What Cecilia Gentili Means To Trans People

By Daniela “Dani” Capistrano for TransLash Media

Cecilia Gentili, beloved activist, actress, author, and chosen family to many, passed away on February 6, 2024. As reported by them, friends and family notified the public of her passing via a post on her Instagram page. TransLash Media is compiling reactions from our communities and will be updating this memorial tribute through the rest of February.

Cecilia Gentili
Mixed media portrait of Cecilia Gentili by TransLash Media. Cecilia; Mother to so many LGBTQ+ people, is posing on the ground in profile, with a halo around her head and a crown of red & pink roses. She is extending her right arm, with her right hand holding a pink rose. She rests in an elegant and powerful pose in a bed of red & pink roses. The winds of change flow through her.

Learn more about Cecilia Gentili from people and organizations close to the irreplaceable trailblazer, in their own words:

A photo of Imara Jones and Cecilia Gentili at #TransProm 2023. Imara, wearing a blue dress, is smiling while holding Cecilia, who is also smiling with full red lips that match her red dress. Both of their faces are glowing from a beautiful day of celebrating trans youth.

Imara Jones’ tribute to Cecilia Gentili

I can’t remember the first time I met Cecilia Gentili nor the first time I ever heard her name. Perhaps it’s because she’s been an ever-present, powerful force in our community for so long that it’s hard to imagine any time without her.

But even though I can’t remember the first time I met her, what I do know is that she was and always shall remain unforgettable. Her laugh, wit, intelligence, sexiness, bawdiness and sheer grit were all outsized. No matter what room she was in, nor who was it, Cecilia stood out for all of the right reasons. It is fitting that she had a one woman show because no matter who she met Cecilia was unparalleled.

Cecilia Gentili and Imara Jones text
A text thread between Imara Jones and Cecilia Gentili on her birthday, January 31, 2024. Imara texts: Happy Birthday, Reina!! You are a marvel! Cecilia replies: Amor. Thank you. I love you.

I was fortunate to know her and to see her in more, different types of scenarios than I can remember. Vigils, boardrooms, conference halls, and brunch tables all spring to mind. While she will be feted for her public face, what I recall is her private one. She is one of the shrewdest people I know. Cecilia got so much done on behalf of trans people because she knew where power lay, how to sell to it, and get it do what she wanted. I observed her roll men in suits more times than I can remember. To be honest, in a less transphobic society, #CeciliaGentili would have been an EMMY Award winning actress AND governor of a state. Cecilia had the range.

For all of these reasons, it is hard both for me and our community to fathom life without her. But she would expect nothing else. She knew that the creation of a better world was larger than one person.

I will especially miss her ability to know what I was going to do next even though I had never said it. I still don’t know how she did this exactly.

Lastly, as a journalist I had the opportunity to sit down with her for many hours of interviews. At the end of one for the #antitranshatemachine I said, “The United States is lucky that you chose her to make your life.”

The response to her passing over the last three days underscores how fortunate we all were.

Río Sofia’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

I’ve never felt pain like this. I lost my mom yesterday, and I don’t know what to do now. We had been living for six months together on a 10 acre property she bought upstate, with a creek and reservoir and two houses—one for me and Cyd and one for Cecilia and Peter. Cyd and I had just finished clearing a trail through the woods for a more direct path between our doors.

We laughed at the same bullshit, she was so so so fucking funny.

She was my mentor and taught me so much in the art of showing up.

Cecilia helped me and Cyd plan our entire wedding, and insisted on even paying for a huge chunk of it herself. Her defense was that this would be her wedding too—she wanted it to be to the standard she (as my mother) and we (as her children) dreamed of. She showered us with love, attention, and all of her organizing powers, and she made me feel in my bones—despite self doubt—that we deserved this wedding. And that our community deserved it too, an exquisitely over the top and magical T4T love ceremony for all of us.

This was when I learned what it meant to be lucky enough to have a trans mother. My favorite part of the whole thing was seeing the collaboration and co-mothering between my biological mother, Isabel, and Cecilia. They didn’t know each other very well, but they indulged in the rituals together: picking out matching dresses over FaceTime, and both walking me to the altar side by side to give me away. Cecilia knew how central she was to my life and this wedding, and still she was always so careful not to upstage Isabel—even making the utmost sacrifice of going for a (slightly) simpler dress.

