ICON: Alexandra Cruz : A dynamic story of survival.

ICON: Alexandra Cruz by MF Akynos

A dynamic story of survival.


Writer Sydni Deveraux

Illustrator Kari Lilt

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There's a fantasy that goes along with leaving the Sex Industry by the anti-sex worker enthusiasts and others who don't understand or respect the realities of sex as labor: Heaux retire from the industry because of some attained wealth through a third party or the dream job which allows us to be both financially free and emotionally satisfied. There is no one reason why industry professionals decide to leave. From corrupt work conditions, to starting families, switching careers, the reasons are endless. For Alexandra Cruz it was a devastating incident that left her almost dead and traumatized for years to come. 

I met her in 2013 while attending The Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival started by famous whore mother Carol Leigh who coined the term "sex work" in 1978. I had no idea that the energetic Puerto Rican who would make me a gown in less than 24 hours for my performance the next day would have a dynamic story of survival.

As she was heading out to work one morning from her hotel in San Francisco, a client pulled up within moments of her starting her day. He put $400 on his car seat making her an offer for a lap dance in his house. When she got in the car things made a drastic turn.

"It was too early in the morning to screen him and rent was due." She got in the car armed with only a condom and the keys to her hotel room. She sat in the car and closed the door and he immediately knocked her unconscious. A few minutes later she woke up confused and shocked. She had no control of her side of the car door and noticed he had a gun. He threatened that if she screamed he would kill her. "I just kept thinking I'm going to die and I started crying." He continued to threaten her as he drove her to a warehouse.

Then she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten unconscious several times as he made continuous threats to kill her while berating her and humiliating her. After 36 hours her attacker let her go citing that she was boring because she refused to fight back and give into his intimidations. He left her naked and bloodied body on the side of the road where she was found. She woke up five days later in a hospital with tubes down her throat.

While the trauma left her devastated and afraid, that did not stop her from taking control of her life and supporting others within her community. Over the next decade she would attend City College of San Francisco majoring in Fashion Design and English. As a result she would help coordinate shows at her college and worked in the dressing room for Macy's Christmas fashion show preparing the models for the runway. In 2015 while volunteering once a week with St. James Infirmary, a peer based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers; her and a team of peers would visit jails where Trans people were incarcerated to bring supplies for those inmates. In 2015 while still at The Infirmary she would be a co-creator of Mujeres En Accion a service for Trans women to help lift their spirits and offer peer support. What begun in the parking lot of the San Francisco streets now has its own day annually at The Infirmary in part thanks to her and the resilience and dedication she has to her community.

During her tenure in San Francisco she lived at a group share house known as The Bakers Dozen. An incident with one of her roommates caused her to leave all her things behind and return back to her native Puerto where she lived in the house her grandmother left her. There she volunteered with multiple organizations such as the Hope Clinic in San Juan. For the next one and-a-half years she would be an outreach worker handing out condoms and offering services to Trans people and to persons living with HIV. To make ends meet she took on multiple jobs. Worked as a hairdresser, dog walker and of course utilized her passion to sew and design clothes.

Things were going well, she was working, building her life and healing from the traumatic experience from years prior. Hurricane Maria would happen and uproot her once again. Blowing the roof off her house, flooding her costumes and brand new furniture, she was forced to figure out how to start a new life. When FEMA offered to move people and give them housing she jumped on the opportunity. With her dog Chichi in tow, she once again left everything behind and came to New York City. Chichi her support dog was found in the trash one day as she was having a depressive episode while still a resident of San Francisco. Eleven years later Chichi is still by her side, attached to her by the hip in her New York City apartment where she works as a fashion designer and seamstress to supplement her income.

A great friend who has supported me in moving out of my tumultuous living situation in Brooklyn and proving to be a world renowned packer of suitcases, assisting me to gather my things for my year long road trip; Alexandra is now comfortable dating again and making new life long friends in her New York home. Currently looking for opportunities to work with the Trans community she is still performing from time-to-time telling her life story, and making amazing costumes for her stage shows.

On March 12, 2019 she performed in a show at NYU titled !Cuentamelo! Oral Histories by LGBT Latino Immigrants. "A collection of oral histories of illustrations who arrived in the states between the 80s and the 90s."

You can read more about her in and out of sex work, and back in again through healing, patience and time in the book which these performances were inspired by, "Cuentamelo" (translated in English means Tell Me) released in 2013 by author Juliana Santiago who is also from San Francisco. Alexandra can also be seen telling her story in the film Trans Francisco which was released in 2009.


Writer Sydni Deveraux

Illustrator Kari Lilt


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