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

Two people were charged on Monday for allegedly distributing the drugs that caused the overdose of Latina transgender activist Cecilia Gentili in her Brooklyn home in early February, ABC News reported.

Concretely, Antonio Venti was accused of selling the fentanyl-laced heroin to Gentili, who was 52 at the time of her passing, and Michael Kuilan of supplying it. She was found dead on February 6.

Gentili, who hailed from Argentina, was known for her fierce activism on transgender and sex worker rights, as well as her role in the TV drama show Pose. After being jailed at Rikers Island, she went on to 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.

Her death was mourned by many in the city, with New York Governor Kathy Hochul saying that the state's "LGBTQ+ community has lost a champion." Moreover, her funeral was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral, with over 1,000 people in attendance.

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.

Peter Scotto, her partner, described Gentili as "an angel." "Our phone would ring all the time in the middle of the night and she'd jump into action to help people in crisis. She'd always be there and answer that call. But to me, she was my partner. We woke every day next to each other with so much laughter and love. I'm going to take that with me forever."

The event ended up embroiled in controversy, as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York 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.

St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, where Cecilia Gentili's funeral was held. This is a representational image. Winston Chen/Unsplash

"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," said the Archdiocese.

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 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.

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 Francis. But St. Patrick's Cathedral is not one of them.

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