Two RE/MAX real estate agents in Fort Myers, Florida, have come under fire for what critics called “transphobic” social media posts.
Agents Victor Tabarrini and Kynse Leigh, both with the RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers, Florida, were blasted for separate posts that critics inside and outside of the LGBTQ community decried as insensitive, not to mention baffling, coming on the heels of the annual Southwest Florida Pride parade on Oct. 5.
On Sunday, social media users took aim at Tabarrini for a message he posted on a Facebook page for RE/MAX agents stating, “Please all real estate agents take the time to make sure you know who you are showing homes to,” above an image of the 1960s “Beverly Hillbillies” TV character Jethro Bodine dressed in drag. “Is that Jethrine or Jethro?”
The controversy was first reported by the Fort Myers News-Press.
That post was “liked” by Leigh, who was then dragged on social media for an earlier Instagram post that social media users unearthed, in which she wrote, “Negotiating this deal with @thejerryspringershow is like a transsexual fighting with a hermaphrodite over a mistress,” above which she displayed an image of several people fighting on the stage of the Jerry Springer Show.
Both agents deleted their messages and apologized. RE/MAX Downtown Fort Myers, the Facebook group where Tabarrini posted his message, has since deleted its entire Facebook page.
“My intention with the post had more to do with the safety of Realtors, since there are many Realtors being attacked during showings currently,” Tabarrini wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “I now see that I made a poor decision in using that meme, which is from the Beverley Hillbilly’s, as the picture for what I was trying to express.”
Leigh also apologized.
“I’m very sorry from the bottom of my heart,” Leigh told an NBC affiliate in Southwestern Florida, adding that she will be attending the Pride parade this weekend. “I never meant to offend anybody.”
Neither Leigh nor Tabarrini immediately replied to calls and emails by Inman requesting comment.
Despite the apologies, agents and advocates for the LGBTQ community insisted the posts showed a lack of respect in advance of the Pride event.
“Transphobia is not a joke,” Sarah Emprimo Schwartz, a Facebook user who originally spotted Tabarrini’s post, wrote on Tuesday. “This is absolutely disgusting! If you’re not local, a trans woman was very recently murdered in an exceptionally horrific fashion in the area this company services.”
In the wake of the uproar surrounding the social media posts, at least one other RE/MAX franchise with no affiliation to RE/MAX Realty Group received a deluge of complaints, prompting one of its agents to post a video online distancing his brokerage from the scandal.
“We don’t condone those types of things being said in posts,” James Warren, an agent with RE/MAX Realty Team in Cape Coral, Florida, who received a flood of misdirected complaints, said in the video.
A RE/MAX spokesperson told Inman it is aware of Tabarrini’s post and hopes it can serve as a learning opportunity.
“While each RE/MAX office is independently owned and operated, this behavior does not align with our network-wide values of helping to create inclusive and safe communities in which we live and work,” the company told Inman in an email. “We hope this is a teachable moment and a reminder that regardless of the intent, words have impact.”
National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals President Jeff Berger echoed RE/MAX’s sentiment.
“Obviously the post touched a nerve, but the most important piece to this incident is how the agent and brokerage reacted,” Berger told Inman. “They learned, and hopefully we can all learn with them. We want to continue to showcase how unconscious bias is a form of discrimination.”