Here’s Cecilia’s speech to Cyd. She loved Cyd like a brother, like a son, sometimes like a therapist, and always like a best friend. They spoke the same love languages: cooking for each other, constantly buying gifts, having the deepest talks, and being the first call when shit hit the fan.

The look Cecilia gave me in this video before heading back to her seat is seared into my heart forever. I’ll spend the rest of my life decoding all of the layers of things she was telling me with that look.

My heart is shattered, as I know is true for so many of you. Hold each other tight. I love y’all ❤️

Kay Ulanday Barrett’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

Dearest Cecilia,

Thank you for raising so many of us transgender & nonbinary people with your beloved care. NYC, queer, migrant, transgender, SWer, justice seeking hearts are grieving. Cecilia is just so very rare.

Transjustice movements have an immeasurable gap; loss that won’t ever be filled in the same way. It’s like when we talk about we’ll never hear another Whitney Houston or Luther Vandross sing again, their timbre, their musicality.

There isn’t another Cecilia in Trans and Justice building, writing, performance community. A grounded organizer’s organizer. A vivacious artist, a marvelous writer. Liberation trying/making personified.

Personal note:
I wouldn’t have had top surgery if it weren’t for @ceciliagentili72 advocacy. She was my Trans intake person when I was very poor & on workers comp /disability. she ceaselessly advocated for me when I was fatshamed by doctors, rejected for clearance. She pushed back on ableism when I felt alone. She said, Don’t worry, you’re getting your surgery. And I did.

When covid began, she continued to try to be virtual, invited me to perform, speak panel after panel. She checked in on me. We talked about nonfiction & books. She helped me survive so we could talk about accessibility & covid.

In pandemic, many sick & disabled people are left behind. Trans movements, arts hubs, deny ableism & accessibility letting us disappear.

Cecilia always asked you what you thought. She never left me behind. We challenged eachother towards a fuller more comprehensive justice. I felt seen with her even if our understandings were on different wavelengths. She truly wanted everybody to win & everybody to be fed. Her work wasn’t driven by clout, followers, fads,likes. She was earnestly old skool, brilliantly trying for all Trans and BIPOC people. We are blessed to work with her. This loss. This loss. To feel her radiance imprint on everything we are & will become.

Thank you for everything. 💛💔

Cecilia Gentili
Mixed media portrait of Cecilia Gentili (1972 – February 6, 2024). Image Credit: @gbrlgrcrmn

Qween Jean’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

Cecilia Gentili we honor you.

You are an eternal saint who guides us toward freedom!

You loved, protected & led our community through the darkest times and carried us to victory with fearless joy.

Your spirit will always beat in our hearts.

Nos Veremos En El Paraiso🕊️

Thank You @ceciliagentili72 For Your Testimony, Your Sacrifices and Unwavering Commitment To Making This World A Much Better Place For US ALL To Breathe and Exist!

Cecilia’s Declaration For Collective Liberation✨🌱
@ceciliagentili72 We Lead With Love For The Wellness of All Humanity💞💞💞

Raquel Willis’ tribute to Cecilia Gentili

Today is a tough day for all of us. Cecilia Gentili was a living legend. A titan, an unapologetic example of joy and power. Her spirit lives on in all whom she touched and all she built for us. We get to relish in her words eternally through her memoir, Faltas, her appearance in docs like The Stroll, all the videos and photos of her performances, and through the encouraging words she showered on us day in and day out.

I was always in awe of how vulnerable she was and grateful to hear her life’s testimony on more than one occasion. Most recently, I interviewed her for the final episode of this season of @afterlives.pod. It made sense for her to be the conclusion and she shared even more than this clip. She loved our people OUT LOUD. She made us burst out in laughter. She made us take ourselves seriously and not all at once. She MOTHERED in every sense of the word. She loved her some @gogograham@therealgialove, and @rioxofia. And she had far too many children, nibblings, and fam to name in one sitting.

