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Cecilia Gentili, trans Latina activist and actress, dies at 52

Argentina native passed away on Tuesday

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Cecilia Gentili (Photo courtesy of Gentili's Instagram page)

A towering presence in New York’s transgender community has died.

In a post to her Instagram account on Tuesday, it was announced that the 52-year-old Argentina-born Cecilia Gentili had passed away. 

“Our beloved Cecilia Gentili passed away this morning to continue watching over us in spirit,” the tribute read. “Please be gentle with each other and love one another with ferocity. We will be sharing more updates about services and what is to come in the following days. At this time, we’re asking for privacy, time and space to grieve.”

An undocumented immigrant and then asylum seeker from Argentina, Gentili came to the U.S. pursuing a safer life to live authentically as a trans woman. She lived undocumented for 10 years, hustling, doing sex work which came with drug use. After surviving arrests and an immigration detention, she accessed recovery services and won asylum.

Among Gentili’s accomplishments was her work as a co-founder of her namesake COIN Clinic (Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network) at Callen-Lorde, a New York-based leader in LGBTQ health care. She later was the managing director of policy for the world-renowned GMHC (originally the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.) 

With her background in the sex industry, she was a founding member of Decrim NY, a coalition working toward decriminalization, decarceration and destigmatization of people in the sex trade. Gentili’s work focused on reducing coercion and promoting safety. 

Decrim’s mission statement notes that decriminalization empowers sex workers to screen clients, negotiate condom use and work collaboratively without the fear of criminalization, thereby reducing coercion and promoting safety.

She founded Trans Equity Consulting and collaborated with many major organizations on trans and nonbinary rights. In addition to her advocacy and activist work, Gentili was an actress of note starring in the Netflix/FX hit series “Pose” as Ms. Orlando, the groundbreaking drama about the experiences of trans women of color set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York. 

GLAAD notes that Gentili’s memoir, “Faltas,” was published in late 2022 by Little Puss Press, Inc, and won an American Library Association’s 2023 Stonewall Book Award for nonfiction. Her one-woman show “Red Ink” was slated to make a comeback at the Public Theater this April. 

Gentili was also a leading voice among the hundreds of New York Times contributors speaking out against the Times’ biased and inaccurate coverage of trans people and their essential mainstream health care.

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis reacted to news of Gentili’s death posting to X:

“Cecilia Gentili’s death is such a huge loss. She impacted so many, especially those in the trans community in New York City and beyond,” wrote Ellis. “This is the power of one person who used her identity and gifts to help more people be seen and heard. In the art she created, in the stories she shared, in the community she uplifted, in the people she served, Cecilia’s talent and love will never be forgotten.”

Chase Strangio, deputy director for Transgender Justice with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National’s LGBT and HIV Project commented:

“15 years of deep trans love and storytelling. I am forever grateful. We grieved so many losses together. It feels impossible to grieve your loss. I will carry you always. I love you.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul with Cecilia Gentili in this undated photo posted to Hochul’s Instagram account.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul posted a picture of the two of them on Instagram and stated: “New York’s LGBTQ+ community has lost a champion in trans icon Cecilia Gentili. 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.”

Callen-Lorde released the following statement from CEO Patrick McGovern: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Cecilia Gentili. Cecilia was a fierce, fearless advocate and a leader, who spoke candidly about her own experiences as a trans woman of color. In doing so, she inspired countless others and truly paved the way for our communities — especially, sex workers and trans women of color — to access high quality and judgment free healthcare. Her legacy will live on through our work at Callen-Lorde and beyond.” 

New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal issued a statement describing the work and impact Gentili delivered: “I’m devastated to learn of the passing of Cecilia Gentili, a pathbreaking civil rights activist, healthcare advocate, author and actress. I was honored to work with Cecilia on many issues in Albany as we passed legislation enshrining the civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers into law, including the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA), ending the so-called ban on ‘walking while trans,’ eliminating the gay and trans panic defense in our criminal statutes, making New York a safe haven for transgender youth and their parents seeking gender-affirming care, and the creation of the New York State Lorena Borjas TGNB Wellness and Equity Fund. We could not have passed the multitude of bills improving the lives of transgender New Yorkers without her help and guidance. Cecilia was a force of nature who leaves a long trailblazing legacy behind. l will miss her deeply.” 

Details of circumstances surrounding her death were unavailable and announcement of services will be shared at a later date, according to the Instagram post.

