Streamers in the queer community are being doxxed online and getting visits from armed police – here, they share their traumatic experiences and explain how they’re resisting intimidation and violence
A disturbing trend has been emerging out of the live streaming platform Twitch over the past few months, as more and more US-based drag queens are falling victim to swattings. In a swatting, armed police are sent to a person’s home based on a hoax tip from an unknown caller. Authorities descend on the unsuspecting individual’s residence in the belief that they’re holding others hostage, have committed a crime, are threatening to kill themselves, or for other sinister reasons.
In many cases, the situation is resolved quickly as the police realise there’s nothing untoward at the supposed suspect’s house. However, in some cases – particularly if the victim is a person of colour – swattings can result in serious injuries or death. In 2019, then-19-year-old Casey Viner was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his involvement in the notorious 2017 revenge swatting that led to 28-year-old Andrew Finch being ill-advisedly shot dead by police.
Whatever the outcome, swattings can be incredibly traumatic for the victim – particularly if they’re happening en masse to your community. A group of drag queen Twitch streamers known as the Stream Queens have recently seen a number of their members doxxed (when someone publishes private information about you online) and then swatted. Those in the community have even programmed the non-emergency police number into their phone, in the expectation that they’ll be next.
“The offenders want to breed terror in the community,” says drag streamer Evidious, who was swatted last month. “Some people can’t stand the thought of us living our most authentic lives, and want to force us back into our wig closets.”
In September, in response to both the surge in swattings and an increase in abuse against the LGBTQ+ community and POCs, Twitch creators boycotted the platform to raise awareness for marginalised voices (via NBC News). But, just the following month, members of the Stream Queens found themselves standing outside their houses with their hands above their heads and guns pointed at them.
Here, five of the Stream Queens detail what happened when they were swatted, reflect on what more Twitch should do to help, and explain how they remain resilient in the face of intimidation, bullying, and violence.
I am the 5th drag queen to be swatted within the month. What do we all have in common? We all fall under the LGBT umbrella and play DBD on Twitch.— Elix 🇲🇽 (@Elix_9) November 12, 2021
There are no protections for streamers that go through this, or help.
We only have each other, stay safe. pic.twitter.com/i7LiLzbzjR
Twilight has been a bearded drag artist for a year, and a make-up artist for 11 years. On Twitch, you can find them screaming while playing horror games and geeking out over Zelda games.
“I was doxxed and swatted on October 18 while live streaming. All of a sudden I heard my dogs barking and a very loud, aggressive banging at my door. Normally I’d ignore a knock at my door because I take streaming very seriously – it’s my job – but I knew something was wrong. I jumped up and ran to the door without turning the camera or mic off, and saw eight cop cars in my yard with armed guards and police with guns ready. When I opened the door, they told me to get out of my house (while in full drag) so they could search it. After they searched, I was finally able to explain that I was doxxed and that it was a false call, but I don’t think they understood – they had no clue what Twitch nor doxxing was.
I wish Twitch could offer more support, like representing a streamer when they deal with local authorities, or securing us more. A lot of drag streamers are worried they could be next – it’s this dark cloud hanging over you, and lightning could strike any moment. My advice is to be careful what you share or say, and to invest in PC security like a VPN. But ultimately we’re a team, who have each other’s backs, so you’re not alone – we can all get through this.”
Elix is a first generation Mexican-American who has been a Twitch streamer for four years. They speak English and Spanish on stream, and enjoy all things horror, especially playing the killer in Dead By Daylight.
“About 20 minutes before the swatting incident, there were new Twitch accounts coming onto my livestream doxxing me. Shortly afterwards, I got a phone call which I didn’t answer (unbeknownst to me, it was the police department), then I heard a speaker outside calling for me to come outside. Once the police saw me, they told me to put my hands up and slowly walk towards them. I counted the guns pointed at me. One of the policemen told me the person who called in said that I had slit my brother’s throat in the basement and that I was going to kill myself. However, one of the officers recognised me from streaming and knew right away that this was a fake call.
After 30 minutes, I was allowed to go back in. I never stopped my livestream, so I walked up the stairs, sat down, and continued for four more hours. I wanted to make it clear that I’m not going anywhere – I won’t be threatened, intimidated, or bullied. I wanted to show people that you have to be your genuine self regardless of what’s going on.
I don’t believe Twitch is responsible for this specific incident – if someone wants to do you harm online, they’re going to find a way. Predators use Twitch tools and tags to narrow people down when they’re looking for targets – LGBTQ+ and POC people tend to be targets for doxxing and swatting. We face trolls, bullying, and hate every single day when we go live. Being different in a platform that was once dominated by cis white men can also be threatening to some, which may contribute to why we’re targeted. I don’t feel safe on Twitch, but I wouldn’t feel safe streaming on any platform. What is terrible about this is that there will probably be no arrests and no one will be caught. A lot of police departments are clueless when it comes to these types of attacks.”
