In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga

“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.” — Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga

Beloved activist and artist Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga died May 2 at the age of 42 years old. Her death is a devastating loss for countless members of the greater Boston LGBTQ community who looked up to her. She was the 21st transgender woman to be murdered in the United States this year.

DeAlto was a legendary Ballroom drag artist. She was known in the scene since 1996, and became an honored member of the House of Balenciaga.

After the murder of her longtime friend and mentor Rita Hester, DeAlto helped organize the first Transgender Day of Remembrance in Allston, Massachusetts. TDoR became an internationally recognized day of mourning for all those lost to anti-trans violence, and DeAlto continued to support the event in Boston until her death.

DeAlto was pivotal in the organizing of The Berkshire’s first Pride festival in 2017, and helped turn it into an annual event.

Rest in Power Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga. Liberation graphic

She was a founding member of Trans Resistance — an organization affiliated with the Transgender Emergency Fund — that formed in June 2020 and called a historic vigil and march for Black Trans Lives that summer.

DeAlto was also a longtime housing, HIV/AIDs and domestic abuse advocate. She was a regular volunteer at Casa Esperanza, a non-profit that provides support for Latino Boston residents who need housing and mental health care. She spent much of her life with the Elizabeth Freeman Center supporting those facing domestic and other forms of abuse in the Berkshire area.

DeAlto was also a founding member of the Massachusetts Trans Woman Leadership Group. Liberation News spoke with Sara Reid, who worked with DeAlto in the group. “Every time she spoke, the girls would just quiet down and give her their undivided attention,” said Reid.

Above all, DeAlto was known as a mother. Her children were of all sexualities, genders and many ages, and the motherly love she provided was unmatched.

“These are girls that are across communities. To the younger girls who are in a state of frenzy about their own safety, trying to spread their wings,” said Reid. “To lose somebody who has got that kind of love, to lose such a respected leader is a devastating loss.”

DeAlto’s chosen children and other community members took this past Mother’s Day to grieve her loss. A small vigil was held at her home in Dorchester to remember and honor her life.

Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga, Présenté.

There will be a public community vigil for Jahaira on May 22 at noon in Franklin Park. Our readers can support by donating to the GoFundMe for her family’s expenses.

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