Three trans women, including one in El Salvador, were reportedly killed last week, amid the continued epidemic of anti-trans violence in the United States and abroad. Just over 4 months into the year, 2021 remains on track to surpass 2020 as the deadliest year for transgender Americans.
Iris Santos, a 22-year-old Latina transgender woman, was shot and killed in Houston on April 23. Santos was sitting at a table outside a Chick-fil-A across the street from her apartment at approximately 9:30 p.m. when someone walked up to her and started shooting in her direction, according to the local ABC news affiliate KTRK. Police are still searching for the suspect and have stated that they are unsure whether or not the shooting was targeted or random.
Her mother, Maria Carreon, remembered her as a “beautiful soul” and a “wonderful person.” “She [was] always trying to help people, and even when she doesn’t have nothing, she always gives,” Carreon told KTRK.
Santos’ sister, Louvier, described her as “always full of life and joy” on a GoFundMe page that is raising money for her sister’s funeral costs. “She could always make anyone laugh even if they were upset or angry,” Santos said. “She wanted her death to be a celebration of life.”
Just hours after Santos’ murder, trans activist and longtime ballroom mother Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga was stabbed to death in an apartment in Dorchester, Massachusetts. DeAlto was pronounced dead at the scene. The killer, who also took the life of 27-year-old Fatima Yasin on Sunday, turned himself in to the police and was arrested that afternoon, according to CBS Boston.
DeAlto, a widely beloved figure, was mourned by her community, with fellow House of Balenciaga member Robert Harold Dinkins writing that he was “broken like I never have been before” at the news of her death.
“The House of Balenciaga regretfully acknowledges the death/murder of our own Jahaira M. DeAlto, a community advocate and friend to many,” Dinkins wrote in a post 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.”
According to Out, DeAlto had been involved in Boston’s ballroom scene for decades, getting her start in 1996 and, in her own words, mothering many in that scene.
“I am the mother who raised the children whose rainbow sparkled too brightly and blinded their birth moms,” DeAlto wrote in a Mother’s Day Twitter thread. “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,” she added. “And for me, that’s enough.”
Per her Facebook profile, DeAlto also worked as a Safelink Coordinator at Casa Myrna, Boston’s largest provider of shelter and services to survivors of domestic violence. SafeLink is a 24/7 hotline that operates statewide in Massachusetts.
While the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has not updated its 2021 homicide tracking page, Santos and DeAlto would represent the 18th and 19th transgender Americans killed so far this year. In the month of April alone, six trans lives were taken, all of whom were women of color: Jaida Peterson, Dominique Lucious, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia “Smüt” Lopez, and now Santos.