Netflix Reinstates Suspended Trans Employee Who Condemned Chappelle

A trans employee was suspended from Netflix after criticizing transphobic comments in the Dave Chapelle special "The Closer."
REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Facing fierce criticism, Netflix reversed course and reinstated a transgender software engineer who was suspended after criticizing the transphobic jokes in Dave Chappelle’s comedy special.

Terra Field went public on Twitter about her suspension on October 6 in a widely-circulated thread, though leaders at the subscription-based streaming service maintained that she was actually suspended for attending a meeting she was not authorized to attend. Either way, she is back.

“Netflix has reinstated me after finding that there was no ill intent in my attending the QBR meeting,” Field wrote on October 12. “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.”

Field also shared an email she received from management explaining her reinstatement. “Hi Terra, As you requested, this email is to document the conversation we just had about reinstating you fully as an employee at Netflix,” the email noted. “Our investigation did not find that you joined the QBR meeting with an ill intent and that you genuinely didn’t think there was anything wrong with seeking access to this meeting. Additionally, when a director shared the link, it further supported that this was a meeting that you could attend.”

Field’s original comments took aim at Chappelle’s jokes for attacking the “very validity of transness.” During the special, Chappelle boldly announced that he is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or TERF, and stated that “every human being on Earth had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact.” Field pushed back against the comedian’s discriminatory comments in a string of tweets, noting that the rhetoric further incites violence against the trans community. 

“Our existence is ‘funny’ to him — and when we object to his harm, we’re ‘offended,'” she wrote in a tweet. “What we object to is the harm that content like this does to the trans community (especially trans people of color) and VERY specifically Black trans women.” 

In another tweet, Field added the names of slain transgender folks who have been targeted by deadly transphobic violence. More than 35 known transgender people, mostly trans women of color, have died due to widespread transphobia this year. 

Netflix denied accusations that Field was suspended because of her tweets. 

“It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show,” a Netflix spokesperson told Gay City News. “Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly, and we support their right to do so.”

Field was one of three employees who were being investigated by the company for allegedly crashing the meeting reserved for top executives, and a Netflix spokesperson told Gay City News the suspension was “due to the meeting attendance, not the tweets.”

Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos is still standing behind the controversial special. In a memo obtained by Variety, Sarandos told employees that the streaming giant has no plans of taking down the show from its platforms. 

“It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues, so I wanted to give you some additional context. You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do,” Sarandos said, according to the memo. 

Sarandos added: “Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe ‘The Closer’ crosses that line.” 

GLAAD, an LGBTQ media monitoring organization, said Chappelle’s rhetoric will have a negative impact on LGBTQ individuals.

“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 wrote in a tweet. “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.”

Chappelle, meanwhile, is not backing down.

“If this is what being canceled is, I love it,” Chappelle told an audience at the Hollywood Bowl, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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