Three years ago, San Jose lawmakers voted to fly a rainbow flag above Chick-Fil-A – an effort to proclaim LGBTQ residents welcome in one of the cities the most progressive in the world. But not everyone shares this sentiment.
“I was walking with my dog, my hair was down but I was wearing my normal boy’s clothes and someone came up (and said), ‘Hey f-word’ and then just left, ” KP said. Eugenio, who identifies as strange, referring to the homophobic insult.
Eugenio, co-founder of the burlesque variety show Sin Circus at the Caravan Lounge, says he was targeted for having long hair.
The venue is one of the few gay shows and bars in San Jose where people can build community without having to change their identities. But that’s another story when the drag queens take the main stage; they take their identities and turn them into larger-than-life character performances for the crowd.
Some queens take stage names when performing, but not Natalia Smüt Lopez – she wanted everyone to know exactly who she was.
Smüt, who was beloved by her friends in the drag community, was killed last month by her boyfriend. He faces murder charges from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
The advocacy group Human Rights Coalition Lists Smüt is at least the 16th transgender and gender nonconforming person killed in the United States this year. The coalition reported four other murders since Smüt. If the murder rate continues, this year will surpass 2020 in the number of transgender and gender nonconforming people killed.
More than 100 people celebrated her life at a rally at Town Hall with flowers, posters and moving testimonies from those who knew her. Overlooking her candle-lit mural, two people hung a pink, blue and white transgender rights flag along the stairs leading to the rotunda with the inscription “End The Violence.”
“We really need to draw attention to trans and domestic violence in LGBT relationships,” said Kiara Ohlde, one of Smüt’s best friends. “She just wanted to be loved.”
According to a joint investigation by the Scottish Transgender Alliance and Stop Domestic Abuse organization, at least 45% of 872 transgender people surveyed said that a partner or ex-partner had been physically abusive towards them.
Tuesday San Jose City Council Meeting adjourned in memory of Smüt, a recognition led by Pam Foley, member of the Council. The tower of the town hall and the rotunda will be lit in pink, blue and white from May 7 to 13 in honor of Smüt.
“I have been very sensitive to LGBTQ issues for many years,” Foley told the San José Spotlight. “I had a brother who was gay, who died of AIDS and had a very difficult life. (Anti-LGBTQ violence) happens everywhere and for us to think that we are in this bubble where it is not happening is just plain wrong.
Ohlde said Smüt was one of the only people she knew in San Jose to have publicly advocated for trans lives and black trans lives.
A 2015 Gallup Poll showed that the LGBTQ community of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and San Jose makes up about 3.2% of the population, almost half the size of the community in San Francisco.
“(Natalia) was posting about trans lives every day and she called people like, ‘You talk about everything else, but we never talk about trans lives, black lives,” Ohlde said. “I’ve always heard from Natalia that a lot of people in the community don’t care about understanding the issues because it doesn’t affect them.”
Facing discrimination throughout his life, Ohlde said Smüt shared his concerns with him that anti-black and anti-trans discrimination existed in local LGBTQ spaces.
LGBTQ artists painting murals on Post Street, now known as the Qmunity District, commemorated Smüt in the first work of art unveiled on April 30.
At Tuesday’s meeting, board member Raul Peralez noted that artists had been harassed while painting the mural in recent weeks.
“The fight continues,” he said. “As much as we can show our support, especially as city leaders, it makes a huge difference.”
Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.