Cecilia Gentilli died on February 6
Cecilia Gentilli died on February 6 Photo: Instagram/@ceciliagentili72

NEW YORK CITY - The trailblazer Argentine American trans advocate Cecilia Gentili died on Feb. 6 in New York at age 52. She was known for her fierce activism on transgender and sex worker rights, as well as her role in the TV drama show Pose.

Throughout her life, Gentili suffered from addiction and was even jailed at Rikers Island, one of the world's largest correctional institutions also known for its alleged abuse of prisoners. After being released, Gentili would go on become a transgender health program coordinator, a nonprofit policy director for an established gay men's health organization, GMHC, and a lobbyist for health equality and anti-discrimination legislation, among other advocacy work.

"New York's LGBTQ+ community has lost a champion in trans icon Cecilia Gentili," New York Gov. Kathy Hocul posted on X, formerly Twitter, following her death.

To commemorate her legacy, more than 1,000 people came together on Feb. 15 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in a service characterized by friends and family as "iconic" and "historic." Gentili was a self-professed atheist, a topic around which she built a one-woman Off Broadway show.

Now, as the funeral has drawn attention on social media, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York has condemned the event, calling it an insult to the Catholic faith and saying it was unaware of the identity of the deceased, as well as her religious views, when it agreed to host the service, the New York Times reports.

The service on Thursday was indeed historic, as their attendees described. The pews were packed with mourners, many of them transgender, who wore high-fashion outfits and cheered as eulogists led them in raying for transgender rights and access to gender-affirming health care.

"Saint Cecilia, the mother of all whores," one of the eulogists said, to which the audience responded with euphoric cheers.

Response of the service was met with fiery response from both sides of the conversation.

Catholic liberals, including some parishioners at St. Patrick said that regardless of how some mourners behaved, the church had done a good thing by hosting the funeral of a transgender person.

On the other hand, CatholicVote, a conservative group, called the funeral "unbelievable and sick" and said it was "a mockery of the Christian faith." The Rev. Nicholas Gregoris, a co-founder of the Priestly Society of Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman, called it "revolting," a "blasphemous & sacrilegious fiasco" and "a deplorable desecration of America's most famous Catholic Church."

On Saturday, the archdiocese released a statement saying it shared the anger of conservative Catholics over Gentili's funeral.

"The cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic, and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way," Rev. Enrique Salvo, the pastor of St. Patrick said.

New York city is home to roughly a dozen gay-friendly Catholic parishes that in many ways reflect the church's softer tone on sexuality under the leadership of Pope Frances. But St. Patrick's Cathedral is not one of them.

The funeral's organizer, Ceyenne Doroshow, said that Gentili's family kept her background "under wraps" because they feared the archdiocese would not host a funeral for a person it knew was transgender.

Her family, Doroshow says, wanted Gentili's funeral to be held at St. Patrick's because "it is an icon, just like her."

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