by Madeleine Roberts •
HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jahaira DeAlto, a 42-year-old transgender woman of color, who was killed on May 2 in Boston, Massachusetts.
HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jahaira DeAlto, a 42-year-old transgender woman of color, who was killed on May 2 in Boston, Massachusetts, as the result of a stabbing. Fatima Yasin, who was 27, was also killed. Jahaira’s death is at least the 21st violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
Jahaira was a well-known and beloved transgender advocate, advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and member of the ballroom community in the Boston area. She was a member of the House of Balenciaga, and was a founder of Berkshire Transgender Day of Remembrance and Berkshire Pride Festival. Over the past few days, tributes have poured in from friends, family and community members.
Berkshire Pride remembered her as “a loyal friend, a fierce advocate, and a mother to many.” According to WBUR, Jahaira’s long-time friend Letta Neely said, “We cannot let any of our people, who are murdered or who die from other messed up stuff, become a number. She’s Jahaira and she’s in a long line of ancestors now. In 1998, she spoke when Rita Hester was killed in Boston. And we will now, forever add her to [the] list of people we speak of and honor. And then we’ll keep fighting for liberation in her name.” Jahaira’s former employer, Elizabeth Freeman Center, said, “We remember Jahaira as a colleague, activist and survivor who touched the lives of everyone around her with her passion, drive, humanity, humor, and fierce vision.” Her current employer, Casa Myrna, shared, “She turned every obstacle in life into a strength and a way to help others. She was an activist, an advocate, a nurturer, a leader, an educator, and a friend.”
Last year, to recognize Mother’s Day, Jahaira posted the following to her Twitter account: “I am the mother who raised the children whose rainbow sparkled too brightly and blinded their birth moms. I cherished what they discarded. I took on earthly assignments for the 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.”
The suspect, who was married to Yasin, turned himself in and was arrested on May 2. Yasin and the suspect, along with their two children, were living with Jahaira at the time of the attack. The children were not physically injured in the attack. The suspect is facing multiple charges, including murder charges.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Massachusetts are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Massachusetts also explicitly includes both sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in its hate crimes law. 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.
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