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Alexandra Cruz
Bayarmón, Puerto Rico
Year of Arrival: 1989

I arrived in San Francisco two days before the earthquake of 1989. I came looking for my father. My grandmother sent me to San Francisco on my own at 13 with $200. When I got here I remember telling the taxi driver in English, "Take me to downtown San Francisco!" He took me to Ninth and Mission.

After a few days I was running out of money. A woman living in my hotel dressed me up and said: "Honey, you wanna make money?"

I was introduced to prostitution. Frankly, I spent more time with Americans than with Latinos when I first got here. I worked the streets and really wasn't interested in community, but was only focused on making money to pay my rent and eat. I didn't think of much else and I didn't speak any English. At that time my rent was $40 per day.

I remember my first client paid me $50 and I was super excited about it. Fifty dollars! That's how I was able to make a living for myself. At 16 the police caught me sucking someone's dick in a car. They locked me up. And when I explained my situation to the police they found my father. He was a gay man. He wore women's clothes but didn't have any breasts or anything. He wasn't taking hormones. He enrolled me in high school and I quit prostitution. I only spend three years with him because, may he rest in peace, he died of HIV.

My father's death was very traumatic for me because he died in my arms. I remember that I kinda lost my head. I lost consciousness and was homeless for three years. Sleeping in the streets. I remember waking up one day, telling myself, "What am I doing here? This is not for me!" And I went to one of those bathrooms where you put a quarter in, took a shower, and out I went to whore it down. The first client gave me $5,000. I rented a hotel room. The Henry Hotel down in Sixth and Mission. I lived there for two years.

It was then that I found out Proyecto ContraSIDA Por Vida had an opening for a transgender outreach worker. I went down there, applied, and got the job. Thank Dios! I lit Santa Barbara a candle and it worked out, my work consisted in distributing condoms in hotels to my girlfriends, to all transgender girls. Many of the new girls who arrived from Mexico were having sex without protection. This was the beginning of the '90s. That's when I met Adela, at Proyecto. Adela and I got talking and organized a group to work at Esta Noche, perform at midnight. We called it Las Atredivas.

I never truly experienced a gay life. I was never a gay boy. I was transgender from a very early age. Adela was my mother. Adela Vazquez, whose artist name is Adela Holiday. Mine is Alejandra Delight and my real name is Alexandra Cruz.

I stopped communication with Puerto Rico for 12 years. I was mad to see that my mother preferred my stepfather over me. I was born in New York, in the Bronx. My brother was born in Texas. My dad was in the Air Force at the time, he was a military man. So we'd travel from military base to military base. At 5 I moved to Puerto Rico and it was only when I was 10 that I met my mother. I remember being forced to watch pornographic movies to see if I'd turn straight! I had my doubts deep inside because I felt so different — Dios mio, why do I have all these reactions with boys? And my cousin, I was in love with him. This in Puerto Rico is a huge taboo. To top it all my grandfather was the pastor of the Pentecostal Church. I sang in the church chorus. One day my mother caught me playing with Barbies and she threw a fit. She hit me! And that was it for me. I slapped her so hard I think she lost a tooth. I gathered all my things and that day I left. Until today I have not been back. I left escaping but also looking for my father. My mother had said my dad was dead, but now I understand why she hated me so much when I was little. She caught my dad with another man in bed and that image stayed with her because when I remove all the makeup from my face I look just like my dad. I reminded her of him.

At 13 I began taking hormones. Frankly, at that time I was very involved with drugs and in love with a boy. Being transgender for me has been a bit hard. How can I explain this? Finding love is hard. People close doors on you. They don't give you an opportunity. At least that's what has happened to me. I'd been discriminated for having been born a boy and because, say, my voice is hoarse. And my family obviously discriminated because they are Pentecostal Christians.

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2 comments
promoxs
promoxs

These stories are inspirational and touching. Natural born citizens take so much for granted. The struggle to be more than the sum of your bits and pieces is one that every person can identify with. I hope to read more articles like this one in SF Weekly!

Faithful reader,

John Gunderson

 
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