Cecilia Gentili, a renowned LGBTQ+ rights advocate, author and actor best known for her portrayal of Miss Orlando on “Pose,” has died. She was 52.
Gentili’s death was confirmed in a post shared on her Instagram account late Tuesday.
“Our beloved Cecilia Gentili passed away this morning to continue watching over us in spirit,” the post read. “Please be gentle with each other and love one another with ferocity.”
A cause of death was not announced.
The news prompted an outpouring of tributes from elected officials as well as fellow advocates.
“New York’s LGBTQ+ community has lost a champion in trans icon Cecilia Gentili,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “As an artist and steadfast activist in the trans rights movement, she helped countless people find love, joy, and acceptance. Our hearts are with her loved ones in this difficult time.”
At the time of Cecilia Gentili's death, the LGBTQ+ rights advocate, author and actor had been planning to return to the New York stage.
GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis expressed similar sentiments.
“Cecilia Gentili’s death is such a huge loss,” she wrote. “She impacted so many, especially those in the trans community in New York City and beyond. This is the power of one person who used her identity and gifts to help more people be seen and heard.”
“You sacrificed you boldly telling your truth and living it and for that you have changed and influenced many lives and the world,” she added.
Gentili, who was born in Argentina, relocated to the U.S. at age 26 in hopes of being able to safely live her truth as a transgender woman, residing first in Florida and later New York. She supported herself largely though sex work.
A brief stint in jail on drug possession charges convinced Gentili to focus on recovery and pursue a career in public health. After working with Apicha Community Health Center and GMHC (formerly the Gay Men’s Health Crisis), she founded Trans Equity Consulting, an advocacy group focused on developing LGBTQ-affirming services in the workplace, in 2019. In 2021, she unveiled Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network, which provides free health care for sex workers, through a partnership with Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
"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," wrote Gentili, seen here in 2019.
After appearing in four episodes of “Pose” from 2018 to 2021, Gentili began devoting more time to artistic pursuits. In 2022, she published “Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist,” a memoir of her early years. This April, she planned to return to the stage for an encore presentation of “Red Ink,” an autobiographical one-woman show that debuted last year in New York.
In an essay for the 2023 anthology “Surviving Transphobia,” Gentili shrugged off the label of “radical” for her life’s work.
“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,” she wrote. “I’ll probably never call myself radical, especially in two countries with such high rates of trans femicide and histories of coups.”
“I never want to judge my work by how ‘radical’ I am,” she added. “But I do judge it on what I’m doing for my people and for myself.”