LOS ANGELES (Edited by Marceline Powell)
Netflix employees who walked out on Wednesday in protest of Dave Chappelle’s special and its anti-transgender comments were joined in protest by allies who chanted “Trans lives matter”.
A pre-noon rally at a Netflix office complex drew around 100 protestors, most on the side of an estimated 30 workers from Netflix. Some were willing to identify themselves as Netflix employees, but none would provide their names.
Protestors chant 'Trans Lives Matter' Credit: AP
Joey Soloway, creator of the comedy “Transparent,” was among the speakers at the rally.
Chappelle’s decision to share “his outrage as comedic humiliation in front of thousands of people, and then broadcasting it to hundreds of millions of people is infinitely amplified gender violence,” they said.
“I want trans representation on the Netflix board, this (expletive) week,” the writer-director said.
Ashlee Marie Preston, an activist and organizer of the event, addressed the group and spoke to The Press afterward. She said that calling out Chappelle for his remarks wasn’t enough.
“It was important to shift the focus to the people that sign the checks, because Dave Chappelle doesn’t sign checks, Netflix does,” Preston said. “If we have companies like Netflix who aren’t listening to their employees, who are forcing their employees to participate in their own oppression, that’s unacceptable.”
“We’re here to keep people accountable. We’re not going anywhere,” she said, adding that efforts are underway to start a dialogue with Netflix executives.
Leia Figueroa, a student from Los Angeles, doesn’t work at Netflix but said she wanted to back the walkout. While the streaming service offers positive fare for the LGBTQ community, she said, it’s having it both ways by also offering a show like Chappelle’s that includes disparaging comments about trans women.
If Netflix wants to be “an apolitical platform then they should be that,” Figueroa said. “But they’re saying things like ‘Black lives matter’ and ‘We don’t stand for transphobia.’ If you say things like that, then you have to be vetting all of your content to reflect your values.”
As she spoke, a protestor shouted, “We like jokes.”
“I like funny jokes, and transphobia is not a joke,” she replied.
Belissa Cohen, a former journalist, said she was on hand to “support Netflix’s decision not to pull” the special.
She was among about a dozen people who carried placards reading “Free speech is a right” and “Truth is not transphobic.” Opposite them were those carrying signs that included “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “Transphobia is not Funny.”
“We want to show that there isn’t unanimous support about transgender ideology when it comes to Netflix viewers,” Cohen said.
Elliot Page, who stars in Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” and is transgender, tweeted that he stands with the trans, nonbinary and people of colour working at Netflix who are “fighting for more and better trans stories and a more inclusive workplace.”
Team Trans(asterisk), which identifies itself as supporting “trans people working at Netflix trying to build a better world for our community,” posted what it called a list of “asks” being made of Netflix by trans and nonbinary workers and allies at the company.
They are calling on the company to “repair” its relationships with staff and the audience with changes involving the hiring of trans executives and increased spending on trans and nonbinary creators and projects.
“Harm reduction” is another demand, which according to the list includes acknowledgment of what it called Netflix’s “responsibility for this harm from transphobic content, and in particular harm to the Black trans community.”
It also called for disclaimers to flag content that includes “transphobic language, misogyny, homophobia” and hate speech.
Terra Field, who identifies herself on Twitter as a senior software engineer at Netflix and as trans, posted tweets critical of Chappelle’s special immediately after it aired and the comments were widely shared.
In her posts, Field said the comic was being criticized not because his remarks are offensive but for the harm they do to the trans community, especially Black women. Field included a list of trans and nonbinary men and women of colour who she said had been killed, adding in each case that the victim “is not offended.”