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Netflix Reinstates Trans Employee Who Denounced Dave Chappelle Special

Dave Chappelle

UPDATE, 10/13/2021: After being suspended (alongside two other employees) for attempting to attend the company’s quarterly business review without an invite, Netflix's senior software engineer Terra Field has been reinstated.

"Netflix has reinstated me after finding that there was no ill-intent in my attending the QBR meeting," Field, who has been a vocal critic of the transphobic Dave Chapelle comedy special The Closer, that is still currently streaming on the platform, said in a tweet sharing the correspondence she received from higher-ups of her reinstatement this week. "I've included the statement I requested below. I'm going to take a few days off to decompress and try to figure out where I'm at. At the very least, I feel vindicated."


ORIGINAL, 10/12/2021: The Dave Chappelle transphobia debacle isn’t coming to an end any time soon.

Since the release of his most recent comedy special for Netflix, entitled The Closer, where the comedian called himself a TERF, compares trans women's genitals to Impossible or Beyond Burgers, and says he can’t stand trans people and "newer gays," many have been calling for Netflix to sever their ties with the controversial comic. But now, it seems like Netflix is firmly siding with Chappelle.

On Monday, Netflix suspended three employees for showing up to a meeting of its top executives, including one trans staffer who had been publicly criticizing Chappelle’s special on her social media.

Terra Field, who works as a senior software engineer for the company, has been suspended along with the two others, not for her tweets, according to Netflix, but for attempting to attend the company’s quarterly business review without an invite.

In her tweets, which she put up last week, she said that complaints about the special aren’t about "being offended," but are about the real-life ramifications it will have on trans people, and specifically, Black trans women.

"I work at [Netflix]. Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness — all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups. You're going to hear a lot of talk about 'offense.' We are not offended," she began.

"Promoting TERF ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act," she continued. "This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don't want us to be."

She went on to list the names and causes of death of trans people who have been killed this year, pointing out that they weren’t offended by anything, they were simply murdered for being who they are. And they were murdered because the people who killed them believe the same things about trans people that Dave Chappelle does.

Jaclyn Moore, the trans showrunner of Dear White People, also announced on Twitter that she will be cutting ties with the streamer due to their continued platforming of Chapelle. 

"I love so many of the people I've worked with at Netflix. Brilliant people and executives who have been collaborative and fought for important art... But I've been thrown against walls because, 'I'm not a 'real' woman.' I've had beer bottles thrown at me. So, [Netflix], I'm done."

Jonathan Van Ness, who has starred in several Netflix projects including Queer Eye and Arlo the Aligator Boy, also tweeted about the issue. "The violence and harm perpetuated against Trans, NB & Intersex folks is relentless and people pay with their lives, their livelihoods, and we’re sick of it. It breaks my heart that such important people and platforms continue to ignore that."

Now, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has decided which side of the fight he’s joining.

In a memo sent to company employees, Sarandos detailed how he’d like managers to handle employees and talent who are hurt or upset by the special and speaking out against Chappelle. He also firmly stated that the company will not remove the special from the site, even despite mounting pressure to do so.

"Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. His last special Sticks & Stones, also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date," Sarandos wrote in the memo, according to Variety.

"As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful," he continued.

"Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate," the memo says. "We don’t allow titles Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line. I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering."

There hasn’t been an overall call to remove stand-up from the streaming service, only stand-up specials that specifically attack and make fun of marginalized groups, potentially inciting more hatred and violence against them.

GLAAD responded to the statement, saying that it ignores the policies Netflix says they have in place.

"Netflix has a policy that content 'designed to incite hate or violence' is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that," GLAAD's statement read. "While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards."

Field has also responded, pointing out that just a day before the special aired, she tweeted thanks to Sarandos and his co-CEO for "leading a company where an engineer can give them (or anyone else) feedback on what they’re doing and actually expect a thoughtful response, and for enabling us to make Netflix a great place for trans people to work."

Now, she says the tweet belongs on the popular Twitter account Poorly Aged Stuff. And honestly, so does Dave Chappelle.

RELATED | Dave Chappelle Got a Standing Ovation Despite Transphobia Controversy

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