Trans lawmaker Zooey Zephyr and girlfriend avert swatting attempts: ‘We will not be deterred’

The threats follows other incidents of online-driven abuse against prominent trans people and their advocates

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 03 May 2023 16:36 BST

Related video: Zephyr discusses ‘real harm’ of gender-affirming care bans

Montana state Rep Zooey Zephyr and her girlfriend thwarted hoax “swatting” attempts, following the transgender lawmaker’s protests against state legislation that outlaws gender-affirming care for trans youth.

On 2 May, Ms Zephyr’s partner, journalist Erin Reed, said “somebody just attempted to SWAT me for my reporting on transgender legislation and events.”

“Thankfully, I’ve worked closely with the police in my community anticipating this, and the attempt failed,” she added. “I will never stop advocating for my community and will never be silenced.”

That night, Rep Zephyr announced that “someone just attempted to SWAT me as well.”

“I am fine,” she added. “An individual reported an anonymous tip targeting my home in Missoula, and the police recognized that it was likely a hoax and called me. I will say again. We will not be deterred. The fight for trans rights goes on.”

A spokesperson for the Montgomery County Police confirmed the threat to Ms Reed; the department’s Fifth District station received an email, and officers responded to Ms Reed’s residence, according to a statement to The Advocate.

“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,” the spokesperson added.

The Independent has requested additional comment from the Missoula Police Department.

The threats follow similar “swatting” incidents – in which prank calls to emergency responders prompt law enforcement to deploy heavily armed officers to the victim’s home – and other online-driven abuse against prominent trans people and their advocates.

Rep Zephyr was barred from the state’s House of Representatives for the rest of the legislative session following her protests against legislation that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth. On 2 May, a judge rejected her attempt to regain access to her seat.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and Rep Zephyr argued in lawsuits that her expulsion violated her constitutional rights and the rights of her constituents.

On 2 May, Lewis and Clark County District Court judge Mike Menahan ruled that the judicial branch “does not have the authority” to reverse a disciplinary decision of the state legislature, holding that such a remedy “far outpaces the facts at issue here.”

The session adjourned that night. Rep Zephyr prompty returned to her seat in the House chamber.

Last month, Rep Zephyr – Montana’s first-ever trans representative in Montana – told House colleagues their support for a ban on gender-affirming healthcare will leave “blood on their hands,” referencing a mountain of evidence from leading medical groups and LGBT+ advocates that denying access to age-appropriate, medically necessary and potentially life-saving gender-affirming healthcare can be emotionally and mentally debilitating.

After GOP lawmakers refused to recognise Rep Zephyr in the House chamber and silenced her microphone, supporters rallied in the state capitol, demanding that they “let her speak”.

House lawmakers later voted on party lines to sanction Rep Zephyr through the duration of the 90-day session, barring her from the chambers. Since then, she has worked from a bench in an adjoining hallway or other nearby rooms where she can vote remotely but is unable to join debates, effectively removing her voice from the House.

This week, that bench was occupied by a handful of women who identified themselves to the Daily Montanan as the “wives of legislators.” Ms Reed identified one of the women as the mother of Republican House Speaker Matt Regier. The women were also joined by Darin Gaub, the director of the state’s so-called Freedom Caucus Network, which has repeatedly denounced and intentionally misgendered Rep Zephyr over the last few weeks.

As The Independent has previously reported, opponents of the sanction see the campaign against Rep Zephyr as part of a larger attack against trans people in the state of Montana and another display of antidemocratic efforts among Republican lawmakers more broadly.

In Montana, GOP lawmakers have also introduced bills to effectively ban drag shows, allow schools to misgender or deadname students, redefine and strip antidiscrimination protections from state law, and allow medical providers to deny people care for personal reasons, among other measures.

“We have seen violence and hate targeted at the trans community in recent months, and the attempt to SWAT me and my partner is just another example of that,” Ms Reed said in a statement shared with The Independent.

“Representative Zephyr is doing amazing work in Montana, and for that, she has received vitriol from the right,” she added. “They are willing to do anything to silence their fiercest critics. Their attempts to do so will not succeed – the fight for rights for the transgender community is too important, and we will push forward undeterred.”

Additional reporting by Josh Marcus

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