Lorena Borjas Wiki, Lorena Borjas Bio
Lorena Borjas was a Mexican-American transgender and immigrant rights activist, known as the mother of the transgender Latinx community in Queens, New York. Her work on behalf of immigrant and transgender communities garnered recognition throughout New York City and the United States. She lived for many years in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, where she was a community figure and leader.
Lorena Borjas was a tireless leader, who spent 25 years fighting for transgender rights, but for many in the community, she was more than an activist.
“She was like a mother to me. She was like a mother figure to many many LGBT individuals in Queens, in New York City and in the nation in general. She was like an idol and such an incredible role model that we are all shaken,” said Cecilia Gentili, a friend of Borjas.
Borjas was an advocate for immigrant transgender sex workers and the organizer of one of the first transgender marches in the city.
Lorena Borjas Age
She was 59 years old
Lorena Borjas Education
Borjas was born in Veracruz, Mexico and studied public accounting in Mexico City.
Lorena Borjas Early life
Borjas emigrated to the United States in 1981 with the goal of obtaining hormone therapy and transitioning to live as a woman. Taking a job in a belt factory, she initially shared an apartment in the New York City neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens with 20 transgender women who worked as sex workers. Borjas aided these and other transgender sex workers, initially aiding Mexican trans women and ultimately working to help all Latin American trans women. As she explained,
“We were women without families and who had run away from our countries, persecuted for expressing our identity, for being ourselves. Here in New York, we did not have the life and freedom we had been dreaming about. We also endured violence and abuse here. In those days, it was a real crime to be a transgender immigrant of color.”
In 1990, Borjas became a legal permanent resident of the United States.
Lorena Borjas Activism, Career
In 1995, Borjas decided to make activism her life’s work. Consequently, for decades, Borjas 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. She worked without pay to facilitate access to HIV testing and hormone therapy for transgender sex workers, including setting up a weekly HIV testing clinic in her home, and providing syringe exchanges for women taking hormone injections. In 1995, she organized her first march in support of the transgender community.
As reflected by Cecilia Gentili, a friend and a transgender leader:
“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. First thing in the morning she would be in court with a lawyer to get you out of jail.”
With Chase Strangio, Borjas founded the Lorena Borjas Community Fund, which provides bail assistance to LGBT defendants. She became a counselor for the Community Healthcare Network’s Transgender Family Program, where she worked to obtain legal aid for victims of human trafficking.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Lorena created and promoted a mutual aid fund, via GoFundMe, to help transgender people who were impacted by the economic crisis.
Lorena Borjas Awards and honors
Borjas earned honors from former Mayor David Dinkins, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. In 2019, she was declared a New York Woman of Distinction in the State Senate.
Lorena Borjas Legal issues
In 1994, Borjas was arrested and found guilty of facilitating a crime in the fourth degree, a charge dating back to her early years in the U.S., when Borjas was, in fact, a victim of trafficking and forced prostitution. She lost the immigration status she had gained under a 1986 amnesty law and lived under the threat of deportation. Starting in 2010, Borjas sought to have her own criminal record expunged, with the legal support of the Transgender Law Center. In recognition of her community activism, she was granted a pardon in 2017 by New York governor Andrew Cuomo, restoring her status as a legal immigrant, an outcome she had considered “farfetched and nearly impossible.”
Lorena Borjas Death
Borjas died at Coney Island Hospital on March 30, 2020, aged 59, from complications of COVID-19. She received memorials and tributes online from many public figures, including Chase Strangio and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
She died Monday after battling coronavirus for about two weeks. Gentili says she had developed a cough and fever but the 60-year-old was hesitant to go to the doctor.
“Sometimes we have a terrible history with healthcare and we are more resistant to go to the doctor you know. So she told me I don’t wanna go, I don’t want to go. And I took it upon myself and I called 911 and I sent her an ambulance,” Gentili said.