J.D. Disalvatore, Artist and Activist, Gave Queer Filmmakers a Voice

Photo: Courtesy of Marina Rice Bader. J.D. Disalvatore was an artist, activist, and a fixture in L.A.’s queer Hollywood scene.

Last Thursday in Sherman Oaks, J.D. Disalvatore lost her life to breast cancer.

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Five years ago, Disalvatore was diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually claim her life. In 2012, J.D., with the help of her friend, the filmmaker Elliot London, launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to pay her hospital bills. Before her diagnosis, Disalvatore was known in the West Hollywood community for her talent for raising funds for gay and humans rights causes. When she asked for help, her community wasted no time in responding.

“JD, like many artists,” wrote London, “is a freelancer with no health insurance.”

The campaign was successful, raising more than 50 percent over her initial campaign goal from friends, colleagues, and community members. Described by friends as “passionately active” and as “one of the hardest working people I know” by “Queer as Folk” actress Thea Gill, Disalvatore spent her life creating, funding, and bringing to light queer stories that had previously gone untold. Her 2007 film “Shelter,” about two men who find each other during a chaotic time, won GLAAD’s Outstanding Film award and the People’s Choice Best Feature Award at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. In 2010, she produced “Elena Undone,” the story of a pastor’s wife coming to terms with her queer sexuality.

Her personal awards, achievements, and humanitarian efforts are almost too many to list. She served on the Board of Directors at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, remained an outspoken advocate for animal rights, and was gifted with a West Hollywood Women in Leadership Award only this year. Up until the very end, Disalvatore was working to serve her community and give voice to the things she cared about, and the things she felt we could be doing better in the world.

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