Pink and blue hues overwhelmed the stretch of Sunset Boulevard outside Netflix on Thursday as the “Trans Takeover” picket drew at least 200 writers and allies to address concerns about trans employment and how the community is portrayed in pop culture.
“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,” said writer Jacob Tobia, whose credits include the Showtime pilot “Sissy.” “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 and others noted that the hostile backlash to LGBT rights, particularly for trans and nonbinary people, in states including Texas and Tennessee has come on the heels of a number of TV series and movies focused on this marginalized but emerging community.
“Hollywood put us on a pedestal and then kind of abandoned us, frankly. 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,” Tobia said. “You have to commit to us as a community and show that you really care about our dignity, our lives and our economic vitality.”
Sydney Baloue, whose credits include the CW series “Tom Swift,” emphasized that representation matters when trans stories are told in mainstream media.
“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.”
Baloue said it’s eye-opening to study the arenas where trans characters have been welcomed and where they haven’t.
“We don’t have a trans or non-binary ‘Will and Grace.’ We’re not in sitcoms. We have yet to even have truly a trans movie star,” Baloue said. “We want to write those roles for those people. This is a civil rights movement of our generation.”
Jen Richards, an actor who has appeared in AMC’s “Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches” and FX’s “Better Things,” said she still feels a lot of jobs go to trans people in Hollywood to check off a diversity and inclusion mandate.
“It sometimes feel 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,” Richards said. “There’s a lot of trans and non-binary youth today. They are future audiences and we want to give those audiences proof that gender can be a realm of expression, of play, of creativity and of joy rather than fear and loathing.”
What’s more, Richards and others said it’s important that trans creatives be allowed to spread their wings beyond LGBT-centric narratives.
“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.”
Netflix was the target of the Trans Takeover picket in part because the streamer stirred controversy in 2021 with comments from comedian Dave Chappelle in the standup special “The Closer” that were widely interpreted as anti-trans and transphobic.