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Lorena Borjas

May 29, 1960 – March 30, 2020

Transgender and Immigrant Rights Activist

Known as the mother of the transgender Latina community in Queens, New York, Lorena Borjas emigrated from Mexico to the United States at twenty years old with the goal of obtaining hormone therapy and transitioning to live as a woman. After struggling with and overcoming addiction, Borjas decided in 1995 to make activism her life’s work. For decades, she worked to protect transgender victims of human trafficking (which she herself had experienced), slavery, and violence. She hosted women who had been ostracized from their families in her own apartment until they were able to support themselves. She walked the streets seeking women who needed her help, providing condoms and food, and connecting these women to social services. Borjas eventually began working for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project on immigration and criminal justice issues. She co-founded a fund to provide bail assistance to LGBT defendants and became a counselor for the Community Healthcare Network’s Transgender Family Program, where she worked to obtain legal aid for victims of human trafficking. She died of complications from COVID-19.

"Needed a lawyer? Doctor? Housing? A job? She was there. Lorena was that person who, if you got arrested, you called her at three in the morning and she would answer.” - Cecilia Gentili, a friend and a transgender leader

Submitted by our members in 2020.