Lorena Borjas, a trans Latina woman and activist, lived and worked in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York City. In those streets, she looked after her community for years, advocating for trans and immigrant rights, supporting survivors of human trafficking and abuse, campaigning for sex workers’ rights and those of people living with HIV and AIDS.
Lorena was strong and tireless in her fight to support, defend, and have the back of those most marginalized and discriminated by transphobia, misogyny and racism.
“She pushed us to shine authentically, to become a scream of subversion that says, ‘I am here, and I deserve happiness, too.’” - Cecilia Gentili, a trans activist and Lorena’s friend
Having faced numerous traumas and hardships herself, as a trans immigrant woman and victim of human trafficking, Lorena pulled knowledge and emotional memory from the well of her experiences in order to help build and strengthen the community she was part of and which was part of her. Some of the ways she did this was to organize and mobilize support ranging from providing condoms and connecting trans women to different services, to setting up an HIV testing clinic in her own home.
"She was such a beautiful soul who helped others when her journey was difficult and painful as an immigrant, as a trans immigrant. She believed the trans community needed love, acceptance, and compassion, and she gave it all.” - Luchia Dragosh, QPTV Supervising producer of a documentary about Lorena
In more than 25 years of activism, she also founded the Lorena Borjas Community Fund together with Chase Strangio (lawyer and trans rights activist). The Fund helps the many different members of her community (and especially trans persons) dealing with immigration challenges to avoid the cycle of arrest-jail-deportation.
Lorena passed away in March 2020 of complications from COVID-19.
Her enormous and beautiful legacy will be taken forward through the streets of Queens by the network and community she co-created.
“We will pick up her work where she left it, work that is essential to the well-being of “mis pajaras” as she called the trans girls of Queens under her wing.” - Cecilia Gentili
"Lorena brought light to us when we were living through a very dark time here in New York. She brought us light when we were dealing with the crack epidemic, when we were dealing with the AIDS crisis, dealing with changes in immigration policies." - Cristina Herrera, founder and CEO of Translatina Network and Lorena’s friend
"Lorena has done more than anyone else I know to shine a light on the epidemic of trafficking in transgender communities and to help other trans women escape exploitation." - Lynly Egyes (represented Borjas on behalf of the Transgender Law Center)
Watch a documentary about Lorena Borjas
Read a postscript in The New Yorker about Lorena Borjas
Read an opinion piece in the New York Times by Cecilia Gentilin