Man Enough to be a Woman by Jayne County
10th Aug 2010
Someone as mouthy as me was always going to be smitten by a rock ‘n’ roll woman whose self-confessed theme song has the demure refrain “if you don’t wanna fuck me, baby, fuck off!” And her 1995 autobiography, Man Enough to be a Woman, is a book-length equivalent of that anthemic song: brash, brave, candid and unashamed. In case you haven’t heard of Jayne County (and sadly, although she was the first to pioneer many ideas which have since been watered down into more palatable mainstream looks and sounds, she has for the most part been written out of the rock ‘n’ roll history books), allow me to elaborate:
Born Wayne Rogers in 1940s Georgia, in a “trashy neighbourhood” in Dallas where “one of our favourite games was to jump across the gulley at the back of the house that people emptied their trash in,” Wayne knew from an early age that he was uncomfortable with a male identity. After finding friendship for a time in a tight-knit circle of badly-behaved Atlanta drag queens, Wayne journeyed to New York aged 21 and was involved in the historic Stonewall riots.
Before long, Wayne was living with photographer Leee Childers and Warhol superstar Jackie Curtis (in a flat they nicknamed The Leee Childers Home for Wayward Drag Queens), starring in Femme Fatale with Patti Smith, DJing at the infamous Max’s Kansas City and rubbing shoulders with a rock ‘n’ roll who’s who of the New York punk scene. Courting controversy with obscene lyrics, outfits and onstage antics, Wayne soon had a reputation for being one of New York’s most outrageous musicians.
An undisputed inspiration to iconic glam rockers like David Bowie, Adam Ant and Dead or Alive’s Pete Burns (all of whom regularly attended Jayne’s shows during their early careers), Wayne made the transition to Jayne in full view of her peers, and Man Enough to Be a Woman charts the highs and lows it involved with her trademark charismatic candour, including resorting to prostitution in London and Berlin and nervous breakdowns caused by a combination of hormone treatments, drug abuse and exhaustion.
Whilst Jayne recognises that her undeniable legacy and influence is largely unacknowledged today compared to that of her numerous internationally-known peers and collaborators, Man Enough to Be a Woman never comes across as bitter. Jayne is an acidic, fierce and funny narrator, combining heartfelt but straight-talking sincerity about the complex subjects of gender and identity intertwined with scandalous asides about everyone from Lou Reed to the Ramones to Johnny Rotten (for example: “One of the waitresses at Max’s was this really trashy blonde with too much make-up, who was always stoned and dropping cheeseburgers in people’s laps. Her name was Debbie Harry.”)
Buy it from Amazon for £14.99 and tumble head first into a world where the dress code is safety-pins, wigs, rubber tits, nylon knickers and high-heeled shoes shaped like enormous veined cocks. History may not have given Jayne County the recognition she so rightly deserves, but reading about her incredible life is so enjoyable that it’s a perfect recommended remedy.
Post by Jane Bradley