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New York

Teenager charged with hate crime in murder of O’Shae Sibley

NYC mayor thanked ‘everyday New Yorkers’ for helping identify suspect

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York Police Department officials and community leaders spoke after a teenager was charged with a hate crime in the deadly stabbing of O'Shae Sibley. (YouTube screenshot of WCBS)

The 17-year-old suspected of fatally stabbing of Black queer dancer O’Shae Sibley a week ago, has been charged with murder as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York Police Department officials and community leaders spoke at a public press conference held at the location of the deadly stabbing in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood detailing the charges brought in the case.

Adams told those gathered that “[Sibley’s] parents have lost a child in something that was clearly a hate crime.” The mayor then thanked the NYPD reflecting that the apprehension of the teenager was made possible by the contributions of “everyday New Yorkers” in aiding the NYPD with information and tips.

The mayor then addressed the fact that initially it seemed “that the hate was coming from the Muslim community against the LGBTQ+ community — that was in fact not true,” Adams said. “These are both important communities in the City of New York, they contribute to the community, … and both are against any level of hate.” He then pointed out that both of those minority communities have been targeted by hate. “They have been united in fighting any form of hate in this city,” the mayor added.

“This is a city where you are free to express yourself, and that expression should never end with any form of violence,” Adams said.

After the mayor’s remarks, NYPD Assistant Chief of the Detective Bureau Joseph E. Kenny took to the podium and summarized the case facts. 

“As the group began to yell at Mr. Sibley and his friends, they began to call them derogatory names and used homophobic slurs against him,” Kenny said.“ They also made anti-Black statements, all while demanding that they simply stop dancing.”

“This encounter lasts for approximately four minutes, when the victim and the known perpetrator come together,” Kenny continued. “This perpetrator retreats away from Mr. Sibley, while striking him one time with a sharp object, piercing his chest and damaging his heart. Mr. Sibley falls to the sidewalk while the perpetrator flees the scene in a Toyota Highlander.”

Kenny noted the 17-year-old suspect’s identification happened “quickly,” saying he lives in Brooklyn and is a student at a “nearby high school.” 

Kenny said that the apprehension was a joint effort by NYPD’s fugitive task force and the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Regional Task Force. The 17-year-old was charged under New York Penal Law § 125.25: Murder in the second degree with a hate crime enhancement, he’s also being charged with criminal possession of a weapon and has been remanded into custody.

Officials update on investigation into death of O’Shae Sibley:

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NYPD: Person of interest in O’Shae Sibley’s murder in custody

Black queer dancer killed at Brooklyn gas station while vogueing

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O’Shae Sibley (Headshot from O'Shae Sibley's Facebook page)

The New York Police Department confirmed that they have a “person of interest” in custody in the stabbing death of 28-year-old Black queer dancer O’Shae Sibley last weekend at a Brooklyn Mobil convenience store and gas station. An NYPD spokesperson told the Washington Blade that no charges have been made yet.

The NYPD’s 66th Precinct homicide investigators along with detectives from the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force had been searching for a 17-year-old suspect, who had been seen on surveillance video footage arguing with the victim prior to Sibley being stabbed. The police spokesperson would not confirm if the person in custody is the suspect detectives were searching for.

The arrest was also confirmed by New York City Councilmember Inna Vernikov, whose district includes the convenience store and gas station in the Midwood neighborhood where Sibley was murdered.

According to witnesses and the NYPD, Sibley and a group of his friends performed an impromptu voguing dance session while refueling after a day trip to the Jersey Shore. The teenage suspect and several others had emerged from the convenience mart and engaged Sibley using profanities and homophobic epithets.

It was later disclosed to the media that Sibley and the group of his friends were dancing to Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” album, a fact noted by the 41-year-old singer-songwriter who paid tribute to the dancer on her website.

“The choruses of Big Apple Performing Arts (BAPA) including the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, Youth Pride Chorus, and Tonewall are deeply saddened and outraged by the tragic killing of O’Shae Sibley, a 28-year old Black gay man who was murdered at a Mobil gas station in Brooklyn for simply voguing. Vogue is a beautiful style of dance with origins in the queer community of color,” NYCGMC Chair Troy Blackwell said in a statement released Friday.

“O’Shae was a shining light to his family and friends, especially those in the dance community. Everyone should be able to exist and artistically express themselves without fear of harm. This is why the choruses of BAPA not only strive to cultivate a safe space for artists, but combat homophobia through music and advocate for protections for LGBTQ people,” Blackwell continued.

“This hate crime is part of a pattern of physical violence that continues to disproportionately impact members of the LGBTQ community. An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us and in times of tragedy, silence is not an option. It never has been and never will be. We stand in solidarity with New York City’s LGBTQ community and demand justice for O’Shae,” he added.

The dancer’s death is being investigated as a potential bias crime and occurs as GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism report there were 145 incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence, harassment and vandalism during Pride month this year in the U.S.

