Netflix has suspended a transgender employee who publicly criticized transphobic jokes that comedian Dave Chappelle made in his new stand-up special “The Closer,” as well as two other unidentified Netflix employees.
One of the suspended employees, Terra Field, a senior software engineer who identifies as queer and trans, tweeted Wednesday in a viral thread that Chappelle “attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness.”
Explaining why the word “offended” minimized why people objected to Chappelle’s jokes, Field wrote that trans people’s “existence is ‘funny’ to [Chappelle]—and when we object to his harm, we’re ‘offended.’”
Then she added: “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.”
At the end of her thread, Field listed the names of transgender and gender-nonconforming people who have been killed this year, citing the Human Rights Campaign.
Netflix told NBC News that Field was not reprimanded for her tweets about Chappelle, but that she was suspended for a separate incident that occurred last week.
“It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show,” a Netflix spokesperson told NBC. “Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly, and we support their right to do so.”
Sources told Variety that Field and the two other employees were suspended for attending a two-day virtual gathering of Netflix’s top executives without being invited. The company had reportedly launched an investigation into the incident and the three employees.
Netflix and Field did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
It is unclear if Field and the others spoke out at the meeting about the streamer giving Chappelle a platform to spread transphobia and homophobia. But prior to her suspension, Field published a tweet thanking Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos “for leading a company where an engineer can give them (or anyone else) feedback on what they’re doing and actually expect a thoughtful response, and for enabling us to make Netflix a great place for trans people to work.”
Field joked on Monday, and presumably after her suspension, that her tweet praising Sarandos had aged badly.
Chappelle received significant backlash last week from the LGBTQ community and allies for jokes he made in “The Closer.” The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights advocacy group, issued a statement that urged Netflix to pull the special.
In the special, Chappelle defended offensive comments about trans people by “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.
“Effectually she said gender was a fact, the trans community got mad as shit, they started calling her a TERF,” Chappelle said, referring to the acronym for “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” whose views about gender are seen as anti-trans.
“I’m team TERF,” he added before agreeing that “gender is a fact” and comparing trans women’s bodies to plant-based meat products.
Chappelle’s joke wrongly conflates gender and sex. Gender is “your own, internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary),” according to GLAAD, while sex typically refers to a person’s biological characteristics.
Netflix has defended Chappelle’s special. Sarandos told managers in an internal memo obtained by Variety that Chappelle’s special does not cross “the line on hate” and will remain on the streaming service.
Chappelle has also responded to the criticism. During an event last week in which the comedian screened a new documentary and received a standing ovation, he said: “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it.”