Today, Netflix’s trans employees and allies are walking out after the company released, and heavily promoted, yet another transphobic Dave Chapelle special. This walkout is also accompanied by a list of demands from Netflix employees who are deeply unsatisfied with the current state of the company. These demands include increased investment in projects led by trans artists, a commitment to more diverse hiring practices, and disclaimers for transphobic content on the platform. (The group’s demands do not include the Chapelle special being taken down.)
There’s little point in taking Chapelle’s special down anyway. The Netflix walkouts are, as formerly suspended Netflix employee Terra Field said, not about offence. Despite how it is often framed by perpetrators, the negative response to transphobia is rarely about offence. Most of the time it is about disgust. Offence is not dangerous — disgust is.
To be an object of disgust is to be at risk of violence. People do not often think before crushing bugs after all — sometimes they do, and it is worse. Chapelle is, like many transphobes, consistently disgusted with trans people — our bodies and desires in particular.
Specials like this, which draw attention to our existence, supposed power, and the claimed wrongness of our bodies, make trans lives harder. With improved visibility of trans people throughout the media, our lives have become both more and less dangerous. Cis people are aware of our existence now, and those that hate us are actively searching for new bodies to direct their disgust toward. We are more visible, but perhaps the average person hates us less than they would’ve a few decades ago. We are less despised but easier to imagine.
Employee demands around content funding come from this reality. As it stands, trans people are becoming more visible without becoming proportionately less derided. Trans stories, and their normalization, fulfils both functions. They humanize us and make us so visible that we become, to borrow a phrase from Disco Elysium, another part of the “great see-through world.”