Hundreds of Netflix Employees Walk Out in Trans Rights Protest Amid Continued Chappelle Fallout
23:34 GMT 20.10.2021 (Updated: 13:25 GMT 06.08.2022)
Several hundred Netflix employees walked out of their offices in protest on Wednesday over the media company’s handling of complaints about a Dave Chappelle comedy special critics said denigrated transgender people.
The virtual walkout occurred at Netflix’s Vine Street offices in Los Angeles, California, on Wednesday, and coincided with an in-person protest outside the offices that was attended by hundreds of people. It had been planned since last week, when three trans employees were temporarily suspended and CEO Ted Sarandos made several public statements repudiating claims that transphobic content leads to real-world harm.
The media company has already fired the lead organizer of the protest, allegedly for leaking confidential information to the press.
brb walking out— Most (@Most) October 20, 2021
Video from the protests showed hundreds of people carrying signs that read “Black trans lives matter” and “Team Trans*, game workers have your back,” referring to the caucus of trans employees and their supportive co-workers who planned the walkout. They chanted “what do we want? Accountability! When do we want it? Now!”
Several prominent trans figures also came to the rally and spoke, including Ashlee Marie Preston, a Black trans activist who is editor of Wear Your Voice Magazine. Prior to the protest, Preston joined other LGBTQ figures, many of whom have done shows with Netflix or that have been streamed by Netflix, including Peppermint, Jonathan Van Ness, Angelica Ross, Mason Alexander Park, Jameela Jamil and Colton Haynes, in a video expressing and explaining their solidarity with the Netflix employees’ struggle.
A much smaller group of counter-protesters carried signs that said “we like jokes” and chanted “Dave is funny, jokes are funny.”
Netflix issued a statement on Wednesday ahead of the walkout acknowledging the “deep hurt that’s been caused.”
“We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused,” a Netflix spokesperson said. “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.”
Employees Demand More Trans Content
The employees have sent a letter to Sarandos detailing a list of demands in the wake of his refusal to remove the Chappelle special, titled “The Closer,” from Netflix’s online streaming service. However, removal is notably absent from the letter, according to The Verge, which obtained a copy.
Their demands include additional funding to develop trans talent; adding an amount of trans and nonbinary content to balance it out with transphobic content; revising internal processes on the release of potentially harmful content; adding a disclaimer to programs that contain harmful content; and recruiting trans and nonbinary leadership, including content executives. They also ask the company to acknowledge the harm it’s caused by airing transphobic content, especially to Black trans women.
In an interview with Variety on Tuesday, Sarandos seemed amenable to some of their demands, including increasing funding for trans and nonbinary content. However, he continued to reject the assertion that Chappelle’s jokes, which hinged on the idea that trans women are actually men, could cause real-world harm.
Netflix reported on Wednesday that its profits had increase 1.8 times in the third quarter of 2021 over the same period last year, bringing in $7.5 billion in that time. They predicted that fourth quarter earnings will top $7.7 billion, with both increases being driven in large part by the release of South Korean drama "Squid Game."
Judge Grilled for Supporting Trans Rights
However, those same ideas also made an appearance on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as Holly Thomas appeared for a confirmation hearing for her appointment to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) challenged Thomas for a brief she filed in 2016 against a “bathroom bill” that would have barred trans people from using the bathroom of their gender. They cited an alleged incident in Virginia in which a person, claimed by opponents to be trans but whose gender identity has not been actually verified, sexually assaulted two girls in the school bathroom after the district adopted a trans-inclusive bathroom policy.
"Do you have concerns about girls being assaulted in bathrooms by transgender women?" Grassley asked. Hawley and Cruz posed similar questions, referring to trans women as “biological males.”
Also on Wednesday, LGBTQ news site Them reported that a man had recently been charged for the August murder of a Latina trans woman named Zoella Rose Martinez, and that a Black trans woman named Royal Poetical Starz had been found shot to death more than 20 times in her vehicle.
This year alone, at least 41 known murders of trans people have happened in the US. The American Medical Association has warned that trans people face “an epidemic of violence,” with dozens murdered every year, often in brutal ways and often by men disgusted by their own attraction to the victim.