Third Wave Fund is devastated by the passing of our friend and compañera Cecilia Gentili at the age of 52. Cecilia was a cultural and movement icon, and her legacy is forever woven throughout Third Wave’s work and the communities that we support. We’re sending so much love to all of our folks who are grieving alongside us, especially her partner Peter and many beloveds, and the grantees and Fellows of the Sex Giving Circle (SWGC).
Raised in a small city in Argentina, Cecilia found her people amongst the trans and sex working communities of Buenos Aires, Brazil, and Miami, Florida before putting down roots in New York City. Under the mentorship of Lorena Borjas (rest in power), Cecilia became an incredible organizer around migrant justice, sex worker rights, harm reduction, abolition, HIV/AIDS, trans liberation, and more. She was instrumental in overturning harmful anti-trans and anti-sex work legislation on both state and city levels, and in founding the COIN Clinic (Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network) at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
But even as she became one of NYC’s most legendary and universally loved QTBIPOC activists, with many elected officials on speed dial, Cecilia rejected respectability politics. She celebrated all of the parts of herself and our communities that the state sought to repress. She was simultaneously the kindest, most welcoming person you would ever meet, but also clearly was not to be fucked with. We adored her for that and so many other reasons.
Cecilia first came into the Third Wave community through our REVIVE Party in 2014, at a time when we were rebuilding after almost sunsetting during the economic crisis of that time. She saw our legacy of resourcing sex worker liberation work and became one of our first monthly donors. This began a years-long love affair between Third Wave and Cecilia, that saw her generously share her story, her strategic thinking, her coins, and her heart with staff, advisors, grantees, and community.
Cecilia advised the first year of the SWGC, helping to design a participatory grantmaking and Fellowship program that has moved over $3 million to sex worker movements since 2018. At our first-ever SWGC benefit party, Cecilia wildcat fundraised the crowd, getting nine others to join her in donating $100, so that an extra $1,000 would go to QTBIPOC sex worker organizers. She would accept payment for her work, only to turn around and donate it back to the grantees or a SWGC community member in need of support. Cecilia was a mother to many SWGC Fellows, staff, and TWF grantees over the years, and was deeply committed to mentoring other trans women of color activists.
Cecilia was also an incredible actress and storyteller. We celebrated her genius in her unforgettable role as Ms. Orlando in Pose and in her one-woman shows The Knife Cuts Both Ways and Red Ink, as well as her memoir Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist. As Cecilia’s star rose, she let us know she might not always be able to MC our events or facilitate a session for the SWGC Fellows, but she made sure to share those opportunities with comrades who could use them.
Cecilia knew how hard it was to be a trans person, a BIPOC person, a Latine immigrant, or an out sex worker in rooms that weren’t meant for us: spaces where if our people even had a seat at the table, we had to fight for it every step of the way. So Cecilia showed up with profound love and passion, doing everything she could to make sure that every one of us felt encouraged, appreciated, respected, and celebrated.
Thank you for everything you did and everything you were and are, Cecilia. We will miss you forever and we will strive to honor your legacy of love, joy, pride, and revolutionary struggle. Your memory is a blessing. Cecilia, forever! ¡Cecilia, ¡Presente!