I’m currently reading Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk – which I highly recommend – and I’ve just gotten to the section about Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling and Jayne (then Wayne) County – and from one observer’s pov, they didn’t care if people knew they were born male.
According to Leee Childers:
To me, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn and the rest of them were the most glamourous people. They weren’t drag quens. They weren’t crazy. These were just people who lived twenty-four hours in dresses and old ladies’ shoes . . . (Holly) didn’t really care whether other people knew she was a man or a woman or a Martian.
The stove immediately became coated with zip wax from them zipping their faces, because in those days you zip-waxed your beard, and what it achieved wasn’t a feminine look.
You took hot, molten wax, put it on your face, let it dry, and then grabbed it and pulled it off. So what it did was rip out your beard by the roots, which made your face swell up all red, bloated, ugly. Then they’d put this Woolworth’s makeup on, because that was all they could afford – this Woolworth’s orange makeup all over their red faces and then go out in pubic! No one thought they were women, no one thought they were men! No one knew what they were! And they dressed in old-lady dresses. This old lady died next door to us, and Jackie walked the ledge from the window to her window and broke into her apartment to steal all her clothes. Those were the clothes that Jackie wore, the dead old lady’s dresses!
Holly just wore anything. She’d just wrap a sheet around her. In fact, Holly got in trouble with the welfare people. She was on welfare, everyone was. She would show up at the welfare office to get her welfare check in ostrich feathers and false eyelashes. One day they took her into an office and said, “Sire, this is the welfare office. You’re showing up in evening gowns and ostrich feathrs. The other welfare recipients are getting very upset about this.”
Holly said, “But me some jeans, I’ll wear them, otherwise I’ll spend my money as I please, and I please to spend it on ostrich feathers.”
– Please Kill Me, p. 91
Ah, NYC in the late 70s. I’m not sure there’s anything an artsy, proto-punk junkie speedfreak sub subculture wouldn’t forgive.