A transgender journalist in a relationship with Montana’s sole elected trans legislator, Rep. Zooey Zephyr, thwarted a SWATting attempt at her Maryland residence Tuesday morning. She credits contacting local police months ago for the incident not ending in violence.
Erin Reed is a trans activist and independent journalist who is often attacked online. She's been tracking anti-trans legislation across the country. Reed was most recently targeted by far-right extremists because she is in a relationship with Zephyr, who has gained national attention over the last two weeks for being censured by Republican lawmakers in the Montana legislature.
Tuesday morning, Zephyr tweeted that somebody had tried to send a SWAT team to her partner’s home to have armed law enforcement storm the residence.
“Someone just attempted to SWAT my girlfriend,” Zephyr wrote. “Those who hate trans people are doing everything in their power to silence & harm us. But we will not be deterred. We will stand in defiance of their cruelty and never stop working until trans people get to live our lives in peace.”
\u201cSomeone just attempted to SWAT my girlfriend.\n\nThose who hate trans people are doing everything in their power to silence & harm us. But we will not be deterred.\n\nWe will stand in defiance of their cruelty, and never stop working until trans people get to live our lives in peace.\u201d
Shortly before noon, Reed tweeted about the attempt. However, she wrote that because she expected this could happen she'd already been in contact with local authorities. The incident resolved itself without much fanfare.
“Somebody just attempted to SWAT me for my reporting on transgender legislation and events,” she wrote. “Thankfully, I’ve worked closely with the police in my community, anticipating this, and the attempt failed. I will never stop advocating for my community and will never be silenced.”
\u201cSomebody just attempted to SWAT me for my reporting on transgender legislation and events.\n\nThankfully, I've worked closely with the police in my community anticipating this, and the attempt failed.\n\nI will never stop advocating for my community and will never be silenced.\u201d
Reed tellsThe Advocate she’s happy to have thought to secure herself by checking in with police months ago.
“It’s good that this happened the way it did for me in the sense that I was able to have that foresight, but not everybody has that foresight, and not every police department is going to respond the way that this one did,” she says.
Although Reed acknowledges that the LGBTQ+ community has a tenuous relationship with some law enforcement organizations, she advises LGBTQ+ individuals in the spotlight to contact the police department to get them to put a note in their system to verify claims that would prompt an elevated response.
Several months ago, Reed learned that her address had been posted on right-wing websites and forums that doxx people, especially transgender individuals.
She says she approached her local police department to let them know that she is a reasonably prominent transgender journalist. She told them she knew of other transgender people whose names appeared on such sites and ended up being SWATed.
“I told them that I want to make sure that if anything happens, they are aware that my address is being shared in places that are known for doxxing, and they told me that they could put a flag on my address back then,” Reed says.
It was explained to her that the flag would not prevent officers from responding to her address but would inform them of the circumstances at the address.
“That didn’t make me feel too good,” she says. “I was like, OK, well, shoot. I guess they might still show up and bust my door down.”
Due to her writing about transgender issues and prior harassment by far-right extremists, Reed explains that she often worries someone will send a SWAT team after her.
“This time, this was one of the bigger issues that I’ve been a part of because my partner, Rep. Zooey Zephyr, is in the news everywhere right now,” she says.
Last week, Republicans in Montana barred Zephyr from attending any proceedings in the state House in person. She and the American Civil Liberties Union sued over the House leadership's decision to censure her in this way, but a judge ruled against her Tuesday.
Trans influencers have in the past been targeted by SWATing. Last year, Keffals, a popular Canadian transgender Twitch streamer, was SWATed, resulting in Canadian police officers storming her home after a false report about her.
Reed was contacted by police Tuesday morning to ask if she was safe after receiving a distress call.
“The flag they put did work, and they didn’t have to come to bust my door down,” she says. “They [said they] were going to be on their way to do a wellness check, but they wanted to call because they said that they had a note or a message that they had received information saying that I was being held hostage.”
The Advocate confirmed the incident with a Montgomery County Police spokesperson.
“An email was sent to the Montgomery County Fifth District station. Officers responded to her residence this morning for a [welfare check],” the spokesperson said. “They spoke with Ms. Reed, and she stated that she was fine and that her ‘information got leaked.’ She stated that she provided her information to the police department because she figured something like this might happen.”
Reed says the incident isn't going to discouraged her from supporting her partner or from continuing her reporting.
“It is very stressful, and my partner is very much involved in doing really important work,” she says. Reed says she doesn't want to be making the news, only reporting on the legislation out there. She says that when she becomes the story, she feels "like this is yet another hateful attack on people who are just trying to get the news out there on LGBT issues and all this legislation.”
She continues, “I cover these hearings for hours every day. I write up bills and analyze them. And I feel like just because by virtue of my relationship with the representative, now they’re trying to target me, and they’re trying to get at her through me, which I think is very, it’s very hateful, and it’s very troublesome.”
“I will say that this isn’t going to shut me up," Reed says. “I’m going to keep doing reporting. I’m going to stay focused on this task. I’m going to continue to do what I do every day because this just goes to show the level of hate that’s out there and the level of animosity that’s out there towards my community.”