LGBTQIA+ activist and ‘Pose’ star Cecilia Gentili dies aged 52

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Argentine American Pose star and LGBTQIA+ activist Cecilia Gentili has died at the age of 52.

Gentili dedicated a large portion of her life to advancing causes within the community, primarily raising awareness of HIV/AIDS as well as equity for sex workers and transgender people.

Born in 1972 in Argentina to Italian and Argentinian parents, she moved to the US at the age of 26 in hopes of being able to safely live as a transgender woman. She eventually moved to New York, supporting herself largely though sex work.

Gentili held leadership positions at the LGBTQ HIV/AIDS care nonprofits GMHC and APICHA, and co-founded a free clinic for sex workers at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, as well as co-founded DecrimNY – an organization which successfully decriminalized sex work in New York and repealed the “Walking while trans law”.

Cecilia Gentili attends the Center Dinner LGBT Community Center fundraiser benefit at Cipriani Wall Street – April 2022

In a tribute from GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), the organisation summarised Gentili’s impact on the community, sharing a quote from the Surviving Transphobia anthology text:

“I say this to trans people, trans women of color, and to trans women of color who are undocumented or sex workers or both, people like me: Do what you can to achieve whatever level of empowerment you can get, but also be safe,” Gentili wrote, per GLAAD. “I’ll probably never call myself radical, especially in two countries with such high rates of trans femicide and histories of coups. I’m okay with it. I never want to judge my work by how ‘radical’ I am. But I do judge it on what I’m doing for my people and for myself.”

Gentili’s Pose co-star Dominique Jackson payed tribute to the late star on social media.

“AN ACTIVIST, AN ICON, A TRAILBLAZER, A MOTHER, A WIFE, AN ACTRESS AND COMEDIAN, AN AMAZING SISTER AND A PHENOMENAL HUMAN BEING!” Jackson shared, alongside a clip of the pair performing on Pose.

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In Pose, Gentili played Miss Orlando, a New York City woman who offers discounted cosmetic surgery.

In another post about Gentili’s death, Jackson thanked her for her work as an LGBTQIA+ activist.

“I am deeply saddened by your departure dear sister! Even in death you are force to be reckoned with, your legacy one of movement, love and compassion unapologetic and true. I thank you dearly for ALL the work you have done,” Jackson wrote. “You sacrificed you boldly telling your truth and living it and for that you have changed and influenced many lives and the world. I LOVE YOU FOREVER BEAUTIFUL STRONG SISTER! REST WELL!”

In 2022, Gentili released her memoir titled “Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist”. The book won the American Library Association’s 2023 Stonewall Book Award, according to GLAAD.

The following year, she produced a new solo show called Red Ink. The show was expected to return to The Public Theater in New York City this April.

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