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Death of Popular Drag Artist Natalia Smut Brings 2021 Toll to 17 Anti-Trans Killings

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday April 30, 2021

Drag Performer Natalia Smut
Drag Performer Natalia Smut  (Source:Screencap/Natalia Smut/Instagram)

The April 23 murder of a popular drag performer in Milpitas, California brings the year's toll of lethal anti-trans violence to 17 known victims, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

News outlet the San Jose Inside reported that 24-year-old Natalia Smut was a regular fixture "at San Jose's gay bars and clubs," and noted that Smut had recently landed a place to live after suffering the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The apartment was incentive enough for the longtime San Jose resident to relocate to Milpitas. But Smut's new home "became a crime scene," the article said, when 22-year-old Elijah Cruz Segura, reported to have been her boyfriend, stabbed Smut to death.

Segura then reported the murder to police, the report said, and "turned himself in, hands still bloodied from the attack."

Smut was "was one of four Black trans women killed this month, the data show," the news account notes, citing a GLAAD report "that transgender women of color often face high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness, due in part to living within a dangerous intersection of transphobia, racism and sexism."

The HRC, which tracks incidents of lethal anti-trans violence, reports that Smut's killing followed the shooting death, in Chicago, of Tiara Banks, 24, an African-American trans woman who was sitting in her car on April 21 when a gunman opened fire, killing her.

Remy Fennell, also an African-American trans woman in her 20s, was gunned down in Charlotte, NC on April 15.

As previously reported at EDGE, Dominique Lucious, 28, was shot to death in Springfield, Missouri, on April 8 - mere days after the April 4 murder of Jaida Peterson, 29, whose body was found in a hotel room in Charlotte, NC. Both were trans women of color.

Latina trans woman Rayanna Pardo, 26, died in Los Angeles on March 17 after being struck by a car under suspicious circumstances.

23-year-old Diamond Kyree Sanders was shot to death in Cincinnati, Ohio, March 3, exactly one week after Jenna Franks was found dead in a wooded area in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Feb. 24.

Jeffrey "JJ" Bright, 16, and his non-binary sibling, Jasmine Cannady, 22, were both slain Feb. 22 in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

A few days earlier, Chyna Carillo was beaten to death by a 33-year-old ex-con, even as police officers ordered the man to stop. When he refused and continued to beat Carillo, police shot and killed the man.

Four trans women of color were murdered in a span of just under three weeks in various locales around the country, from mid-January to early February.

Bianca "Muffin" Banks died of gunshot wounds in Atlanta, Georgia January 17; Dominique Jackson was gunned down in Jackson, Miss., Jan. 25; Fifty Bandz, 21, was shot and killed in Baton Rouge Jan. 28; and Alexus Braxton was found dead in Miami Feb. 4.

Their deaths followed those of Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a trans man who was discovered with numerous bullet wounds in Puerto Rico Jan. 11, and Tyianna "Davarea" Alexander, a transgender woman of color who was shot and killed in Chicago Jan. 6.

2020 was was a record-shattering year for deadly anti-trans violence, with at least 44 trans and gender non-conforming victims - most of them trans women of color - being murdered. The HRC notes that such counts are likely to underrepresent he true numbers, due to underreporting and misgendering of the victims.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.