Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Black Trans Woman Royal Poetical Starz Killed in Florida

Royal Poetical Starz

Black transgender woman Royal Poetical Starz, 26, was shot to death October 2 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

She is one of at least 40 trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people known to have died by violence in the U.S. this year, approaching 2020’s record total of 44. Many more deaths undoubtedly go unreported or misreported.

Starz, who lived in nearby Pompano Beach, was shot inside her Hummer in a residential area of Miami Gardens, South Florida Gay News reports. Police, whose report misgendered and deadnamed her, have released few details, but her friend Sandy T. Fox told the publication she was shot 20 times, including in the face. The crime occurred about 11:30 a.m.

“It shows to me a very high level of premeditation and anger,” Fox said.

Fox, a family law attorney, was outraged at the deadnaming and misgendering. “Let me tell you the most disgusting part of all — I changed his name legally,” he said. “I changed her name because she’s trans to Royal Poetical Starz, which is what Facebook and Instagram says. That’s also what she’s recognized as at the medical examiner’s office. But it appears they aren’t even recognizing her as trans.”

Starz, who was widowed two years ago, was struggling financially, Fox said. She worked as a masseuse and had recently received a business degree from a vocational school. She was also a singer.

She was “always the life of the party,” he said. “Whenever we walked on Wilton Drive to the next bar, everyone loved how Poetical was dressed. They would always comment, ‘Girl, I love that hair.’ Or ‘Girl, I love those nails.’”

Fox and his then-boyfriend, Uvaldo Mencia, met Starz on a cruise three years ago and had remained close to her. They offered to pay for her funeral, set to take place today in her hometown of Omaha, and a GoFundMe campaign has been set up for it as well.

Sue Kerr, a reporter with Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, said the fact that the crime occurred in the daytime shows it was “brazen.”

“I have noticed that these are not all happening in the middle of the night, the dark of the night, that sort of noir perspective of how these things happen,” she told South Florida Gay News. “It’s a little shocking how brazen and public some of these murders have taken place.

“I wonder if that is due to the increasing harassing and drama inflicted on the trans community. It has become more acceptable to be transphobic, especially in regard to Black trans women. That’s terrifying.”

Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, commented the case as well. “Royal Starz was shot in broad daylight in her own car,” Cooper said in a press release. “She changed her name legally, but the police still misgendered her. Too often, transgender people are denied basic humanity even in death. Stories like these are an indictment of our society’s continued devaluation of Black trans lives. Royal deserved to live and pursue her dreams, but she became yet another victim of the horrific epidemic of violence against trans and nonbinary people.”

Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, also released a statement. “This week, we were already mourning the loss of one trans sibling, Mel Groves, and now we find out about another life stolen senselessly,” she said. “Forty trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming lives have been stolen this year, and we still have over two months left in the year. This epidemic has taken too many lives and has been ignored for far too long. The trans community is hurting. We have to stand with them and work to ensure they have the protection they need. We have been and must continue to demand action from elected officials at all levels of government, law enforcement, and the media regarding the violence. We cannot sit by and let more people be murdered, especially when we have the power to do something about it.”      

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