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Black queer dancer murdered in NYC

NYPD investigating O’Shae Sibley’s death as a hate crime

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Kemar Jewel, left, with O’Shae Sibley (Photo courtesy of Kemar Jewel/Facebook)

A professional Black queer dancer was murdered just after 11 p.m. Saturday night during a confrontation with a group of young Muslim men in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn at a Mobil convenience store and gas station.

The New York Police Department’s 66th Precinct homicide investigators, along with detectives from the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force, are searching for a teenage suspect seen in surveillance video footage arguing with the victim, O’Shae Sibley, 28.

According to witnesses and the NYPD, Sibley and a group of his friends performed an impromptu voguing dance session while refueling after a day trip to the Jersey Shore. The teenage suspect and several others had emerged from the convenience store and engaged Sibley using profanities and homophobic epithets.

Witnesses told investigators that the group of young Muslims had told Sibley and his group that their voguing dance was offensive to their religion.

On the surveillance video footage the ensuing physical altercation is shown with the rapid departure of the suspect and his group. The NYPD said medics rushed the dancer to Maimonides Medical Center with a stab wound to the chest, but he succumbed to his injuries en route and was dead upon arrival.

Prominent Black director and choreographer Kemar Jewel, who had worked with Sibley since he was a teenager, posted his tribute, expressing grief over the killing on Facebook.

“Over the weekend, my nephew O’Shae (Sage) was murdered due to a hate crime. A group of men killed him for being gay. Once I got the call that he didn’t make it to the hospital, I felt my soul leave my body.

I met O’Shae when he was 16-years-old. He was a bright eyed and goofy young man who had talent beyond anything I’d seen before. He could sing, he could do hip hop, jazz, ballet, tap anddddddd he was an incredible voguer! That’s how we became close.

We both were immersed in the arts and wanted to step into ballroom, so we joined the ballroom scene at the same time and was in our first house together. In addition to Ballroom, O’Shae was a staple in the Philly dance community and was even apart of Philadanco (The Philadelphia Dance Company.)

Since O’Shae was so talented, I always jumped at the chance to put him in shows and productions to show off his talents. If you know me, my career took off because of my ballroom-related music videos. Out of the eight videos I’ve done in my career, O’Shae has starred in six of them! O’Shae also has choreographed and assisted me on several live productions, including choreographing the first ever Black Queer Sondheim show I did.

If you know me, you know that I’m not connected to my biological family, and O’Shae was one of the closest things to family that I ever had. We checked on each other. We loved each other and we were always there when the other needed it. We were invested in each other’s wellbeing and growth and I knew that we were bonded together forever. To add the cherry on top, a few years ago, we found out that we were ACTUALLY RELATED because his biological cousin was married to my uncle. I remember O’Shae’s face when he found out, he was so happy that a bond that was made up was now cemented in real life.

Anyone who ever met O’Shae was very blessed to know him. He was funny, unique, charismatic and always knew how to have a good time. Most importantly, he loved HARD!!! He went above and beyond for his loved ones and made sure no one was ever sad around him. As I write this, tears are running down my face thinking about his beautiful smile and his child-like energy. I can’t believe that I have to live the rest of my life without hearing him calling me ‘Uncle’ in one of his funny voices.

O’Shae, I love you with every bone in my body, I’m so sorry that this world and its hatred has taken you away from us way too soon. I promise you I’ll make sure your memory will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone I come across. I’ll tell your stories! I’ll speak your name and I’ll make sure that every Black queer artist I meet knows that I am who I am because you poured into me and believed in me, even when no one else did.

Rest in Peace.

Rest in Paradise.

Rest in Power.”

Sibley had performed at Lincoln Center as part of an all-queer dance group in Jacolby Satterwhite’s dreamlike digital media exhibit “An Electric Dance to the Movement of Time” in 2022.

The New York Daily News reported that Jewel notably featured Sibley in his 2021 video “Soft: A Love Letter to Black Queer Men,” a nearly seven-minute performance that the Brooklyn dancer co-choreographed, which uses the art of contemporary dance to portray black feminine energy.

“He really, really loved Soft,” said Jewel. “He helped to talk me through it and breath life into it.”

Jewel told the Daily News that Sibley moved to New York from Philadelphia three years ago, shortly after he did, because he enjoyed the city’s 24-hour vibrancy. He said that Sibley had the gift of making people happy.

“He was goofy and funny and full of life and energy. And he always knew how to make people smile. I think that those are his best attributes — that he made everyone smile.”

Sibley also liked to share his enthusiasm and his gift for dance.

“He also volunteered at dance studios to help teach folks. He volunteered at youth centers and he offered free classes and stuff. He definitely loved to give back.”

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