Busty beer babe Evidious is Twitch’s first bearded drag partner, who’s been streaming for almost three years. You can find them cracking jokes and cold ones every Wednesday and Saturday.
“I was playing Dead By Daylight with two friends when I noticed a follower that had part of my physical address as their username. They attempted to put my address in the chat, and I immediately banned and blocked them – looking back, I think that was the confirmation they wanted that they had the right location. My husband and I had already talked about this happening to other members of the Stream Queens, so, out of preparedness, we had the non-emergency number programmed into our phones, which I called immediately. The dispatch agent told me the swat team was en route to our location, and told me and my partner to turn on the lights in our house and go outside. When outside, we found multiple police vehicles, a firetruck, swat van, and multiple officers with assault rifles pointed in our direction. Thankfully they were already on the line with dispatch as well.
While I was outside, the people who had placed the fake emergency call were in my chat saying they hoped I’d been shot and killed and posting queer slurs and hate-filled messages. After the officers left, I told my partner this wasn’t going to stop me doing what I love, so I went back into my stream room, touched up my make-up, cracked a beer, and streamed for another two hours. (The perpetrators) attempted two more emergency calls in that time.
I hope Twitch uses their funding and influence to lobby for legislation to protect streamers and viewers from these attacks. They could also create educational materials for streamers or law enforcement to help them know more about how these crimes happen and what to do when/if they do. The offenders want to breed terror in the community, and so (the cases) should be handled as acts of terror. Some people can’t stand the thought of us living our most authentic lives, and want to force us back into our wig closets. I hope they are able to find something that brings them as much joy as entertaining in drag does for us, because we’re not going anywhere.”
KEVIN GAYMING, @KEVINGAYMING
Kevin is a queer, non-binary drag artist who has been streaming for just over a year. With their stream, they want to invoke fun, humour, and safety for LGBTQ+ people.
“I got a notification of a follow from someone called ‘eggsecuteallgaypeople’ and immediately blocked them. Then someone followed immediately afterwards with my real life address as their name. After taking a break from the stream to alert my parents, I received a call from my local police department asking if this was me, where I lived, and telling me that five officers were outside my house responding to a hostage call at my address. They had their guns pointed and told us to come outside with our hands in the air. I was in drag at the time, so it was extremely scary not only to have guns pointed at me and my family, but also to be visibly presenting as queer to law enforcement with firearms. After searching our house, they found nothing because the call was part of a doxxing and swatting plot. I was put in touch with a detective who never followed up with my calls, and as of right now, nothing has been solved. Following the incident, I took a small break from streaming to let the attention I received die down.
Twitch is a huge platform that should have more safety measures in place. Even though I took as many precautions as I could on my stream and through my moderation team, I still didn’t feel safe streaming and was petrified that something real life could happen to me or my family. It’s inherently the transphobia that drives these people to take such extreme measures. Queer people have always endured hate crimes and assault both in person and online. The problem now is that those who seek to cause us harm are getting more creative with their violence – and platforms like Twitch make it very easy for them to do so.”
MIA E. Z’LAY, @MIAEZLAY
Mia has been a full-time drag entertainer, streamer, and Twitch partner for a year and a half, and mainly plays Pokémon games.
“I was streaming on a Friday evening when some fake usernames started coming up with my personal address and other information about me. I did my best to just ban or block as needed, but when talking to fellow streamers in the queer community afterwards, I was warned about what actions these people could take after doxxing you online. I called my local police department to warn them of this, but they didn’t seem to listen or care. The next day things got much worse; I was up early streaming in full drag when there was a brutal knock on my door and I heard people shouting, ‘Police’. I went downstairs to open the door and was taken out of my home – in full drag – by police officers with guns. They provided little information about what was going on, then removed my roommate from the house and started searching it. (It soon emerged that) someone had called them saying we had hostages. The situation eventually calmed and the police finally started to listen. I then went back to my stream and continued my day, because I refused to back down.
For all the amazing and wonderful people out there, there are just as many messed up individuals who get some weird kick out of this. People have been injured (and killed) due to swatting, and whoever is doing this is getting jollies off attacking a community. Twitch has not contacted me nor expressed much – if any – concern over this. However, where Twitch has failed, fellow queer identifying individuals have stepped up. A lot of us are just trying to be there for each other now, but some streamers who have gone through this have stood up and continued to stream, and I decided to follow in their steps.”