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Natalia Smüt, Trans Woman and Beloved Drag Artist, Stabbed to Death

Natalia Smut Lopez

Natalia Smüt, a 24-year-old transgender woman and beloved drag entertainer in Northern California, was stabbed to death last week, and a man who was in a relationship with her has been charged with murder.

Smüt, also known as Natalia Smüt Lopez, was stabbed multiple times at a home in Milpitas, Calif., early Friday morning, The Mercury News of San Jose reports. The man who is charged with killing her, Elijah Cruz Segura, 22, of nearby Union City, led police to her and was arrested at the scene, according to San Francisco TV station KRON. The gravely wounded Smüt was taken to a hospital, where she died.

Cruz is charged with murder, plus a weapons enhancement for the use of a knife. He was arraigned in a San Jose court Tuesday but did not enter a plea and was returned to jail, The Mercury News reports. He and Smüt had been dating for several months, police told KRON.

Smüt was a popular drag artist who performed frequently in San Jose and throughout the Bay Area. More than 100 people attended a vigil to honor her Saturday at San Jose City Hall.

“We lost a jewel in our community,” Nathan Svoboda, president of the Project More Foundation, a local LGBTQ+ organization, told The Mercury News. He described Smüt as “captivating.”

Many at the vigil spoke about the epidemic of violence against trans Americans, especially Black and Latinx women. Smüt was Afro-Puerto Rican.

She was willing to speak about her life onstage, noted Sera Fernando, who met Smüt through Pride events. “Natalia is so brave, so courageous, for living in her authenticity,” Fernando said. “How is it possible that someone as brave and courageous as her — how do we not protect that?”

Kiara Ohlde, a friend of Smüt’s since childhood, has started a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral expenses. “She was fabulous,” Ohlde wrote on GoFundMe. “She would step into a room like a firework. Everywhere she went, she brought energy, fierce looks, and a personality that shined bright like a diamond.”

Smüt is at least the 17th trans person to die by violence in the U.S. this year, the majority of them Black women. There were 44 such deaths in 2020, mostly Black and Latinx women, the highest number since activists and media have been keeping track.

“She did not deserve to have her life cut short by someone she should have been able to trust,” said a statement from Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative. “We need everyone to speak up and push back against the atrocious amount of stigma and violence faced by transgender people, particularly Black and brown trans women.”

“With 2021 well on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States, it is incumbent upon all of us to take action to stop these killings, to protect members of our beautifully diverse community,” added Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition. “Our country needs to treat this like the epidemic it is.”

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