Friday, July 19, 2024

Pioneering trans activist Cecilia Gentili’s service draws thousands to St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Over 1400 mourners came to memorialize Cecilia Gentili, a history-making activist, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and another 400 tuned into the live stream of the service. Gentili is reportedly the first transgender person and outspoken sex worker to have their funeral services at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which has historically not been a friendly institution to the LGBTQ+ community. 

Gentili tragically died on February 6, just a week after her 52nd birthday. Her funeral service was both somber and celebratory of Gentili’s lasting impact on the community in New York City and across the country, with mourners chanting “Cecilia” in her honor. The vibrant ceremony included a performance from actor Billy Porter and speeches from chosen family, including trans activists Ceyenne Doroshow, Liaam Winslet, and Gentili’s partner, Peter Scotto. Notably, celebrities in attendance included, Sara Ramirez, Indya Moore, Peppermint, Raquel Willis, Ryan McGinley, and more. 

Watch the livestream recording here:

“She was an angel,” said her partner, Peter Scotto. “Seeing all the people at the funeral services, and all the love I’ve received from people in her community all over the world, is a testament of how awesome Cecilia was. I’m so grateful for them all. She was an angel, an icon, a mother, an educator, a leader, and so much to so many people. Her children from AIPACHA, I’d hear all the stories of trans kids getting hormones for the first time. Our phone would ring all the time in the middle of the night and she’d jump into action to help people in crisis. She’d always be there and answer that call. But to me, she was my partner. We woke every day next to each other with so much laughter and love. I’m going to take that with me forever.” 

Cecilia Gentili came to New York as an undocumented immigrant from Argentina in 2004 and received citizenship via asylum in 2012. Her social justice efforts, which included advocacy for immigrant, HIV/AIDs, trans, and sex worker rights. Gentili changed the landscape in New York City and State and had ramifications across the country, including as the main plaintiff on a lawsuit against the Trump Adminstration’s attempt to eliminate healthcare protections for trans people. She had the ears of politicians at every level of government, as shown by the numerous elected officials’ public statements, including Governor Kathy Hochul, and a speech from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on the house floor, in the aftermath of her death. 

“Cecilia Gentili leaves a blazing legacy of love, kinship, and an infinite fire to uplift the liberation of trans people, sex workers, immigrants, and those pushed to the margins,” read a statement from Trans Equity Consulting, the organization founded by Cecilia Gentili. “Her mission to fully decriminalize and honor sex work continues through her namesake program Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network (C.O.I.N.) Clinic, which provides free healthcare to sex workers in NYC, and the Stop Violence in The Sex Trades Act (SVSTA) in NY State – a crucial piece of legislation that Governor Hochul could herald to truly honor Cecilia’s legacy. Cecilia, a fervent believer in action and impact over thoughts and prayers, prompts us all to carry her life’s work forward in providing material support to marginalized communities and fighting for a more just world.”

“Cecilia’s immaculate work and the way she touched so many hearts and lives made her worthy of sainthood. Cecilia deserved this historic honor of the monumental funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and to be cemented in history as a mother of multiple movements––of sex worker, immmigration, trans, and affirming healthcare movements,” said Oscar Diaz, Director of Communications at Trans Equity Consulting, and Gentili’s daughter. “Her wit, creativity, humor, and grace will be missed by the generations she mothered.”

During a time of increased anti-trans legislation and rhetoric across the country, Gentili receiving this outpouring of grief and celebration of her life signals her impact and the diginity of trans, immigrant, and sex worker lives writ-large. Her legacy of radical inclusion and revolutionary politics live on through her organization Trans Equity Consulting, as well as her namesake program C.O.I.N. at Callen-Lorde, which provides free healthcare for sex workers, and through the sustainable funding she secured for trans and sex worker communities in New York and beyond. 

Cecilia Gentili leaves behind immediate and chosen family, her partner Peter Scotto, her sister Ceyenne Doroshow, LaLa Zanell, Victoria Von Blaque, Cristina Herrera, and Tabytha Gonzalez, and her children, Rio Sofia, Cyd Nova, Maya Margarita, Katia Perea, Oscar Diaz, Qween Jean, Gia Love, Liaam Winslet, Chiquitita, Joshua Allen, Bianca Cerna, Gogo Graham, Amarilla Diosa, Mateo Belen, Krzysztof Pastuszka, and more. In remembrance of Cecilia’s work and legacy, the family has established a fund to support with funeral costs and to establish a donor advisory fund to continue her fight for trans liberation. 

About Cecilia Gentili

Cecilia has changed the material realities of countless queer and trans people, sex workers, and immigrants across the world. Access to hormones, bail money, immigration lawyers, surgeons, HIV meds, HASA vouchers, gender-affirming identification, and healthcare have been tenants of Cecilia’s organizing since she started in New York City.

