Two Arrested in the Death of Trans Woman Cecilia Gentili

Bebeto Matthews / AP

In February, friends and family gathered to mourn the unexpected death of beloved trans activist, Cecilia Gentili. This month two people have been charged Monday for allegedly distributing the heroin and fentanyl that caused her death.

The Crime

Text messages, cell site data, and other evidence showed that 52-year-old Antonio Venti of Long Island sold Gentili drugs on Feb. 5, and Brooklyn resident, Michael Kuilan, 44, supplied Venti with the deadly narcotics, federal prosecutors said. Law enforcement officials searching Kuilan’s home also found hundreds of baggies of fentanyl, a handgun and ammunition, according to Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

AP

Honoring Cecilia

Her death at age 52 drew significant attention. Cecilia, an Argentinian immigrant, was a renowned activist, advocating for immigrants, the transgender community, sex worker rights and people living with HIV.

Controversy around her funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral sparked outrage from the New York Archdiocese, which called the funeral “sacrilegious and deceptive.” Apparently, the diocese didn’t do a background check to determine if Cecilia deserved to be honored in this space. Even in death, she was a powerful advocate for visibility and acknowledgment.

“Cecilia’s immaculate work and the way she touched so many hearts and lives made her worthy of sainthood. Cecilia deserved this historic honor of the monumental funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and to be cemented in history as a mother of multiple movements –– of sex worker, immigration, trans, and affirming health care movements,” said Oscar Diaz, the director of communications at Trans Equity Consulting, an organization that Gentili founded. “Her wit, creativity, humor, and grace will be missed by the generations she mothered.”

Cecilia was born on Jan. 31, 1972, in Gálvez, a city in northeastern Argentina. She eventually made her way to the United States and experienced multiple levels of dehumanizing oppression in her struggle to survive. You can read the full news obituary at them and the New York Times I cannot begin to do justice to this woman. In 2019, she founded Trans Equity Consulting, a development consulting firm that sought to center that according to them was “paying trans people to be experts on their own experiences.” Her voice gives rise to many other voices, something we should acknowledge by not only seeking justice for her death but listening to trans people.

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She was poisoned. Yes, she was using heroin. But that doesn’t mitigate that these two men allegedly laced the heroin with a known deadly substance. Of course heroin users don’t deserve to be poisoned. She was killed by greedy, vicious, and callous profiteers with no regard for her magnificent life or the lives of the others who bought their tainted drugs. Those whose names, honestly, will not make the NYT or draw ire or an acknowledgment from any Catholic leader. Undoubtedly the people I think Cecilia would be most concerned about – people who suffered at the hands of a hostile world and villainous humans.

The Context

Cecilia is the eighth trans person whose violent death reported in 2024 to date. She is the fifth trans woman. Cecilia is the fourth Latina trans woman. She is the second person of known Indigenous descent. Seven out of the eight known victims were BIPOC folx. As of today, a trans neighbor has been reported killed every 11.6 days. This list continues to grow.

I can’t help but notice that the other three Latina trans women on this list walked in Cecilia’s footsteps – experiencing homelessness, employed in sex work, and caught in the web of interpersonal violence. But honored for their lights – their storytelling, commitment to makeup artistry, and entrepreneurship. They, including Cecilia, are not defined by their tragedies. But we must acknowledge those experiences as part of our collective reckoning around the oppression of our trans neighbors.

Rest in power, Cecilia. The good you drew from your own tragedies to create a better future for others is a legacy that cannot be diminished. Your death highlights the very issues you worked so hard to address in your life – from addiction to rejection to celebration of your humanity and essence. I am so very sorry to add you to this list, but I suspect you will gather them all up and advocate in an afterlife.

May your memory be a revolution


This is our list

This is our list of transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming neighbors who have been victims of the campaign of terror in 2024. Please do not copy, modify, or share this list without attribution.

  1. Kitty Monroe – January 1, 2024. Phoenix, Arizona. Age 43.
  2. Nex Benedict – February 8, 2024. Owasso, Oklahoma. Age 16.
  3. Righteous Torrence ‘T K’ Chevy Hill – February 29, Atlanta. Georgia. Age 35.
  4. Reyna Hernandez – Between Feb 28 and March 28, location TBD. Age 54.
  5. Diamond Cherish Brigman – March 16, 2024, Houston, Texas. Age 36.
  6. Alex Franco – March 19, 2024. Salt Lake City, Utah
  7. Meraxes Medina – March 19, 2024, Los Angeles, California. Age 24.
  8. Cecilia Gentili – February 6, 2024, New YorkCity, New York. Age 52.
Trans deaths

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