Trans Twitch streamer Clara Sorrenti was arrested last week after a series of fraudulent threats were sent under her name.
Sorrenti, a high-profile trans streamer known as “Keffals,” was arrested at gunpoint on August 5 after someone impersonating her reportedly sent threatening messages to every city councillor in London, Ontario. According to Newsweek, the emails vowed to “shoot every cisgender person” at London City Hall, and also claimed that Sorrenti killed her own mother.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, police reportedly raided Sorrenti’s home, seized her electronics and handcuffed her. The 28-year-old claims that law enforcement officials booked under her deadname during the time that she was in custody.
In a YouTube video that was recorded following the incident, Sorrenti said that police deadnaming is a direct result of the emails, which she claimed used her uncorrected birth name in an “obvious attempt to make the police humiliate me.” After being interviewed by authorities, Sorrenti was released with no charges, and her personal devices were not searched.
Sorrenti says that she was a victim of swatting, a dangerous practice that involves reporting a false threat to the police, resulting in law enforcement being sent to another person’s place of work or residence.
“The work I do is important, and people thank me for doing it every day,” Sorrenti told CBC News in an August 9 interview. “I think I’m still in shock, to be honest. When I saw the police gun pointed at me, I actually thought I was going to die. I’ve never been that terrified in my life.”
Sorrenti’s brother, Brandon Roberts, said he had contacted the police prior to the incident to warn them that his sister had been a victim of doxxing, in which her address was leaked online.
“I just mentioned it was a possibility of happening,” he said in statements provided to VICE magazine.
Roberts said the police officers claimed that Sorrenti’s personal information being made public did not qualify as a threat. “If they’re wishing harm to you, that’s not a problem either,” the law enforcement official allegedly said. “It’s when they say they’re going to, that’s when it starts to get into harassment territory.’”
This latest incident reportedly follows a long pattern of transphobic abuse targeted at Sorrenti. She said that she has been frequently smeared online as a pedophile and as a “groomer,” both terms used by far-right conservatives to discredit trans people, for her outspoken criticism of figures like Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Sorrenti said the abuse has led her to shut down private messages on social media.
“I went from no one knowing who I was to all of the worst people on the internet knowing who I am,” she told the Washington Post. “They document every single thing I do online. They hate-watch every one of my streams. It’s made me feel quite alone.”
The reaction to Sorrenti’s arrest on Twitter was swift. Some said the incident illustrates the difficulties of being a trans public figure, while others shared the GoFundMe campaign that Sorrenti started to help her cover costs for a relocation, as it is no longer safe for her to live at her current address. (The drive has currently raised more than $81,000 CAD.)
“If you’ve ever wondered how horrible it is being a public-facing trans woman, Keffals just got swatted,” one Twitter user said. “This was after being laughed off by local police when family had asked for her to be put on the no-swat-list because this has happened before.”
Sorrenti’s case is just one of many examples of the harassment and abuse directed at trans Canadians. In a 2013 study, the Trans PULSE Project found that experiences of transphobia were nearly universal among trans people living in Ontario, with 98 percent reporting at least one instance of transphobia. A 2021 report by Egale found that 57 percent of trans students had been targeted by “mean rumours and lies” and 79 percent said that staff were ineffective at halting the mistreatment they faced.
Sorrenti, who regularly debunks anti-trans rhetoric, said the ordeal she has faced only makes her more emboldened to keep speaking out against transphobia.
“I’m not backing down,” Sorrenti told Global News. “I know that the work I do is incredibly valuable, and thousands of trans people told me that I have people almost every day saying they came out to their families because of me. If they want me to stop, the next time, they better manipulate the police into pulling the trigger.”