N.Y. Archdiocese Condemns Funeral of Transgender Activist at Cathedral

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York publicly condemned the funeral of Cecilia Gentili, a prominent transgender activist, held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Gentili, a celebrated figure within the LGBTQ+ community for her advocacy for transgender people, sex workers, and individuals with HIV, passed away at her Brooklyn home on February 6, 2024, at the age of 52. Her death marked a profound loss for New York’s LGBTQ+ community and beyond, with tributes pouring in from figures such as New York Governor Kathy Hochul and various community leaders who recognized her as a champion of trans rights and an icon within the community.

Mourners carried the coffin of Cecilia Gentili, a self-professed atheist, from St. Patrick’s Cathedral after her funeral.Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

Gentili’s life was a testament to resilience and advocacy. Born in Argentina, she faced discrimination and violence in her youth, which continued even after her move to the United States. Despite these challenges, Gentili turned her experiences into a force for change, becoming a vocal advocate for marginalized communities. She founded the Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network (COIN) clinic through Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, offering no-cost health services to sex workers, and held influential roles, including as Director of Policy at GMHC. Her creative pursuits further highlighted her multifaceted contributions, from her performance in the TV series “Pose” to her one-woman show “The Knife Cuts Both Ways,” and her literary work, which includes the award-winning book “Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist.”

Cecilia Gentili, an activist and actress pictured here in a photo by Serena Jara, was well known for her advocacy on behalf of sex workers. She was celebrated at the funeral as “Saint Cecilia, the mother of all whores.” Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

The funeral, which saw over a thousand attendees, including many from the transgender community, became a focal point of controversy when the Archdiocese denounced the event as a “scandalous behavior.” Rev. Enrique Salvo expressed dismay at the ceremony’s deviation from traditional Catholic values, emphasizing the church’s lack of awareness of Gentili’s background and the nature of the funeral planned by her supporters. In response to the event, Cardinal Timothy Dolan directed a Mass of Reparation, highlighting the incident as a stark reminder of the “forces of sin and darkness” during the Lenten season.

Yet, the outpouring of love and respect at Gentili’s memorial service, and the tributes paid to her life and work, underscore her enduring impact on the communities she served. Speakers at a memorial highlighted Gentili’s role in creating lasting change for transgender individuals and her efforts to bridge communities for a common goal. Sean Coleman and Tiffany Jade Munroe shared personal anecdotes of Gentili’s influence, illustrating her ability to unite and inspire those around her.

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