HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Royal Poetical Starz, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman who was fatally shot in Miami Gardens, Florida on October 2, 2021. Starz’s death is at least the 40th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
Starz was a graduate of Florida Career College Vocational School. According to South Florida Gay News, a friend described her as “the life of the party...everyone loved how Poetical was dressed. They would always comment, ‘Girl, I love that hair.’ Or ‘Girl, I love those nails.’”
A GoFundMe was set up to support Starz’s funeral and included the following obituary:
“She left a lasting impression on everyone that she met. 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. 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.”
HRC recorded 44 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2020, more than in any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.
The Miami Gardens Police Department has not released much information, but confirmed the shooting took place and stated that they would disclose more details at a later time.
More than 10,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to more than 28 each day, according to a 2020 report from HRC, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Giffords Law Center and Equality Florida titled “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns Are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. According to the 2017-2019 Transgender Homicide Tracker, three-fourths of confirmed homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, and nearly eight in 10 homicides of Black trans women involve a gun. Further, advocates saw a 43% increase in the formation of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in 2019.
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Starz was misgendered in some media and police reports. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement and elected offices. According to HRC research, it is estimated that approximately three-quarters of all known victims were misgendered by the media and/or by law enforcement. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people. HRC, Media Matters and the Trans Journalists Association have also partnered on an FAQ for reporters writing about anti-trans violence.
At the state level, the Florida Commission on Human Relations recently announced its intention to fully implement the Bostock v. Clayton County decision to effectively extend non-discrimination protections in employment, housing, and public spaces to LGBTQ residents. While Florida does include sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law, it does not expressly include gender identity. While recent weeks have seen some gains that support and affirm transgender people, we are also currently facing anti-LGBTQ attacks at many levels of government, with more than 260 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country, more than 120 of which directly target transgender people.
We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.
In order to work towards this goal and combat stigma against transgender and non-binary people, HRC has collaborated with WarnerMedia on a PSA campaign to lift up their voices and stories. Learn more and watch the PSAs here.
HRC has also launched the “Count Me In” campaign to encourage everyone, LGBTQ people and allies, to get loud, get visible and spread awareness on behalf of transgender and non-binary people. The more people who show they care, including allies and trans and non-binary people who speak up for the most marginalized in our community, the more hearts and minds we will change. Learn more and take action at hrc.org/CountMeIn.
In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people. HRC, Media Matters and the Trans Journalists Association have also partnered on an FAQ for reporters writing about anti-trans violence. For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.