Trans TV and film writers stage powerful ‘trans takeover’ outside Netflix amid writers’ strike

Trans and non-binary TV and film writers on the picket line outside Netflix in LA, as part of the ongoing writers' strike.

Trans and non-binary TV and film writers have joined the ongoing writers’ strike in Hollywood, demanding better pay, better opportunities and better stories for trans people.

Members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which is made up of two different US unions representing TV and film writers, walked out of studios across the country earlier this month, in an attempt to strike a better pay deal.

The WGA hopes to secure a pay increase for writers, who it says have been negatively impacted by the rise of the streaming era. In a statement, the WGA said streaming platforms have “created a gig economy inside a union workforce” by paying writers a flat fee, regardless of how successful a show or film becomes.

On Thursday (18 May), around 200 trans, non-binary and ally TV and film writers hosted a “Trans Takeover” outside Netflix’s studio in Los Angeles, calling on entertainment executives to pay writers fairly.

According to Variety, those protesting on the picket line were also calling for better, more authentic portrayals of trans and non-binary people on TV and in film, highlighting how trans people are still noticeably absent from entertainment formats like sitcoms and blockbuster movies.

The crowd chanted “trans power” and held signs with slogans including “Humiliation kinks are for the bedroom, not my paycheck – pay the writers” and “Non-binary writers exist too”.

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There were also calls for an end to tokenism when it comes to hiring trans writers, with studios facing criticism for hiring trans people just so they can “pat themselves on the back” and shout about diversity. 

Jacob Tobia, genderqueer activist and author of memoir Sissy, told Variety that trans and non-binary writers had been “abandoned” by Hollywood.

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“Trans people are workers too. We’re in solidarity with the labour movement around the world and we are showing up in ways that we are often not depicted,” Tobia said.

“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 green-lighting our projects.”

TV studios have faced increased criticism from LGBTQ+ fans in recent months due to a wave of show cancellations

This year alone, Netflix has cancelled trans-led series Dead End: Paranormal Park, Neil Patrick Harris’ Uncoupled and Smiley

Series on other networks, including A League of Their Own and The L Word: Generation Q, have also been axed.

In addition to cancelling several LGBTQ+ shows within quick succession, Netflix has also come under fire in the last year for platforming the stand-up comedy specials of Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais, both of whom have used anti-trans jokes in their sets.

It’s unclear when the WGA writers’ strike will end, though TV shows including Saturday Night Live, Stranger Things, Yellowjackets and season two of The Last of Us already being impacted.

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