Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga, a beloved Ballroom legend and spirited trans activist, was stabbed to death Sunday (2 March). She was 43.
Described by those who knew her as a warm, thoughtful person and a guiding light for LGBT+ youth, DeAlto was found dead in her home in Massachusetts, Boston alongside another woman.
According to local law enforcement, DeAlto was hosting Marcus Chavis and his family when he allegedly killed her, his wife Fatima Yasin and stabbed their dog, 10Boston reported.
Boston police stumbled on Chavis, 35, on the stoop of the home on Taft Street, Dorchester, covered in dried blood.
He was chatting on his mobile phone to relatives to arrange care for his seven and eight-year-old children, both uninjured and sat inside DeAlto’s home.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office added that the dog survived the stabbing following a life-saving blood transfusion.
Judges ordered Chavis to be held without bail.
DeAlto, a member of the venerable House of Balenciaga, dazzled on the ballroom floor for decades. In 1996, she walked her first runway and by 1999 was walking the fem queen realness category, specialising in everyday realness, according to Out.
Outside of the ballroom, and DeAltos a towering and tireless activist. She worked as a sexual assault counsellor at the Elizabeth Freeman centre and used her YouTube vlog to educate viewers on trans topics and lives.
Her death prompted a large outpouring of grief and frustration among members of the House of Balenciaga, community leaders and queer advocacy groups.
“The House of Balenciaga regretfully acknowledges the death/murder of our own, Jahaira DeAlto, a community advocate and friend to many,” wrote Harold Balenciaga, a member of the House, on Facebook.
“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’s death has become yet another grim reminder of a spree of violence targeting trans people in the US.
While tallies may vary between monitoring groups, this year alone has seen at least 19 trans and gender nonconforming people slain.
In four months, the community has mourned: Tyianna Alexandra, Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, Jeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond ‘Kyree’ Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Dominique Lucious, Jaida Peterson, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smüt, Iris Santos and Tiffany Thomas.
In the death of Aidelen Evans, investigators have not ruled out homicide, but details remain sparse at the time of writing.
But activists, already overwhelmed at the staggering figures, stress that the real figures are undoubtedly higher.
Lacking a centralised database for local officials to report homicides, and with police reports and press coverage mired by misgendering and deadnaming, it is often up to activists to figure whether a victim was trans.