For the next two weeks, here on The Window we’ll be featuring profiles of the amazing individuals featured in our Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters campaign, shot in New York by the iconic photographer Bruce Weber.

Biographer and journalist Patricia Bosworth interviewed each of the 17 models, capturing a chapter of their edifying stories. Today, we introduce you to Ashley de la Cruz (pictured above with Valentijn de Hingh).

ASHLEY DE LA CRUZ

I’m twenty-four years old. I live in Harlem. My background—Dominican descent. I’m sort of a homebody. Don’t go out much. Keep to myself. I majored in psychology in college. Right now I am a Patient Care Associate at the Callen-Lorde LGBT community health center. I’m about to start working in the youth program at the clinic. Because there are a lot of transgender kids from around the country who are homeless, they come to the center so lost. I want to help them.

Transitioning for me has been rough. I got no support and no guidelines on how to behave or what I should be feeling. Everybody in my family thought of me as a tomboy. My mother wanted me to take dance classes. My father thought of me as “Daddy’s girl.” But I never felt like a little girl. By the time I was fifteen I was hating my curves. I worked out a lot.

Right around that time the police arrested my parents. They even put handcuffs on me for a few minutes…and then suddenly I was alone in our apartment. I had to make a lot of decisions on my own. My head was full of confused feelings and a desire to dress like a boy. Then my aunt moved in and started taking care of my brother and me. He’s a loner too; we don’t communicate much.

My aunt outed me while my parents were in prison. She questioned why I had never had a boyfriend. I was a senior in high school, and she kept noticing I was going to Brooklyn quite a lot to see my girlfriend at the time. But I don’t think of myself as a lesbian, I told her. I don’t identify with being a lesbian.

When my father found out, he wanted me to change my last name. “You are no longer my daughter,” he said, and he went on to say he thought that transitioning is a one-way ticket to hell. Although my mom is very religious, she does love me dearly. Because of her views, however, she will never be able to accept who I am, because to her it’s a decision made against what God destined for me to be.

This is one of the reasons I haven’t gone on hormones. But I can’t help crying when I think about this because I did want to be the perfect child for my parents. Sometimes I don’t want to live anymore because I don’t want to cause my parents any pain.

It’s been an eye-opening experience for me to work with Bruce Weber. I’ve met so many wonderful trans people, good people, all of them. I’ve talked to them a lot. They have helped me understand that I am finding my identity. I’ve been able to talk to them about how I am so attracted to cis women (non-transgender women) and that’s okay, but now I see there are beautiful trans women too. By now I’ve heard a lot of their stories. They have gone through so much to get where they are. They have given me the courage to go on.

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Ashley wears his own clothes. Valentijn wears Juan Carlos Obando.

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