How Cecilia Gentili Mothered a Generation of Trans Liberation Fighters

“You said you knew there was a better life out there, and you were determined to find a way to it,” she writes to her childhood frenemy Helena in Faltas. “I too was certain there was a better life for me out there.”

Cecilia arrived in Miami in 1998 with $35 in her pocket (mind you, the taxi from the airport to her friend’s was $25) and no legal status, which made finding lawful work close to impossible. Early on, she did sex work to stay afloat, and was arrested because of it. She moved to New York City soon after, where she dealt with addiction and more jail time. But even then, while struggling to survive, she couldn’t help but build community.

Victoria Von Blaque and Cecilia Gentili.

Victoria von Blaque

Victoria Von Blaque first met Cecilia in the early 2000s through a friend group of trans porn stars including Angelica Lovelace, Dominique Silva, Raquel Chambers, and Sex Change Nina. Von Blaque recalls that in those early days, the girls would get together, swap trade tips, and gossip while grabbing lunch at the since-closed restaurant Go Sushi in NYC’s West Village. Von Blaque, who identified as a drag “weekend warrior” at the time and had yet to come out as trans, was struck by Cecilia’s boldness and generosity. During their very first interaction, Cecilia clocked that Von Blaque was trans and offered her the lipstick out of her own purse.

“Of course, she was on it,” she recalls to Them. “Shortly after, I started my transition and a transition journey. Ever since the first time I met her, she’s always been so generous. I complimented her on her lipstick. She was like, ‘Do you like it? You can have it.’ Though I did not take it, it was a situation that always lived with me.”

The two formed a sisterly relationship over the years, as Cecilia and Von Blaque did photoshoots in Cecilia’s apartment, discussed clients, and cooked together. (Cecilia was an amazing cook, known for her soups and beef Wellingtons.) Cecilia also gave Von Blaque advice on how to navigate the ins-and-outs of the sex work industry and life as a trans woman, offering counsel on dealing with clients, doctors information for hormones, and the names of good surgeons — as well as surgeons who should be avoided at all costs.