Friends and family bid farewell to Cecilia Gentili at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Cecilia Gentili at an mpox-related demonstration in July of 2022.
Cecilia Gentili at an mpox-related demonstration in July of 2022.
Donna Aceto

Thousands of attendees and hundreds of online viewers mourned the late Cecilia Gentili on Feb. 15 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Gentili, who was an active leader in New York City’s LGBTQ community — especially for sex workers, immigrants, transgender individuals, and people living with HIV — died Feb. 6 at the of 52, leading to an outpouring of grief and a large, sprawling memorial at Judson Memorial Church on Feb. 7. Gentili’s family, friends, and former colleagues gathered again on Feb. 15 for a dedicated funeral service at one of the most controversial locations for the community.

“She was an angel,” Gentili’s partner, Peter Scotto, said at the service. “Seeing all the people at the funeral services, and all the love I’ve received from people in her community all over the world, is a testament of how awesome Cecilia was. I’m so grateful for them all. She was an angel, an icon, a mother, an educator, a leader, and so much to so many people. Her children from AIPACHA — I’d hear all the stories of trans kids getting hormones for the first time. Our phone would ring all the time in the middle of the night and she’d jump into action to help people in crisis. She’d always be there and answer that call. But to me, she was my partner. We woke every day next to each other with so much laughter and love. I’m going to take that with me forever.”

The funeral service included speeches from individuals like Scott and Ceyenne Doroshow, the executive director of GLITS. Billy Porter, who starred with Gentili on the show “Pose,” performed. Attendees included Sara Ramirez, Indya Moore, Peppermint, Raquel Willis, Ryan McGinley, and others, according to representatives for Gentili’s family.

Gentili, who moved to the United States from Argentina, was active as an activist and in other capacities, including positions at Apicha Community Health Center, the LGBT Community Center, and GMHC. She also played a leading role in advancing policy initiatives such as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the campaign to decriminalize sex work in New York State. She founded Trans Equity Consulting and spearheaded the opening of a new healthcare clinic for sex workers called COIN, or Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network. Among other achievements, she was involved in the entertainment industry, on shows like “Pose.”

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the same church where activists with ACT UP and Women’s Health Action and Mobilization disrupted a service in 1988 in the “Stop the Church” demonstration to protest the Catholic Church’s policies toward LGBTQ people, abortion, and HIV/ AIDS. Some of those same activists returned to the same space in 2019 to mark the 30th anniversary of that demonstration.

Watch the full service on YouTube.