Jahaira DeAlto, an activist, vlogger, motivational speaker and legend in the ballroom scene, was stabbed to death this week. A suspect, Marcus Chavis, has been arrested in connection with the crime but as of this writing he has not been formally charged and police have yet to identify DeAlto as one of two victims Chavis is believed to have murdered.
DeAlto’s death was first confirmed in a Facebook post by a member of her ballroom house.
“The House of Balenciaga regretfully acknowledges the death/murder of our own Jahaira M. DeAlto, a community advocate and friend to many,” Harold Balenciaga posted. “Let us not forget her ongoing work against domestic abuse and continue to uplift her name and ensure her memory lives on in this ironic twist of fate.”
DeAlto, who lived in Boston, transitioned at 16 and began her activism shortly thereafter, approximately 25 years ago. She spoke at Transgender Day of Remembrance services in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago as well as hundreds of other events including at Harvard University and the Ryan White National Youth Conference. She was also a guest lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Social Work.
“It is still vitally important we leverage our privilege to provide educational opportunities for people to learn more,” DeAlto said in one of her popular speeches. “The more we humanize ourselves for those who don’t think they’ve encountered a transgender person, the more we’re able to remove the stigma and fear surrounding the perception of what trans people are. Education is our greatest weapon against ignorance. After having the experience of meeting Jahaira DeAlto, you can no longer say you’ve never met a trans person.”
While few details have been released about DeAlto’s death, her murder marks the 17th killing of a trans person in the U.S. so far this year. The tragedy is especially painful to those close to DeAlto because she was known as a mother to many, taking in LGBTQ+ youth after they had been rejected by their families. DeAlto tweeted about it last year for Mother’s Day.
“I am the mother who raised the children whose rainbow sparkled too brightly and blinded their birth moms,” her tweet began. “I cherished what they discarded. I took on earthly assignments for moms who’d earned their Heavenly reward. For their babies who still needed raising. I did that. And I’m still doing that. And I’ll keep doing that. Because I will never know what seeing my DNA reflected in another’s eyes could look like, but I know what gratitude in the eyes of a young person who finally feels seen looks like. And for me, that’s enough.”