In September 2022, Erin Reed (@erininthemorn) was profoundly moved while listening to teacher Dawn Riggs passionately testify in front of the Ohio Board of Education against a policy that would require teachers to out their transgender students.
Watching Riggs so fervently defend the rights of her students, it occurred to Reed that these testimonies often contained powerful stories that would usually go unreported. Reed decided to platform these stories on TikTok.
As of March 2023, anti-trans legislation is at an all-time high. Only three months into the year, the Human Rights Campaign tracked a record 150 anti-trans bills. Crucial to the success of these bills has been an active disinformation campaign on social media, through accounts such as Libs of TikTok. Reed’s social media content and activism have been at the forefront of documenting the full extent of these bills and combating disinformation.
When Reed first transitioned, she had to drive three hours and back to access an informed consent clinic—a clinic where a therapist’s letter is not required—where she would be able to receive accessible gender-affirming care. Following this experience, she created a map that tracked where these clinics were in each state. The map blew up, having been viewed nearly 5 million times on Google.
Subsequently, she began using Twitter to report on the bills that were targeting the clinics featured on this map. Quickly, she was encouraged by many to continue using Twitter to report on these bills.
“And so it all kind of snowballed from there,” Reed said. “I started learning how the laws were crafted. I started having meetings with some of the activists. I started developing my own professional advocacy and activism.”
As Reed began to gain a large following regarding legislative tracking, she knew it was important for her to expand past one platform and begin posting on TikTok, as she had the resources.
“When I first realized that there was a dearth of media coverage around transgender legislation and legislation targeting the trans community, I knew that I had the ability to create videos that would help digest this legislation for other people,” Reed said.
As she began to grow her TikTok platform, she realized that testimonies against anti-trans bills and policies work perfectly for the TikTok medium, being limited to only a few minutes and containing emotional human stories. As she posted these videos, she realized that these were often among her most viral content.
One notable example includes testimony to the Florida Board of Medicine from a trans man named Lindsey Spero. After sharing a brief testimony about the irreparable damage that would be brought by the ban against youth access to gender-affirming care, Spero took to the remainder of his time to administer his hormone replacement therapy shot in front of the Florida Board of Medicine.
The video was widely shared and viewed, having received 1.2 million views. Shortly after she posted these videos, it was covered by, BuzzFeed, the Independent, and ABC.
As a creator who posts content regarding legislation that is often viewed as inaccessible, Reed has managed to make this information understandable to audiences, frequently going viral throughout her content creation career.
While Reed largely attributes this accessibility to grounding her videos in these human stories and testimonies, she also credits color coding towards the accessibility of her content, a technique that had begun inadvertently. She said that it first started as mere mood lighting, but when a commenter pointed out that the colors correlated with the tone of her content, she ran with it.
“I started coding the videos of bad news with red and orange lighting, the videos that have good news with green lighting, when I’m talking directly to my audience white lighting, and the videos that are informational are blue or purple.”
With the visibility her platform has, she also receives an immense amount of transphobia and scrutiny, often being the focus of large figures such as Matt Walsh and Libs of TikTok. For Reed, it is important that she uses her platform to rebut the disinformation these accounts breed.
“I am not willing to let them go unchallenged,” Reed said. “I think it’s important as a leader in my community to directly confront people like Matt Walsh.”
Dedicated to using her platform to fight against the growing anti-trans movement, Reed recently quit her previous job to pursue this work full-time. Reed said that due to the niche she was filling, her newsletter was instrumental.
“Whenever I started my newsletter I was not expecting my newsletter to be enough to support me. But I very quickly realized there are not enough people writing about these issues,” Reed said. “And there are not enough people writing about the legislation in a comprehensive way.”
Having successfully pivoted to pursuing this work full-time, she attributes her success with social media to finding her niche and being consistent. “Find your schtick, find the thing that makes you feel good to talk about, and find what makes you feel like you are contributing to the conversation.”
“I think that something really important for anybody getting into social media and trying to reach people is developing consistent habits,” Reed continued. “In social media spaces, people know that I publish my newsletter, once a day. People know that my TikTok videos have a green or red background. People know that my beat is anti-trans legislation.”