We at Lambda Legal mourn the monumental loss of our beloved Cecilia Gentili.
She will be forever remembered as a pillar of the transgender community, a trailblazing Latina activist and organizer, and evocative author, artist, and actress. The impact of her tireless efforts advocating for marginalized communities — including LGBTQ+ people, sex workers, undocumented immigrants and refugees, and people living with HIV — will undoubtedly live on and continue to inspire change for generations to come.
To honor her life and legacy, we’ve gathered personal reflections and tributes from a few of our own lawyers, some of whom had the immense privilege of working alongside Cecilia. Read them below.
Rest in power and in peace, Cecilia Gentili.
Richard Saenz – Senior Attorney, Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist
Cecilia was a powerhouse, a ball of energy and joy, and meant so much to so many.
As a queer Latino in Queens — of course you had to know Cecilia! Be it at a community meeting, a rally, Marcha de Las Putas, a memorial, or having fun, she was everywhere.
She gave so much of herself and taught many of us to always be our true self. And to me, seeing this fierce-ass Latina filled me with pride.
Over these past few days, I have heard from friends and colleagues who credit her with her mentorship and fighting spirit for keeping them going on the hardest days. She trained a generation of fighters!
It is hard for me to think about Cecilia not being here as we have lost other mothers of our movement. Her legacy will always remain, including the work to decriminalize sex work, and will guide us as we fight against oppression, fight for the rights of sex workers (and importantly support the leadership and expertise of sex workers!), and use our joy and our love in community as our strongest tools. Rest well, Cecilia.
Sasha Buchert – Director of the Non-Binary and Transgender Rights Project
I am deeply grateful for Cecilia Gentili’s fierce and longstanding advocacy that has done so much to advance protections for nonbinary and trans folks and for all of her work to humanize nonbinary and transgender people. I am also tremendously grateful for all of her work to decriminalize and humanize sex work. Her legacy will live on as a nonstop force for good and she will be sorely missed.
Jose Abrigo – HIV Project Director
Cecilia Gentili was a renowned advocate and trailblazer for TGNC and queer communities and she left an indelible mark on the world through her passionate activism and unwavering commitment to justice.
I first worked with Cecilia at my old organization when I was the Director of the LGBTQ/HIV unit. I was charged with organizing a training for the organization on TGNC cultural competency and decided on Transequity Consulting, which Cecilia led.
I was able to work with her closely, and she lent her expertise to create a comprehensive training on TGNC issues specific to the organization and how to represent TGNC clients competently as attorneys.
Cecilia’s ability to craft a training program stood out as exceptional. She brought a wealth of knowledge, empathy, and understanding to the table, ensuring the material was not only informative but also accessible and engaging.
Her dedication to educating others about the complexities of TGNC experiences and the importance of inclusivity in all spaces, and how the law often produces unjust outcomes for TGNC folks, was evident throughout the process. The training was a testament to Cecilia’s skill in conveying critical issues with compassion and clarity, making a lasting impact on the organization and its approach to TGNC inclusivity.
Beyond educational initiatives, Cecilia was a fierce advocate for the decriminalization of STIs and HIV in New York State. Lambda is helping lead a coalition in New York state to decriminalize STIs and HIV, and Cecilia was a fierce partner through her organization Decrim NY.
Together, we worked tirelessly to address and dismantle the legal and societal barriers that disproportionately affected queer communities of color. We organized a legislative briefing where she spoke, and she was instrumental in bringing crucial attention to the issues surrounding STI and HIV decriminalization.
She eloquently highlighted the dire consequences of criminalization on affected communities. Cecilia’s ability to articulate the intersectionality of public health, legal justice, and human rights not only educated lawmakers and stakeholders but also galvanized support for meaningful legislative change.
Working alongside Cecilia was an honor, she provided me invaluable lessons in resilience, compassion, and the power of community-driven change. Her memory will forever be cherished, and her impact will continue to be felt by those who had the privilege of knowing her and by the countless lives she touched through her work.