We last texted last week and she said, “Sister! I just wanted to tell you I love you so much. I will do anything for you anywhere. I truly love you sister.” And you know, if Ceci said it she meant it.

Rest powerfully and peacefully, Mami. And go kiki with the ancestors. You deserve eternal pleasure. 🙏🏽💜

Gia Love’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

“Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might be exactly like we were
Before we realized
We were scared of getting old
It made us restless
It was just like a movie
It was just like a song“

My mother is gone @ceciliagentili72. I am devastated. I am confused. I met @ceciliagentili72 at APHICA at my first appointment to start my transition. She was so kind, giving, and honest. She believed in community. She believed in me! My heart is broken again. I will forever feel the weight of her absence. Please pray for me, pray for Peter, Oscar, Chiqui, Mya, Amari, Gogo and sooooo many more family members that are in mourning. We lost an icon today. I just can’t believe I performed this song for her on her Birthday, and it was the last time……

🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️🕊️

Chase Strangio’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

Chase Strangio's tribute to Cecilia Gentili in his IG Stories.
Chase Strangio’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili in his IG Stories on February 6, 2024.

love you forever. thanks for watching over me in so many ways for so long. i will carry you with me always. i know lorena is holding you.

Dominique Jackson’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

AN ACTIVIST, AN ICON, A TRAILBLAZER, A MOTHER, A WIFE, AN ACTRESS AND COMEDIAN, AN AMAZING SISTER AND A PHENOMENAL HUMAN BEING! 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾💕💕💕💕💕💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖
@fxnetworks @poseonfx

“I am deeply saddened by your departure dear sister! Even in death you are force to be reckoned with, your legacy one of movement, love and compassion unapologetic and true. I thank you dearly for ALL the work you have done,” Jackson wrote. “You sacrificed you boldly telling your truth and living it and for that you have changed and influenced many lives and the world. I LOVE YOU FOREVER BEAUTIFUL STRONG SISTER! REST WELL!”

Cecilia Gentili stared opposite Dominique Jackson in FX’s beloved TV series “Pose.”

Indya Moore’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

My friend Cecilia included so many people in her love & strength. She made life worth living & and she made life liveable for so many people. Cecilia made everything she was a part of more brilliant than it was before. To be embraced by her was a blessing & to embrace her was an honor.

Oh Cecilia, I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to see you & love you on this timeline, to be inspired by you, to stand in solidarity with true love & faith with you. Transition in blissful mystic wonder my friend.

ALOK’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

rest in power @ceciliagentili72 ! thank you for being a leader, a mentor, a mother, a sister for me for over a decade. i will never forget the sound of your laughter. i heard it pierce through the crowd just last week at my show in new york. thank you for being there. thanks for always being there.

i laughed so hard at your show last may. when we took this photo outside i told you that you were one of the funniest people i knew & that it was a testament to the work you had done to heal and alchemize so much of the pain you had experienced. it was the first time i had ever seen you bashful. it was so cute and human and real and i loved you so much for it.

just like i loved you for our side chats at every gala, the real talk, the side eyes, the knowing glances. the quips and eye lash flutters. you always made me feel like something greater than myself. even in my hesitations & doubts — something greater than myself.

this is so fresh, and so awful. and the world feels so much less glamorous, less possible without you in it. you did so much for us & fought so long and hard. thank you. thank you. thank you. for teaching me how to love trans people more than they could ever hate us.

my heart goes out to your family. and i know that because of how you lived your life: that includes the entire city of new york. maybe even — the entire world.

dear world: we lost our sun. we lost our sun.

Devin-Norelle’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

I have so many feelings about this photo, taken a couple days before Cecilia’s bday, because it might just be the last one I took with Cecilia. Tabytha simply wanted to take a selfie, but I’ve become a person that has moved towards taking less photos- I rather live in the moment, these days, and enjoy the eneegy of the people in my company. I’m glad @tabythagonzalez insisted, because I am reminded today that sometimes I SHOULD take that selfie and keep those memories with me forever.

