Statement on behalf of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women
Concerning Jahaira DeAlto
And violence against Transwomen and Transwomen of Color
The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women stands in outrage with the transgender community as we mourn the loss of our trans sister Jahaira DeAlto. It is the mission of the Commission to advance women and girls toward full equality in all areas of life, promoting rights and opportunities for all. We want to add our voices to bring attention to our sister Jahaira and celebrate her life and legacy. Jahaira was an advocate of change, dedicating her life to the liberation of trans people and the safety of the survivors of domestic and sexual violence. She is not simply another statistic.
Jahaira DeAlto was born in Beirut, and came to the United States at the age of 3 months old; she lived most of her childhood in Chestnut Hill. Assigned male at birth, at the age of sixteen she made the decision to transition openly and live her life authentically as the woman she always knew she truly was. Jahaira earned her GED before attending Berkshire Community College, graduating in August 2019 with an Associates Degree in Human Services. At the time of her death, Jahaira was attending Simmons University, studying social work with an expected graduation in 2023.
Jahaira worked as a trans activist and organizer for decades. In 2017, she was one of the key organizers for Berkshire County’s first-ever annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer festival and its first-ever Transgender Day of Remembrance event. From 2018 to 2019, Jahaira was a member of the counseling staff at the Elizabeth Freeman Center, advocating for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in Berkshire County and at the shelter. She was honored for her work by the Massachusetts Office of Victims Assistance and named recipient of the 2019 Victims Rights Month Special Recognition Award.
Jahaira's name has been added to the growing list of trans people killed this year for just living their lives. According to the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign, at least 21 trans or gender-non-conforming people have been killed already in 2021. Jahaira appears to be the first in Massachusetts, although we also recognize the death of GLBT community member Mikayla Miller in Hopkinton in April. Friends want people to know Jahaira was more than the circumstances of her death. While no motive has been determined for Jahaira’s killing, the Commission recognizes that she lost her life as she lived it: in service to others. We also offer our deepest condolences to Jahira’s family, friends, and colleagues.
As we remember Jahaira’s legacy, we reiterate the Commission’s strong commitment to improving the status of women and girls across the Commonwealth, including our trans sisters. Trans women form a beloved and essential part of the Commission’s constituency, and we reaffirm our commitment to serving the trans community.
First, we must address the alarming pattern of murders of trans women, particularly of trans women of color. We must commit to holding ourselves, as members of the Commission, responsible for doing more than we have in the past, to rail against and speak out forcefully about these killings of a vulnerable population at the intersection of so many marginalized identities.
Second, we must acknowledge and commit to do more to include transwomen in the work the Commission does to serve these communities, including in the Commission’s work combating domestic and sexual violence. The Commission commits to do more—much more—than we have in the past to take into account the experience of trans women as we tackle this complex issue.
Third, as a campaign of hateful anti-trans legislation sweeps the nation, we commit to speak out loudly to condemn these efforts. We must also more actively support the trans community in seeking access to affirming healthcare and access to competition in sports. Trans women and girls (and all trans people) deserve dignified healthcare and equal access to cherished activities.
Finally, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women also commits to stepping up its partnership with and outreach to the trans community. We commit to reach out and connect with trans and trans-serving organizations and trans individuals to learn from them how the Commission can better serve trans women and girls. To that end, the Commission encourages feedback from members of the trans community as to how we can provide better and more robust support going forward, by contacting the Commission at our email address of email@example.com.
“It is still vitally important we leverage our privilege to provide educational opportunities for people to learn more,” Jahaira said. “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.”