,” and described in detail other aspects of JLP’s Identity magazine.

“This month, JLP published a new internal magazine, entitled ‘Identity’. It was the brainchild of JLP’s ‘LGBTQIA+ network’. It was promoted to every one of its 80,000 staff members (known as Partners). A copy of the magazine was sent to me by someone working at JLP, too afraid to speak out themselves,” Esses wrote on his Substack.

Among the concerning ideological content highlighted by Esses was the promotion of breast binders for minors and pressure from higher-ups on personnel to wear pronoun badges at work.

“Most worrying of all is when the article goes on to recommend Mermaids as a resource to parents. This is the same Mermaids currently under investigation by the Charity Commission for safeguarding concerns, including sending breast binders to children behind parents’ backs,” Esses says.

“Shockingly, the article goes a step further, by actually recommending online videos which show children how to achieve their ‘desired gender identity, for example, chest binders’. Readers are told that ‘a binder is always safer than the alternatives.'”

Women’s rights campaigner and founder of advocacy group Sex Matters, Maya Forstater, referred to JLP’s promotion of Whitcombe as part of a larger trend she called “bring your autogynephilia to work,” a term defined as a male sexual fetish for pretending to be female.

“It is sexist and insulting to women to pretend that these men’s hobby of dressing up and wearing wigs makes them women,” Forstater remarked.

In recent years, several other men have been held up as role models for wearing sexualized female-coded attire. One of the men presented as an example of the phenomenon, Philip, or ‘Pippa’ Bunce, was in 2018 included in a list of Britain’s top 100 female executives compiled for the Champions of Women in Business awards.


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Genevieve Gluck

Genevieve is the Co-Founder of Reduxx, and the outlet's Chief Investigative Journalist with a focused interest in pornography, sexual predators, and fetish subcultures. She is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, which features news commentary and interviews regarding women's rights.

Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve is the Co-Founder of Reduxx, and the outlet's Chief Investigative Journalist with a focused interest in pornography, sexual predators, and fetish subcultures. She is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, which features news commentary and interviews regarding women's rights.
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