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A win for Team Trans

The Netflix Walkout can be just the beginning for standing in solidarity with trans people

People rally in support of the Netflix transgender walkout in Los Angeles, Oct. 20, 2021.
Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock

Yesterday, queer and trans Netflix employees staged a walk out and held a rally protesting the streaming platform CEO’s remarks surrounding Dave Chappelle’s transphobic new special, “The Closer.”

Activist Ashlee Marie Preston led organizing of the event from outside the company alongside the internal staff, most of whom are part of an employee resource group team dubbed Team Trans.

As INTO documented yesterday, the walk out quickly garnered support from several celebrities and Netflix stars, including Elliot Page, Dan Levy, Jonathan Van Ness, Lilly Wachowski, and more.

Several appeared in a video explaining the situation and expressing solidarity with the rally, while others took to social media to share their thoughts.

Several organizations, including GLAAD, also spoke out.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Trans Empowerment Project (@transempowermentproject)

Today, Preston wrote under a post on Instagram, “Yesterday was a powerful moment.🌞 Not just for the Trans/NB/GNC community and the @Netflix employees that walked out, but for every marginalized community working tirelessly to build safe, equitable and dignified lives.”

Preston continued, “There was plenty of dialogue about the harmful content that lead to the walkout but I’m making this post to reiterate that this moment is much bigger than Dave Chappelle. They’re trying to distract us by gaslighting us around the harm the special caused, accusing us of ‘cancel culture’ after we’ve tried facilitating transformative dialogue, and have hurled insults at us for not ‘being able to take a joke.’ We can take a joke; but when the jokes take lives—it’s no longer a laughing matter. What we’re truly up against is the emergence of a ‘Hate Economy.'”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ashlee Marie Preston (@ashleemariepreston)

Yesterday’s walk out drew hundreds of people in support of transgender people, so much that the rally had to move to a different location to accommodate the overflow.

There were also a flurry of TERF (or, as some of them prefer to be referred to, “Team Dave”) supporters who came as a form of counter-protest, either supporting hate speech, or objecting to trans people and trans allies exercising their free speech right to not support hate speech.

In response to the walkout, Netflix issued a statement reading, “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused. We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”

That “value” and “respect” didn’t lineup with Netflix’s actions. Part of what prompted the protests against Netflix was their decision to suspend Terra Field, a trans queer woman and a software engineer at Netflix who wrote a viral thread of tweets explaining that trans people weren’t offended by Chappelle’s special.

Netflix suspended her after for trying to attend a meeting she had been invited to regarding the response to the special. The decision was later reversed, and Field took part in the walk out yesterday.

After the walk out had started being organized last week, however, Netflix fired B. Pagels-Minor, the lead staff member of both of Netflix’s Black and trans employee resource groups, who led the efforts.

Netflix also hasn’t said publicly whether or not they will discipline others involved in the walk out, and hasn’t responded to inquiries asking as much. 

Despite the chance that they’ll lose their jobs, dozens of Netflix employees took part anyway.

Meanwhile, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos has continued to dig a very embarrassing hole for himself in public comments. He has continued to defend platforming Chappelle’s remarks in several interviews and memo, and even tried to justify them in a statement to staff by listing a bunch of trans and queer talent or content that the network includes on their platform.

After one such named talent, Hannah Gadsby, told Sarandos that was not appropriate (in many more explicit words), he admitted that he and his company have “obviously screwed up” in their public remarks, but not in their actions.

While he tried to rephrase some of his wording, Sarandos remained behind the hard line he’s drawn on the topic, refusing to even consider including a content warning for transphobia on The Closer and refusing to restrict the content at all. He didn’t even commit to meeting with and listening to his own employees.

This comes after news reports reveal that an executive at Netflix accused of conveying “an attitude in various meetings that was not inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community” was not disciplined by the company.

While Netflix’s decision to stand behind anti-trans words, rhetoric, and actions is at the heart of the issue, yesterday’s actions and everything in response is much bigger than them or any one issue. Trans people are standing up for themselves, and now there is a growing community standing in solidarity alongside them.

For “Team Trans,” that’s the real win here.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Michael Ade 🇳🇬 (@bellikemike)

Watch the video with celebrities supporting the Netflix Walkout and more posts from the rallies yesterday below.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Our Lady J (@ourladyj)

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