Image Source: YouTube user Netflix
On June 19, 2020, Netflix released a documentary, Disclosure, which examines 100 years of transgender depictions in film and television. With Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) as executive producer and Sam Feder as director, the documentary shows the connections between trans representation on screen, society's beliefs, and the reality of trans lives — revealing "how Hollywood both reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender."
In the wake of the backlash over Dave Chappelle's The Closer special and amid the Oct. 20 walkout from Netflix employees in support of the trans community, people are encouraging viewers to watch Disclosure in solidarity. "Today some will be boycotting Netflix in solidarity, some will be watching @Disclosure_Doc, some will be attending the rally. Above all, I hope people listen to the concerns of the employees & community, hear the challenges to do better & commit to change," Disclosure producer Alex Schmider tweeted on Wednesday.
Disclosure traces the history of transgender representation through films like A Florida Enchantment (1914), Dog Day Afternoon, The Crying Game, and Boys Don't Cry and with shows like The Jeffersons, The L Word, and Pose. Through a series of powerful interviews, the documentary explores how trans people have been depicted in ways that are dehumanizing, yet also in ways that are evolving, complex, and sometimes humorous. The documentary debuted during Pride Month last year, joining with the Black Lives Matter movement to protest for equality in the United States.
Over the past year, there have been numerous demonstrations to support the Black trans community. On June 14, 2020, thousands of protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum in New York City to demand justice for the deaths and disproportionate violence Black trans people face every day. The following day, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace — includes LGBTQ+ employees. It's a step in the right direction, but there is still a hell of a lot of work to be done, and more representation on screens is a crucial step in the right direction.
"I think the way trans people have been represented on screen have suggested that we are not real, have suggested that we are mentally ill, that we don't exist," Cox says in the documentary's trailer. "And yet, here I am. Yet here we are, and we've always been here." You can watch Disclosure on Netflix right now.