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WORLD | 07-02-2024 16:31

Transgender activist and author Cecilia Gentili dies in New York at age 52

Tributes paid to trailblazing trans advocate, originally from Santa Fe Province, who has died at the age of 52.

Cecilia Gentili, the Argentine-born trans activist and author known for leading the fight for transgender and sex worker rights in New York, has died at the age of 52.

News of Gentili’s death was confirmed on her social media accounts.

"Our beloved Cecilia Gentili passed away this morning to continue watching over us in spirit," read a message on her Instagram account written Tuesday night.

"Please be gentle with each other and love one another with ferocity," the message continued.

Born in the town of Gávez, Santa Fe Province, where between the ages of six and ten she was sexually abused by a neighbour, Gentili moved to New York at the age of 26, arriving there after spells in Brazil and Miami.

She came out as gay at the age of 12, a decision that her mother “kind of” accepted but that her father and brother struggled to deal with. It was at university in Rosario where Gentili first met a trans person and began to identify as transgender.

She lived undocumented in the United States for 10 years, making a living from sex work. Gentili eventually co-founded the organisation DecrimNY, which succeeded at decriminalising sex work and repealing a law criminalising vagrancy for prostitution that critics had long denounced as a tool to target transgender people solely on the basis of their appearance. 

Gentili also held prominent positions in non-profit organisations such as LGBTQ GMHC and APICHA, which worked on AIDS prevention. She co-founded a free clinic for sex workers and founded the Trans Equity Consulting consultancy firm in 2019. 

Messages from LGBTQ+ rights organisations poured in after news of the death of this "icon of the trans movement," as New York state governor Kathy Hochul described her on her X (formerly Twitter) account.

"As an artist and steadfast activist in the trans rights movement, she helped countless people find love, joy and acceptance," Hochul wrote.

The New York Department of Health also noted that the activist was a "fierce advocate for trans and queer communities and all marginalised people.”

In recent years, Gentili had expanded her work into the arts. 

Her 2022 memoir Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn't My Rapist won the Stonewall Book Award, and she recently premiered a solo show, Red Ink, at a theatre off-Broadway. 

Gentili also made cameos in the FX series Pose, which chronicled the New York ballroom scene of the 1980s.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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