The LGBTQ community was devastated to hear about the death of transgender actress and advocate Cecilia Gentili The news was announced today on her Instagram profile, where the tributes continue to pour in.
Cecilia Gentili was a ﬁerce activist, a dedicated advocate, a striking actress on the hit TV program Pose, and a sex worker. She did direct service through The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York and the APICHA (originally the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS) Community Health Center in New York. She co-founded the namesake COIN Clinic (Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network) at Callen-Lorde, and later was managing director of policy for the world-renowned GMHC (originally the Gay Men’s Health Crisis). Several years ago she founded Trans Equity Consulting and has collaborated with many major organizations on transgender and gender nonbinary rights. Cecilia is also a founding member of Decrim NY, a coalition working toward decriminalization, decarceration, and destigmatization of people in the sex trade. Cecilia’s memoir, Faltas, was published in late 2022 by Little Puss Press, Inc, and won an American Library Association’s 2023 Stonewall Book Award for nonfiction. Her one-woman show Red Ink was slated to make a comeback at the Public Theater this April. Gentili was a leading voice among the hundreds of New York Times contributors speaking out against the Times’ biased and inaccurate coverage of transgender people and their essential mainstream health care. Cecilia Gentili just celebrated her 52nd birthday, surrounded by friends, loved ones, and community.
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GLAAD posted to Instagram and GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis responded on Twitter/X: “Cecilia Gentili’s death is such a huge loss. She impacted so many, especially those in the trans community in New York City and beyond. This is the power of one person who used her identity and gifts to help more people be seen and heard. In the art she created, in the stories she shared, in the community she uplifted, in the people she served, Cecilia’s talent and love will never be forgotten.”
Transgender and nonbinary people posted to Gentili’s Instagram profile:
Michaela Jae Rodriguez: “Rest in power Cecilia.”
Angelica Ross: “OMG…I’m so glad I saw video of her recent bday party and she was surrounded by so much love and community. Such a fierce advocate. Rest in Power.”
Alok Vaid-Menon: “You changed the world. We love you so much. We will never forget you.”
Raquel Willis: “Heartbroken. Love you, Ceci! Thank you. And I love y’all too. We gone make it.”
Chase Strangio: “15 years of deep trans love and storytelling. I am forever grateful. We grieved so many losses together. It feels impossible to grieve your loss. I will carry you always. I love you.”
Tourmaline: “My friend for over 15 years. Thank you Ceciia for living the life that lifted us and propelled us into the biggest versions of who we are meant to be.”
Isobel Sandovar: “Rest well, dear Cecilia”
Mariah Moore: “May your spirit of love, warmth, and encouragement continue to flow through all that do this work. I love you with my whole heart. May you rest in perfect peace.”
Trace Lysette: “Rest easy sister. So much good came from you. Thank you. This is penetrating so deep. Talk about the definition of Motha!!!! Rest in power you sweet sweet Angel !!!! Thank you for constantly holding us , loving us , protecting us !! You have done and surpassed your mission. We are forever grateful.”
NYC Anti-Violence Project: “We are so heartbroken and saddened by this terrible news. Holding community close as we mourn then loss of an icon. May you rest in power, queen.”
Political leaders who worked with Gentili to advance protections for transgender New Yorkers also paid tribute:
New York Governor Kathy Hochul posted a picture of the two of them on Instagram and stated: “New York’s LGBTQ+ community has lost a champion in trans icon Cecilia Gentili. As an artist and steadfast activist in the trans rights movement, she helped countless people find love, joy, and acceptance. Our hearts are with her loved ones in this difficult time.”
New York State Senator Brad Hoylman issued a statement describing the work and impact Cecilia Gentili delivered: “I’m devastated to learn of the passing of Cecilia Gentili, a pathbreaking civil rights activist, healthcare advocate, author and actress. I was honored to work with Cecilia on many issues in Albany as we passed legislation enshrining the civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers into law, including the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA), ending the so-called ban on “walking while trans,” eliminating the gay and trans panic defense in our criminal statutes, making New York a safe haven for transgender youth and their parents seeking gender-affirming care, and the creation of the New York State Lorena Borjas TGNB Wellness & Equity Fund. We could not have passed the multitude of bills improving the lives of transgender New Yorkers without her help and guidance. Cecilia was a force of nature who leaves a long trailblazing legacy behind. l will miss her deeply.”
Callen-Lorde released the following statement from CEO Patrick McGovern: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Cecilia Gentili. Cecilia was a fierce, fearless advocate and a leader, who spoke candidly about her own experiences as a trans woman of color. In doing so, she inspired countless others and truly paved the way for our communities — especially, sex workers and trans women of color — to access high quality and judgment free healthcare. Her legacy will live on through our work at Callen-Lorde and beyond.”
GLAAD recently featured Cecilia Gentili on the GLAAD LGBTQ Authors and Stories Showcase, with a link to an excerpt she wrote for the anthology, Surviving Transphobia. In it, she described growing up under dictatorship in Argentina, and about being inspired by American movies to be her authentic self.
“I say this to trans people, trans women of color, and to trans women of color who are undocumented or sex workers or both, people like me: Do what you can to achieve whatever level of empowerment you can get, but also be safe,” Gentili wrote. “I’ll probably never call myself radical, especially in two countries with such high rates of trans femicide and histories of coups. I’m okay with it. I never want to judge my work by how ‘radical’ I am. But I do judge it on what I’m doing for my people and for myself.”