On Thursday, May 18, hundreds of trans and non-binary writers and allies working in the TV and film industry in the US staged a “Trans Takeover” outside of Netflix’s headquarters in Los Angeles to shed light on the community’s struggles in Hollywood.
Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles was washed with the colours of the trans flag when more than 200 writers and allies staged a picket to protest the lack of employment of trans professionals working in the US film and TV industry. The Trans Takeover was part of a broader ongoing strike started by the Writers Guild of America on May 2, after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) representing studios and production companies failed.
The Writers Guild of America is demanding better pay for writers, arguing that their livelihoods have been decimated in the last decade. The writers’ strike has already caused the largest interruption to American TV and film production since the Covid pandemic.
Protesters picketing outside Netflix’s headquarters in the Trans Takeover aimed to raise awareness of the lack of employment opportunities that writers in the community face, as well as draw attention to how gender-diverse folks are represented on TV amid the recent wave of anti-trans rhetoric that has swept the US. Netflix has been at the centre of widespread outrage for cancelling numerous LGBTQ+ inclusive shows and for providing a platform for comedy specials filled with transphobic rhetoric from the likes of Dave Chapelle and Ricky Gervais.
Trans takeover at Netflix was amazing ?️⚧️?️?✊???? pic.twitter.com/OJ3bAhJmCI
— Vee Saieh (@WritingCrows) May 19, 2023
Speaking to Variety about the Trans Takeover, author of the memoir Sissy, Jacob Tobia, said: “Trans people are workers too. We’re in solidarity with the labor movement around the world and we are showing up in ways that we are often not depicted.
“Strikes are moments where you redefine who is at the table, and we want to be sure that we’re sending a really strong message to the world that we’re at the table now and we want to stay at the table,” Tobia continued.
“If you want to stand with us, you need to stand with us. You can’t just put us in a few TV shows and then, when things get hard and when people are paying attention, stop greenlighting our projects,” they stated. “You have to commit to us as a community and show that you really care about our dignity, our lives and our economic vitality.”
Trans folks and cis allies, come join the WGA Trans Subcommittee and GLAAD tomorrow from 1-5pm PT at 1456 N Van Ness Ave, Los Angeles, CA. Authentic trans stories create acceptance. We need trans storytellers and we need them to be paid! #TransTakeover #WGAstrong pic.twitter.com/rDJQ4oo6ph
— GLAAD (@glaad) May 17, 2023
CW series Tom Swift writer Sydney Baloue echoed these sentiments, emphasising that having trans writers to tell trans stories in mainstream media is fundamental. “You would never have a white showrunner create a Black show without Black writers and then hire a token Black person and say, ‘Hey, can you give us the greenlight on this Black story,’ ” Baloue said. “Why are cisgender showrunners doing that to trans and nonbinary writers? We have the right to tell our own stories.”
Mayfair Witches star Jen Richards also criticised the way trans writers and actors are treated in the industry, saying: “It sometimes feels like they give us just enough work so that they can pat themselves on the back and feel good about having diversity but never actually let our shows get to air.”
She added that trans writers should be given the opportunity to work on more than only trans-centric stories. “We all came into this industry because we’re storytellers and we have a breadth of human experience,” Richards said. “And we’re often just reduced to that one aspect of our identity, when there’s so much more that we can do.”
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