People nationwide logged on to video conferencing platform Zoom on Monday evening to honor the life of Lorena Borjas, a 59-year-old leader in the New York City trans community who died Monday morning due to COVID-19.
Borjas’ work in the community reflected the many intersections of her identity. She was a trans Latina immigrant who also helped sex workers. According to the Daily Beast, Borjas organized HIV testing and syringe-exchange programs for people in her communities. Borjas oversaw the Lorena Borjas Community Fund, which was used to bail out people who were arrested for sex work. She was also overseeing an emergency fund for trans people affected by coronavirus at the time of her death.
Several notable New York City leaders paid homage to Borjas on Twitter, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and trans activists like Bianey Garcia and Cecilia Gentili. Ocasio-Cortez said she was “heartbroken” to hear the news, while Johnson added that she will be “greatly missed but never forgotten.”
Heartbroken to share that #LorenaBorjas, a prolific trans organizer & Queens activist, passed away from COVID-19.
Lorena Borjas, known as the "Mother of the Trans Latinx" community in Queens, has passed away. She will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Her spirit will live on among those she loved and influenced. May she rest in power. https://t.co/x0CfeMs7Lypic.twitter.com/H0rLL4q9RC
Bianey Garcia tweeted that Borjas was like a “mother who fought until the end for her children,” while Gentili called her “the mother of the Trans Latinx community of Queens.” Borjas lived in Jackson Heights.
Thanks to the press who have been calling me to talk about the painful loss of our friend, Guerrera, mother and fighting partner #LorenaBorjas, I really don't feel well right now to answer the phone. Lorena for me and for many trans people in Queens was as a mother who fought pic.twitter.com/eWZOSN0W2z
Christina Herrera, CEO and founder of the Translatinx Network, was a friend of Borjas and told the Daily Beast that, at the time of her death, her throat hurt too much for vocal communication, so the two texted.
“She was scared not just for herself, she was really scared about how corona was impacting so many communities, especially older people and people with other chronic conditions. She was scared not just for herself but for her community,” Herrera said.
Borjas was also the subject of an Emmy-nominated short documentary, The Story of Lorena Borjas, in which she recalled emigrating from Mexico at 20 in order to transition in the United States. She became a United States permanent resident in 1990.
Borjas is one of several queer and trans people of color who have already died as a part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just a few days prior, Nashom Wooden, known as drag queen Mona Foot, died of COVID-19. Wooden was 50.