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Cuentamelo: An Oral History of Queer Latin Immigrants in San Francisco 

Wednesday, Jun 26 2013

Page 4 of 8

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.

I'd work at Proyecto during the day, then in the afternoon I'd run to the hair salon and cut hair and at night I'd work the streets. There was a lot of money for programs at that time. I then worked in Finnochio's for eight years. Finnochios was a cabaret on Broadway. I worked there as a female impersonator. At the time I weighted 365 pounds. Then the place closed: The lady owner died and the grandson sold it. After Finnochio's closed I left for Los Angeles looking for my partner. It took me three months but I found him.

I came back to San Francisco to a hotel in Polk and Eddy. I can't remember the name; it's no longer there. I lived there for a year, a year and a half before I was kidnapped, raped, and thrown into the freeway. That's the downside of sex work: You never really know. I underwent the greatest trauma of my life. After I was released from the hospital I went to live on Ninth and Mission and in 2003 decided to go back to school, so I enrolled at City College. I learned how to write because I didn't know how to write and my reading wasn't good either. I finished my degree at City College in fashion design. I have my diploma somewhere.

I'm staying in San Francisco because it is helping transgenders a lot with surgery. But frankly I'm scared of going into the streets. Because the man who kidnapped and raped me is out in the streets. He's not locked up. If it wasn't for my dog I wouldn't go out. Now I am doing a show for a theater called Garage. I'm also sewing, cutting hair — but if I get a call to work in construction, I do it! Or plumbing.

Marlen Hernandez
Nuevitas, Cuba
Year of arrival: 1985

I was born in Nuevitas, Camaguey. Nuevitas is a seaport, very pretty. Let's say like Veracruz or Acapulco. When I was 6 I was taken to La Habana and grew up there. Before coming here, I was locked up in jail. For homosexuality. Because I was cruising the streets in full makeup. At that time, in the '70s in Cuba it wasn't permitted; now it is. When Castro opened the Mariel Bridge, I didn't want to come because I didn't want to leave my family, but my mother went to see me in jail and told me to come to the U.S because I had no future in Cuba. At least here I could have something.

About The Author

Juliana Delgado


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