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John Lewis pulls LGBTQ+ photo exhibition ‘for the safety and protection’ of staff

The contents of an internal LGBTQ-network magazine were shared on X, leading to a sea of transphobic comments

By Dale Fox

John Lewis's Oxford Street store
John Lewis's Oxford Street store has shuttered an LGBTQ+ photo exhibition (Image: John Lewis)

Retailer John Lewis has been forced to pull an LGBTQ+ photo exhibition in its flagship London store “for the safety and protection” of staff.

The move follows a backlash after the contents of an internal LGBTQ+ network magazine were shared on X, leading to a wave of transphobic and homophobic comments on the social media platform.

Excerpts from an interview with a John Lewis employee were part of the material shared earlier this week on X, in which they offer advice on chest-binding for fellow parents of trans and non-binary children.

The X account also shared screen grabs containing photos from the exhibition, which include the names of staff members and the locations of where they work. Attitude has chosen not to share details of the account.

Named ‘Identity’, the magazine launched as a one-off alongside the exhibition earlier this month in John Lewis’s Oxford Street store to mark LGBT History Month. Pictures of LGBTQ+ John Lewis staff members were taken by Chris Jepson as part of his ‘The Identity Project‘, meant to celebrate the queer community.

“We want the Partnership to be a place where people can work or shop with confidence, irrespective of their backgrounds. We have closed the exhibition for the safety and protection of our Partners [colleagues],” a spokesperson told Attitude on its decision to shutter the exhibition, which was originally due to end on 29 February.

“When they go low, we must go high” – Dame Sharon White, John Lewis chair

Comments on unrelated posts on John Lewis’s social media accounts at time of publishing contain a sea of transphobic comments, with one accusing the retailer of “child abuse”, with others saying they had boycotted the retailer.

Meanwhile, a leaked internal statement purportedly from John Lewis chair Dame Sharon White appears to show the company’s solidarity against critics.

“The Partnership Board and I, as Chairman, stand shoulder to shoulder with the community. When they go low, we must go high,” the statement reads.

“Homophobic and transphobic hate crime continues to be a blight in our society” – Chris Jepson

Jepson’s Identity Project was launched in 2019 as ” an exploration of what it means to identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community today,” according to a description from the photographer on the project’s website.

“Homophobic and transphobic hate crime continues to be a blight in our society,” Jepson adds. “Hate is often motivated by the unknown, and displaying this project aims to help improve community cohesion through making visible the depth and similarities in the identities we share.