LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A Lynchburg fire captain is under fire for what some in the community are calling a series of transphobic cartoons he posted on a Facebook page, where he identifies himself as a public figure.
The post was made in late January. City leaders then met with two local LGBTQ organizations in February, Hill City Pride and Refuge, to discuss how the city should respond.
A representative with Hill City Pride said the meeting included Interim City Manager Reid Wodicka, Fire Chief Greg Wormser, Mayor MaryJane Dolan, and Vice Mayor Beau Wright.
Dolan told WFXR News that if more Council members had been present, the meeting would have had to have been public.
Onna McClennon, a trans woman who attended the meeting and shared her personal experiences as a trans person with city leaders, spoke over the phone with WFXR News.
She says a post like this raises the concern that if she had an emergency, could she trust first responders to treat her fairly and give her the help she needs?
Interim City Manager Wodika addressed that concern, saying he strives to provide inclusive city services.
“I don’t want anyone to ever think that their city government is going to pick and choose who they’re going to help when they need it,” said Wodicka.
Tyler Milton is non-binary and also attended the meeting. Milton, who uses he/him/his pronouns, is with the group Refuge and explains how the post is an example of a larger problem.
“To be trans in a cisnormative world is painful,” he said. “You look around everywhere and there are reminders everywhere that you, because you’re trans, do not belong.”
The fire captain in question, Martin Misjuns, says his personal opinions don’t affect his work.
“Just because I don’t believe the same thing somebody else believes does not change the way that I’m going to treat them,” he told WFXR News, saying it’s a First Amendment issue.
“If you don’t want to hear it or you don’t want to see it, just look the other way, but it’s unfortunate to actually personally go after somebody’s livelihood.”
For copyright reasons, we can’t show the cartoons, but we can describe them.
One shows what appears to be a man with his pants around his ankles entering a woman’s restroom with a camera, claiming to be trans.
Michael Kittinger is the Board Chair of Hill City Pride and asked for the meeting.
“It’s dangerous because it continues to play into the stereotypes around the trans community,” said Kittinger. “They, just like everybody else, sometimes need to go to the restroom.”
Wodicka said some action items came out of the meeting with the community groups.
“We have contracted with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities to provide training to our city employees, in particular our supervisors.”
Wodicka says the city will put out a statement on this issue sometime this month.
Both Wodicka and Wormser refused to discuss whether any disciplinary actions are being taken, saying it’s a personnel matter.
In an email to Kittinger, Mayor MaryJane Dolan, who also attended the meeting, condemned the post. She confirmed with WFXR the contents of the email, below:
I was speechless when I saw what Mr. Misjuns posted. I am totally in agreement with you and do not support or will not tolerate this type of malicious rhetoric. No question his comments are unconscionable and City Leadership needs to take action. I have asked City Leadership to address these actions.Email from Mayor MaryJane Dolan to Michael Kittinger