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Legendary trans activist Cecilia Gentili remembered at St. Patrick's Cathedral

Celebration of life held for transgender activist, performer Cecilia Gentili
Celebration of life held for transgender activist, performer Cecilia Gentili 03:34

NEW YORK -- There was a celebration of life held Thursday at St. Patrick's Cathedral for legendary transgender activist and performer Cecilia Gentili, who died last week.

CBS New York spoke to family and friends, who called her a true champion of equality and inclusion.

Loved ones chanted the name of their dear friend as they packed the cathedral dressed to the nines to say goodbye to a fierce advocate of the trans community, undocumented immigrants, and sex workers.

"I met Cecilia the first day I walked into the clinic to start my transition. Cecilia became my mother. She guided me to the very last breath she took," Gia Love said.

Billy Porter, an LGBTQ advocate, actor, singer and fashion icon, performed a tribute as the procession carried her casket into the church.

"Except on Easter Sunday, we don't have a crowd that's this well turned out," the priest said to cheering and applause.

Gentili was born in Argentina in 1972. Her family said she came to the United States two decades ago as an undocumented immigrant, who was homeless and forced into sex work. But they added she was determined to create better life for herself and the trans community.

"We owe her so much. Her work with undocumented immigrants, her work with sex workers, her work with trans women of color, was incredible," friend Ita Segev said.

Gentili established a health care clinic COIN, which stands for Cecilia's Occupational Inclusion Network. It raised millions of dollars for trans health care and developed statewide policies for the protections of trans people.

Gov. Kathy Hochul posted on the social media platform X, "New York's LGBTQ+ community has lost a champion in trans icon Cecilia Gentili."

Gentili also created the first trans music festival in New York City and performed on the hit TV show "Pose."

She did an interview with CBS New York back in 2021.

"When you give people an opportunity and all the things that they need to shine, they can do it," she said.

Advocates say even her service, held at a historic Catholic church, reflects the progress of inclusivity and acceptance of the trans community.

"Cecilia was a fighter. She was the one to say we belong in the spaces that were not necessarily built for us, but here we are at St. Patrick's Cathedral," Jari Jones said.

Loved ones say Gentili made such an impact on this community city and beyond, her legacy will to be felt for years to come.

"It's up to all of us to, not fill that gap, but to carry on what she gave to all of us," Josh Allen said.

Gentili leaves behind countless friends, many who called themselves and her longtime partner Peter Scotto her chosen family.

"She was was really an angel. I want you to know, the world to know it," Scotto said. to applause.

Gentili died on Feb. 6 at her home in Brooklyn. Her cause of death is unknown. She was 52.

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