Before this photo was taken, we had just left an all day retreat for our (Tabytha and me) first board meeting. Cecilia had long been a member, but recruited us to join her. We’d embark on a mighty important task.  I can not reveal exactly what that is as it is confidential, but what I will say is that Cecilia envisioned a trans revolution, and she recruited us as her mentees to work towards a trans takeover, not just for the Foundation, but for all and any work we would be doing going forward.

If no tranny left behind was a thing, that program would be ushered in and efficiently run by Cecilia. 

I’ve known Cecilia for so many years; we only became closer this year as I helped her and her kids with one or two of her events. She always thought of me over the years for various projects . But this year was different. She invited me to have a monthly dinner with her, and it at our first dinner that she let me know she wanted to mentor me. When Cecilia says she wants to take you under her wings, you don’t walk, you run. 

She is the most generous with her wisdom, and will pour into you heavily.  And even now, Cecilia is the gift that keeps on giving to so many.

A visionary, a mom, a wife, a sister, a force, a comedian if I may, an artist, an auntie, a mentor, an activist and a lover of all humans, Cecilia was a true beacon when there is darkness.

After this photo was taken, we took Cecilia’s little blue car, she joked about how she got her license to lighten the mood as we drove to our sibling Sasha’s funeral.

To know Cecilia is to know the scope of the work she has done. We are living in a world that she made possible.

Black Trans Femmes in the Arts’ tribute to Cecilia Gentili

We are heartbroken to hear of the loss of our sister, Cecilia Gentili. Cecilia was a light in our community. She never failed to make us laugh even in the darkest of moments and she was never afraid to push boundaries and break doors down.

She is a trailblazer and was one of my inspirations and guiding lights when I started BTFA. I am so grateful to have worked alongside her and been a part of the same movement. She was an absolute force. I will always treasure our moments together. It brings me some peace to know that her last words to me were “I’m proud of you.” I hope I continue to make her proud, and I hope that we as a community will forever honor her legacy and carry her vision forward.

Rest in Power, Cecilia.

– Jordyn Jay and the BTFA family

GLAAD’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

We are devastated to hear about the death of Cecilia Gentili. Cecilia was a pillar in the trans community, a dedicated advocate, a striking actress on the hit TV program Pose, an incredible journalist, and a sex worker. She did direct service through The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, Callen Lorde, and the APICHA (originally the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS) Community Health Center in New York, and later was managing director of policy for GMHC.

Several years ago she founded Trans Equity Consulting and has collaborated with many major organizations on transgender and gender nonbinary rights. Cecilia was also a founding member of Decrim NY, a coalition working toward decriminalization, decarceration, and destigmatization of sex workers. She also led the charge alongside other trans journalists to speak out against the New York Times’ biased and inaccurate trans coverage. Cecilia just celebrated her 52nd birthday, surrounded by friends, loved ones, and community.

In the anthology, Surviving Transphobia, Cecilia wrote about growing up under dictatorship in Argentina, about being inspired by American movies to be her authentic self. She poured that passion for visibility and acceptance into her life and many others:

“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… 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.”

Her book Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist won the American Library Association’s 2023 Stonewall Book Award. Her one-woman show Red Ink was slated to make a comeback at the Public Theater this April.

NY Transgender Advocacy Group’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

Today, our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of Cecilia Gentili @ceciliagentili72 , a cherished community leader, pioneer, and fierce advocate for equal rights. Her passion, wisdom, and dedication will continue to inspire us all. Rest in power, Cecilia. 💔 🏳️‍⚧️

The Okra Project’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

Through our deep heartbreak, we affirm Cecilia Gentilli was undoubtedly an angel on earth and will live on and through us all the same. Her contributions, art, and insatiable love of community are forever. Her spirit stands as a powerful roadmap to our collective freedom and liberation.

