Trans activist Erin Reed on her content strategy
In September 2022, Erin Reed (@erininthemorn) was deeply moved as she listened to teacher Dawn Riggs passionately testify before the Ohio Board of Education against a policy that would require teachers to come out to their transgender students.
As Reed watched Riggs so passionately defending the rights of her students, it occurred to her that those testimonies often contained powerful stories that typically went unreported. Reed decided to post these stories on TikTok.
As of March 2023, anti-trans legislation is at an all-time high. Just three months into the year, the Human Rights Campaign pursued a record 150 anti-trans laws. Crucial to the success of these bills was an active disinformation campaign on social media via accounts like Libs of TikTok. Reed’s social media content and activism has been at the forefront of documenting the full extent of these bills and fighting disinformation.
When Reed was first transitioned, she had to drive three hours and back to reach an informed consent clinic — one that didn’t require a therapist letter — where she would receive accessible gender-affirming care. After that experience, she created a map that recorded where these clinics were located in each state. The map exploded after being viewed nearly 5 million times on Google.
She then began using Twitter to report on the bills targeting the clinics featured on this map. She was quickly encouraged by many to continue using Twitter to report on these bills.
“And it just snowballed from there,” Reed said. “I started learning how the laws were made. I started meeting with some of the activists. I started to develop my own professional advocacy and activism.”
As Reed began to garner a large following regarding law enforcement, she knew it was important for her to expand beyond one platform and start posting on TikTok because she had the resources.
“When I first noticed there was a lack of media coverage of transgender laws and laws targeting the trans community, I knew I had the ability to create videos that would help enforce those laws for other people to digest,” Reed said.
As she began to grow her TikTok platform, she found that testimonies against anti-trans laws and policies work perfectly for the TikTok medium as they are limited to just a few minutes and contain emotional human stories. When she posted these videos, she found that they were often some of her most viral content.
A notable example is the testimony given to the Florida Board of Medicine by a trans man named Lindsey Spero. After Spero gave a brief testimony about the irreparable harm that would be done by banning youth from access to gender-affirming care, Spero used the rest of his time administering his hormone replacement therapy before the Florida Board of Medicine.
The video was widely shared and viewed, receiving 1.2 million views. Shortly after she posted those videos, they were covered by BuzzFeed, The Independent, and ABC.
As a creator who publishes content about laws that is often seen as inaccessible, Reed has managed to make that information understandable for audiences, which has often gone viral throughout her career as a content creator.
While Reed credits this accessibility largely to her videos being grounded in these human stories and testimonies, she also credits the accessibility of her content with color-coding, a technique that began inadvertently. She said it started out just as mood lighting at first, but when a commenter pointed out that the colors correlated with the tone of her content, she ran with it.
“I started coding the bad news videos with red and orange lighting, the good news videos with green lighting when I’m speaking directly to my audience with white lighting, and the informative videos with blue or purple lighting.”
With the visibility her platform has, she also receives an immense amount of transphobia and scrutiny, which is often the focus of big-name figures like Matt Walsh and Libs of TikTok. It’s important to Reed that she uses her platform to refute the disinformation these accounts are spawning.
“I’m not ready to let her go unchallenged,” Reed said. “I think it’s important as a leader in my community to confront people like Matt Walsh head-on.”
Reed has dedicated herself to using her platform to fight against the growing anti-trans movement and recently quit her previous job to pursue this work full-time. Reed said her newsletter played an important role because of the niche she occupied.
“When I started my newsletter, I didn’t expect my newsletter to be enough to support me. But I realized very quickly that not enough people are writing about these topics,” Reed said. “And there aren’t enough people writing extensively about the legislation.”
After successfully deciding to pursue this work full-time, she attributes her success with social media to finding her niche and being consistent. “Find your schtick, find what you feel good about, and find what makes you feel like contributing to the conversation.”
“I think that for anyone who gets into social media and tries to reach people, developing consistent habits is something really important,” Reed continued. “On social media, people know that I publish my newsletter once a day. People know my TikTok videos have a green or red background. People know my punch is anti-trans legislation.”
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*Initial publication: April 5, 2023 2:33 pm CDT