Artist projects the names of trans folks murdered this year on Netflix HQ, calling for change

After a deadly year for trans and gender nonconforming Americans, A.E. Marling wants more trans-affirming policy and content from the media giant

Activists called for accountability from Netflix for their platforming of transphobic content on this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance.

On Saturday, artist and activist A.E. Marling projected the names of trans people who have been killed in 2021 onto the building of the streaming service’s headquarters to draw attention to the real-life consequences of anti-trans narratives. For over an hour, they listed homicide victims like Tiffany Thomas and Diamond Kyree Sanders—who are among the record 47 trans lives lost to violence this year—under Netflix’s logo.

The event was not accompanied by protests or in-person demonstrations. In an email to Xtra, Marling described the installation as a “silent protest that invites participation from passersby, in this case people driving on the boulevard and stopping at the stop light.

“The lives of trans people are not a joke, and transphobia is no laughing matter,” Marling says.

The action is just the latest protest stemming from the October release of Netflix’s Dave Chappelle special The Closer, which has led to widespread boycotts of the platform. In the special, Chapelle made jokes in reference to trans people’s genitals and announced himself to be “team TERF.” 

Two trans employees who criticized Netflix’s decision to release the special, Terra Field and B. Pagels-Minor, were suspended, although the company has stated those suspensions were not directly related to their comments regarding The Closer. Pagels-Minor was fired, and although Field was reinstated, she chose to resign in solidarity with her Black trans colleague on Monday.

The two filed labour relations charges against Netflix but have since dropped those charges, as NBC News reported.  

“The lives of trans people are not a joke, and transphobia is no laughing matter.”

The internal tensions between Netflix and its staff have been widespread over the past two months. On Oct. 20, hundreds of workers staged a walkout in protest of an internal memo to staff from co-CEO Ted Sarandos defending Netflix’s decision to release The Closer. He claimed the platform does not stream titles that are “designed to incite hate or violence” and added that executives “don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.” 

“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,” Sarandos said in an email obtained by Variety.

The Netflix employees who participated in the walkout issued a series of demands to make the company more inclusive and thoughtful regarding the content it promotes. Requests included additional funding to develop trans and non-binary talent and to “increase investment in trans and non-binary content on Netflix comparable to our total investment in transphobic content, including marketing and promotion,” according to tech website The Verge


Employees also asked that Netflix directly acknowledge the harm that their promotion of transphobic content does, in particular to the Black trans community. 

One month after the walkout, Netflix has not formally responded to its employees’ demands. Although Sarandos has continued to stand by Chappelle, he admitted in an interview with Variety that his initial response to the scandal “lacked humanity.” 

Trans activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith believes that the company needs to continue to be held accountable for its action. As the founder of the trans memorial project  Remembering Our Dead, Smith assisted Marling and provided them with the list of names used in the projection. She hopes this projection will help pressure Netflix to understand that what it promotes on its platform has material consequences for trans people.

“If Netflix fails to meet the demands of the walkout, I will be back.”

“The hope was to draw attention to the real-world harm that actually is happening and which Netflix has helped to foster,” she says in an email to Xtra.

What happens next, Smith says, is “up to Netflix themselves.” Trans people will continue fighting transphobia long past the Trans Day of Remembrance, she adds, until “we reach a time when the actions taken the other 364 days of the year lead to a safer world for us to be ourselves.”

For their part, Marling confirmed that Netflix can expect to continue being taken to task if the company fails to listen to its trans employees and members of the wider LGBTQ2S+ community.

“If Netflix fails to meet the demands of the walkout, I will be back next year for TDoR,” Marling says.

Sophie Hurwitz

Sophie Hurwitz is a St. Louis, Missouri-based journalist and editor who believes in the power of community storytelling.

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