So, as we navigate the turbulent waters of grief, let us take comfort in the belief that our dearest angel, Cecilia, remains by our side and guides us with her love and light. Until we are reunited once more in the embrace of eternity. Her work and love live forever. 🤎🏳️‍⚧️

-Gabrielle Inés Souza & The Okra Project Family

interACT’s tribute to Cecilia Gentili

We at interACT deeply mourn the loss of our friend and co-conspirator Cecilia Gentili. Cecilia was and is so many things – advocate, leader, teacher, caregiver, mother, warrior, truth-teller, mirror – and not least of all, she was a caring ally to intersex people, as she was to all she encountered in the fight for liberation and justice. She will always be with us, siempre juntos. —Erika

TransLash Family on Instagram honors Cecilia Gentili

On February 6, 2024, @translashmedia published this call for memorials:

🏳️‍⚧️💔🙏🏽🏳️‍⚧️ What did #CeciliaGentili mean to you?

Share in the comments and we will add your memorials to our memorial this week.

We love you and are holding space for your grief as we process our own.

– Team TransLash

We will compile your responses and add them here through February 2024.

ABOUT CECILIA GENTILI’S LEGACY

'Pose' actress Cecilia Gentili. FX NETWORKS/YOUTUBE
‘Pose’ actress Cecilia Gentili. FX NETWORKS/YOUTUBE

As reported by Entertainment Weekly, outside of her work on “Pose” and as a published author, Gentili’s activism led to a partnership with the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in 2021, which resulted in the creation of her namesake Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network health program that provided free care for sex workers.

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.” 

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.” 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared this statement:

We are heartbroken about the passing of Cecilia Gentili. Her loss is felt not only by her loved ones but by the entire community who had the privilege of knowing her.

Cecilia was extraordinary. Her warmth, kindness, and unwavering compassion touched the lives of so many. Her dedication to advocacy and her tireless efforts in championing the rights of trans, LGBTQ+, and sex worker communities have left a lasting mark on all who had the honor of working alongside her.

Cecilia’s legacy will continue to inspire us all to strive for a more just and equitable world.

Democracy Now! shared this obituary:

In New York, beloved transgender advocate, author, and actor Cecilia Gentili has died. Gentili migrated from Argentina years ago and dedicated her life fighting for the rights of sex workers, LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities.

Gentili starred as Miss Orlando in the acclaimed television series “Pose.” Her debut memoir, “Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist,” was released in 2022, detailing her life before leaving Argentina. Last year she began performing in her autobiographical off-Broadway show called “Red Ink.”

Gentili was also the founder of Trans Equity Consulting, an organization that supports trans women of color, sex workers, immigrants and incarcerated people. A post on her Instagram said Tuesday, “Our beloved Cecilia Gentili passed away this morning to continue watching over us in spirit. … Please be gentle with each other and love one another with ferocity.”

Gentili was 52 years old.

REPLAY: Funeral of Cecilia Gentili at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC, on February 15, 2024

Video Description:

𝑪𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒍𝒊𝒂 𝑮𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒊 leaves a burning legacy of love, brotherhood and an infinite fire in our hearts to fight for the liberation of trans people, sex workers, migrants and people who have been pushed to the margins.

We honor her life, love and power with the 𝑪𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒍𝒊𝒂’𝒔 𝑳𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒄𝒚 𝑭𝒖𝒏𝒅 and the following arrangements: gofundme.com/f/cecilias-legacy-fund

Please note, services are open to the public, but all media inquiries or politician requests must email media AT transequityconsulting DOT com to arrange details.

In following Cecilia’s wishes, any plaques, recognitions & awards must accompany material support for NYC’s trans & SW community, preferably through Cecilia’s Legacy Fund.

𝐖𝐀𝐊𝐄: No press permitted Wed. 2/14, 2-8pm, Bushwick United Methodist Church

𝐅𝐔𝐍𝐄𝐑𝐀𝐋 Thurs 2/15 9:30-11:30am (sharp), St. Patrick’s Cathedral

𝐑𝐄𝐏𝐀𝐒𝐒 Thurs 2/15 1-5pm, Nowadays NYC

Attire: Mother requests you all look fabulous & ¢vN+!

Bring RED flowers: 10% discount at Brooklyn’s Mwah Flowers (mwahflowers.com) by mentioning Interboro Funeral Home.

Explore all of TransLash Media’s content featuring Cecilia Gentili

Did you find this resource helpful? Consider supporting TransLash today with a tax-deductible donationWere you in community with Cecilia and would like to add your tribute? Let us know and we’ll update this memorial.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.

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