Royal Poetical Starz, a 26-year-old Black transgender musician and masseur, was shot to death in broad daylight on October 2. Starz’ friend, family law attorney Sandy T. Fox, said Starz was shot 20 times as she sat inside her Hummer SUV on a residential street in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Police and media initially misgendered Starz, leaving LGBTQ media outlets uninformed about her murder for weeks. So far, no one has been arrested for her murder.
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Fox told South Florida Gay News (SFGN) that she felt angry about her friend being misgendered.
“I changed HER name because she’s trans to Royal Poetical Starz, which is what Facebook and Instagram says,” Fox said. “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.”
It’s unclear if Starz had also changed the gender markers on her official government identification documents.
Starz will be buried on Friday in her birthplace of Omaha, Nebraska. As of October 18, a GoFundMe to help pay for her funeral expenses has only raised $1,131 of its $8,000 goal.
“She left a lasting impression on everyone that she met,” the crowdfunding page said. “Her infectious smile and bigger-than-life personality brightened every room that she walked into. Her personality was so magnetizing that it was not uncommon for her to get flattering comments from random strangers.”
“She was an ambitious and talented singer that produced many beautiful recordings,” the page continued. “She is described by many as a person that would go out of her way to help others when they needed it the most. She enriched many lives and will be deeply missed. Unfortunately, we will never get to hear her sing again or become the Star that she was destined to be.”
Starz graduated from Florida Career College vocational school with her bachelor’s degree in business in July. She celebrated her birthday on May 26. Before transitioning, Starz was married to a man named Bruce Yoder who died of natural causes at age 81 in late 2019.
Miami Gardens homicide detective Michael Lissade said that police will eventually release more information about Starz’s slaying.
Susan Kerr, a blogger who tracks transgender murders, said that anti-trans murders in broad daylight are becoming more common.
“These are not all happening in the middle of the night, the dark of the night,” Kerr said. “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,” Kerr continued. “It has become more acceptable to be transphobic, especially in regard to Black trans women. That’s terrifying.”
Starz is the 41st known transgender person to be murdered this year. At least 44 transgender individuals were murdered in 2020, the deadliest year on record since 2013 when the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) began tracking transgender murders. The actual number may be much higher as trans murders sometimes go unreported or victims remain misgendered.
Approximately three-quarters of all known transgender murder victims are misgendered by police and media, according to the HRC.
Roughly three-fourths of murders of trans people between 2017 and 2019 have involved firearms, according to the Transgender Homicide Tracker. Of those, nearly eight in 10 homicides of Black trans women have also involved guns.
State legislatures across the U.S. have introduced over 120 bills targeting the rights of transgender people to play sports, use public accommodations and seek medical care.
“The trans and non-binary community needs support in this moment and they need protection,” Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a written statement following the August 23 murder of Pooh Johnson. Johnson was a 25-year-old Black transgender woman and makeup artist shot to death in Shreveport, Louisiana.