Thousands still in mourning for beloved Mother Cecilia Gentili

By Renée Imperato
March 15, 2024

New York City

Cecilia Gentili, an iconic, legendary leader of the sex worker, transgender, gender non-conforming and immigrant communities, passed away tragically on Feb. 6 at the age of 52. The following night, over 1,000 people gathered at Judson Memorial Church in New York City for a spirited, moving, tearful memorial.

Cecilia Gentili

A week later, on Feb. 10, there was a tearful wake in Brooklyn of over 500 family and community members. The day after the wake, the funeral was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, where 1,500 people filled the hall, which is unusual. It was opened by actor Billy Porter and extremely moving eulogies were given. St. Patrick’s was experienced as never before, with the overlapping communities of sex workers, trans people and queer people, primarily of the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] communities.

Cecilia, affectionately known as the “mother of all whores,” was from Argentina, and for years she was undocumented. She was a leader and a mentor to all of us, especially to younger members of our community who have struggled in their path toward claiming their identity.

Cecilia played an active role in health services provided by Apicha Community Health Center, Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. She founded Trans Equity Consulting and served as an advocate for trans women of color, sex workers, immigrants and all people. In 2022 she published her first book “Faltas: Letter to Everyone in my Hometown who isn’t my Rapist,” which went on to become two one-woman shows. Cecilia was cast on the FX television series “Pose” about the ballroom community of the 1980s and 1990s in New York City.

Upon learning the nature of Cecilia and her supporters, who gathered from the trans and queer community, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York and reactionary Cardinal Timothy Dolan attacked her, her family and her community. The cathedral cut the funeral short by an hour and later held a “mass of reparation” to make up for having allowed its space to be used for a trans woman’s funeral.

Cecilia Gentili ¡Presente!

Cecilia was a close friend of this author, Renée Imperato. They fought alongside each other for transgender rights, sex worker rights, Palestinian liberation and justice for all working and oppressed people. Her spirit will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who lived and loved and fought with her.