True Colors United Mourns the Loss of Cecilia Gentili

Feb 2024

True Colors United mourns the loss of Cecilia Gentili, an activist powerhouse who fought tooth and polished nail for the rights of transgender individuals, sex workers, and immigrants. “Our beloved Cecilia Gentili passed away this morning to continue watching over us in spirit,” a post to her Instagram account states. “Please be gentle with each other and love one another with ferocity”.

Born in 1972 in Gálvez, Argentina, Cecilia declared her queer identity at the age of 12. In the 1980s and 1990s, she endured verbal and physical harassment by law enforcement and strangers alike in the city streets, where dressing in the clothing of a sex other than the one assigned at birth was an illegal act. Cecilia moved to the larger city of Rosario to pursue a college education, and it was there that she first met a trans person—inspiring the discovery of her identity as a trans woman. At the age of 26, she arrived in Miami, Florida, where she faced difficulties as she was undocumented. Cecilia fought with addiction and engaged in sex work, which repeatedly made her a target of law enforcement. She would then move to New York in 2003. 

Using her lived experience and passion for advocacy, Cecilia began interning at The LGBT Center in 2010, working with the NYC Anti-Violence Project. Subsequently, she served as the Trans Health Program Coordinator at Apicha Community Health Center, and then, Director of Policy at the GMHC (formerly Gay Men’s Health Crisis). There, she led the campaign that helped pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), codifying gender identity and expression as protected classes in hate crime and human rights legislation. 

A staunch advocate for sex workers all her life, Cecilia supported numerous successful campaigns for decriminalization and other legal rights. During her time at the GMHC, she helped form and lead the DecrimNY campaign to victory—decriminalizing sex work in New York and repealing the “Walking While Trans Law”, which was used to harass, target, and arrest trans women of color. Cecilia founded Trans Equity Counseling in 2019, where she led efforts to empower and center trans women of color, sex workers, immigrants and incarcerated peoples as experts in government, nonprofit, academic, and other advocacy spaces. Additionally, Cecilia co-founded “Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network” (COIN) clinic at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in 2021, creating the first dedicated healthcare center for sex workers on the East Coast.

Cecilia remained a creative until her passing. The Knife Cuts Both Ways, her one-woman comedy show, debuted in 2017 as a storytelling of her experiences. Her debut book Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist, was released in 2022 to high acclaim—achieving a Stonewall Book Award for nonfiction. In 2023, she loosely adapted her autobiographical off-Broadway show, Red Ink, after Faltas. She was beloved for her groundbreaking role as Miss Orlando in FX’s “Pose”.

Cecilia Gentili will be deeply missed by all who had the honor of calling her friend and family—and a generation of young LGBTQ+ people, sex workers, immigrants, and others who knew her and were better for it. True Colors United hopes to advocate for and protect LGBTQ+ young people experiencing homelessness as fiercely as Cecilia did. Chief Strategy Officer Twiggy Pucci Garçon remembers, “Cecilia was the embodiment of community, authenticity and tenacity. She gracefully and selflessly loved and we are forever grateful for her light, love, and legacy.” 

May she rest in power.