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New York City — Sex workers and LGBTQ+ community leaders gathered in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral following the censorship and condemnation of the funeral of transgender activist Cecilia Gentili.

The Archdiocese of New York, led by Cardinal Dolan, released a statement stating the funeral was a "scandal," "sacrilegious," and "deceptive." Dolan, who has opposed legal protections for the LGBT community through the Equality Act and who opposes providing healthcare for the transgender community on the pretense of "religious freedom," ordered a Mass of reparation for alleged "irreverence" and "sin" in the cathedral.

The present leaders, including Liaam Winslet, executive director of Colectivo Intercultural Transgrediendo, explain how Dolan's language and behavior, along with the Archdiocese, promote violence against sex workers and the LGBTQ+ community locally and globally.

"Our communities are already at risk of discrimination and oppression. It happens here in Queens when the police conduct raids and harass those engaged in sex work to support themselves." "When they paint us as sinners and immoral," Winslet commented, "politicians like Mayor Eric Adams and Councilman Francisco Moya take advantage to dispose of us, to deny us our livelihood, and our right to a dignified life."

Trans activist Erin Paredes comments that globally, "Transphobic and homophobic messages, or condemnation against sex workers, are used from religious settings to exert violence against us or propose legislation that leaves us without protections or rights." Paredes, originally from Mexico, added, "They result in our persecution, hate crimes, transfemicides, or conversion therapies involving psychological and physical abuse. It is a very real and persistent harm to our community."

The group also criticized conservative and sensationalist reports that manipulated a moment of the funeral where the community leader was memorialized as "Saint Cecilia, Mother of all whores." Trans activist Kendry Martinez explains, "The word 'whore' is reclaimed with the utmost honor and respect because Cecilia always fought for the rights of sex workers and for our health as migrants and trans people. She founded a clinic that provides free medical services to any sex worker and co-authored a law to decriminalize sex work in NY. That's why she is our Saint Cecilia."

Gentili was also the grand marshal of "Marcha de Las Putas," or Slut Walk in 2022, an event organized by Colectivo Intercultural Transgrediendo, where sex workers take to the streets of Jackson Heights to resist criminalization and exercise their right to public spaces.

"It is very clear that the church fails us," says trans activist Marcia Fuentes. "They exclude us just as many of our families and neighborhoods do because they don't make an effort to create safe spaces where they embrace our experiences and realities."

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