  • Cecilia was instrumental in the development of two statewide bills to provide survivors of trafficking with record relief, and to end the criminalization of ‘loitering’ for the purpose of prostitution — the “Walking While Trans” Ban — a charge overwhelmingly leveled against transgender women, regardless of their involvement in the sex trade.
  • She has a healthcare clinic at Callen Lorde named after her ongoing legacy of advocating for sex workers (COIN Clinic: Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network)
  • She’s raised over $15 million in city/state funding for the trans community and defended trans healthcare in the US. Supreme Court against Trump’s administration
  • Her memoir, FALTAS, won the Stonewall Book Award and is set to be translated and published in Spanish by Editorial Caja Negra this year
  • Her one-woman show RED INK had its off-Broadway debut last year to sold-out crowds and was picked up by Killer Films (May-December, Boy’s Don’t Cry) to be produced this year
  • She spearheaded TRANSMISSION, NYC’s first trans music festival at Marsha P. Johnson State Park, and was a board member for Queer Art, Stonewall Foundation, and Alianza Trans Latinx

Cecilia Gentili (1972-2024) was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. As the founder of Transgender Equity consulting and a beloved mother to countless queer, trans, and immigrant individuals in New York City, her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels.

Originally from Argentina, Cecilia came to the United States for a safer life as a transgender woman. After her first ten years in the US as an undocumented immigrant, sex worker, and drug user, she finally accessed recovery services and was able to fight for and win asylum status. With a renewed sense of control over her life, Cecilia committed herself to ensuring everyone living on the margins has a right to dignity and respect.

Cecilia’s first role within community services came in the form of an internship at The LGBT Center in New York City. Following that post, she was brought into Apicha Community Health Center to develop transgender health services into a stand-alone program from 2012 to 2016. Throughout this period, Cecilia’s dedicated leadership was instrumental in expanding the program from 27 patients in 2012 to over 500 in 2016.

Seeing so many clients affected by institutional discrimination and widespread lack of access, Cecilia transitioned from direct services into policy work at GMHC, the world’s first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention and care. She served as the Managing Director of Policy from 2016 to 2019, during which time she passionately advocated for the passage of GENDA (Gender Non-Discrimination Act).

Her successes in policy inspired her to found Decrim NY, a coalition working towards the decriminalization, decarceration, and destigmatization of people in the sex trade. Cecilia was instrumental in the development of two statewide bills to provide survivors of trafficking with record relief, and to end the criminalization of ‘loitering’ for the purpose of prostitution — the “Walking While Trans” Ban — a charge overwhelmingly leveled against trans women, regardless of their involvement in the sex trade.

Cecilia also founded Trans Equity Consulting in 2018, a consulting firm that has since collaborated extensively with organizations, including the AIDS Institute, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Funders for LGBTQ Issues, the Ali Forney Center, Borealis Philanthropy, Marsha P. Johnson Institute, and many others. Her acclaimed reputation among these renowned partners is reflective of the deep personal commitment she brought to the work, and her unique personal insight which enabled a deeper connection with queer and trans communities and their allies.

Through Trans Equity Consulting, Cecilia championed her namesake program with Callen-Lorde, establishing C.O.I.N. (Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network), a healthcare clinic providing free services to sex workers in NYC which grew to 500 patients in its second year. She also spearheaded TRANSMISSION, the first all-trans music festival at Marsha P. Johnson State Park, uplifting an impressive lineup of over 20 trans artists and musicians while creating a yearly signature event in NYC culture.

Alongside her lifelong career as an advocate, Cecilia was a celebrated artist whose rich expression spanned multiple disciplines. In 2017, she debuted The Knife Cuts Both Ways, a hilarious one-woman show exploring some of the stories of her life. In 2018, she starred as Ms. Orlando on Pose, the groundbreaking drama following trans women of color in 1980s New York. In 2022, Cecilia released her stunning debut book, Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist, which was awarded the Stonewall Book Award. The moving epistolary memoir recounts everything from trans childhood, to sexual trauma, to motherhood, and all the other trials and tribulations of young queer life in 1970s Argentina. 

In 2023, Cecilia achieved her first off-Broadway premiere with Red Ink, a part stand-up, part camp solo show about searching for faith while trans. And throughout her creative trajectory, Cecilia made a name for herself as one of the most vibrant and spirited drag performers on the scene, performing in some of the most iconic nightlife venues in Argentina and New York City. Whether it was on the stage, screen, or written page, Cecilia passionately and consistently advocated for the various communities that shaped her practice, and did so with a signature blend of humor and honesty that spoke to life’s most joyous and painful moments.

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