A.K. Summers captivates readers’ attention by illustrating her own personal experiences of being a pregnant butch dyke in her graphic memoir titled Pregnant Butch. This 126-page hilarious, truthful, and truly compelling comic was published by Softskull Press in 2014 and is priced at $17.95, although I could find it for $14.95 on Amazon.com. Summers gets deep and personal in this memoir by exposing the uncomfortable, “untalked” about realities of pregnancy and childbirth, especially those of a pregnant masculine butch. I am interested in examining Summers’ personal experiences and really understanding what Summers feels and interprets from the conflicting, complex reactions and views from the individuals she encounters.
When A.K. Summers’ son was two, she began thinking about creating the comic (Summers, 2014, p. 4). She discusses how “disconcerting” it was to be constantly thinking about and re-experiencing the uncomfortable pregnancy for seven years, as she continually worked on the graphic memoir (p. 5). Some characters include Teek (Summers’ character), Vee (Summers’ wife), KD (the sperm donor), and Dr. Gay (her first gynecologist). She introduces readers by discussing how her appearance as an emerging pregnant dyke was often mistaken for a fat man. Then, Summers considers her initial desires and incentives for getting pregnant denoted in the line: “I didn’t think about having kids again for fifteen years, until people around me started doing crazy things like marrying, getting pregnant, taking jobs out of state” (p. 16). Next, Summers describes the unpleasant process of artificial insemination, the hilarious incidents concerning her sperm donor, experiences she had at the gynecologist (with Dr. Gay), coming out to the people in her life, going to pregnancy classes, and eventually the birth itself. Finally, Summers discusses life after pregnancy as a “postpartum butch” (p. 108). On the last page of the book, Summers tells readers that the pregnancy “was worth it,” and she “feel(s) like (her) masculinity got stretched along with (her) whatchamacallit.” “I’m a more flexible and resilient butch now,” Summers admits (p. 126).
I loved reading this graphic memoir! I think Summers’ sarcasm and wit are what take this novel to the next level! Reading a book about someone’s personal life experience with queer pregnancy allowed me to gain insight on a topic and situation that I was very unfamiliar and naïve about. After reading the book, I feel I have a better sense of understanding and support for queer pregnancies- as I now know about all of the battles the queer community will face when it comes to pregnancy. I also loved Summers’ honest and sense of self. Instead of trying to paint pregnancy as a feminine, beautiful, picturesque process, like so many other authors and women around us try to do! Summers is honest with readers while providing a totally different perspective on the cloudy, unpleasant side of pregnancy- while also shedding light on the unexpected masculine confidence the pregnancy brought to her. Oftentimes, I hear that being pregnant is the best time of someone’s life. Knowing that the whole pregnancy cannot be all fun and games, it wasn’t until reading this book that I was able to fully understand how blatantly the outside world pushes femininity and delicacy onto pregnant mothers. Summers demonstrates her equal talent as a cartoonist and a writer by accompanying each page with a comic. The illustrations provide comical clarifications of the writing explaining emotions (with facial expressions), thoughts, interactions, and physical appearances. Through her comics, I was able to pick up on the fact that Teek sees herself as an awkward person. One scene that displays her awkward sense of self was on page 27 where Teek and Vee are waiting for KDs return. This scene cracks me up, because I enjoy the way Summers makes fun of her and Vee’s conversation by writing speech bubbles that say, “Blah, blah, giggle” and “Blah, giggle, blah.” I just thought this was hilarious, because she wanted to stress that what she and Vee were discussing was not important due to the urgency and importance of KDs visit. Her hysterical style carries over into scenes that have nothing to do with the pregnancy that everyone can relate to. One example of this is on page 40 where Summers states, “People had gotten used to me.. at work, around the neighborhood. I lived next door to a firehouse and felt myself to be on a tenuous “Hi, how are you?” basis with the FDNY.” Everybody can relate to this page. Although some of the pages on pregnancy could be hard to understand if someone is not familiar with pregnancy, this particular page would make anybody laugh out loud. Another commonality that most readers will be able to relate to is her sense of insecurity and worrisome doubt, just like most other pregnant women/mothers. When talking about the book written by the “wise crones,” Summers’ personal anxiety she feels is displayed in the line, “This directive nearly derailed me. My own butch self-hatred was going to destroy my child’s sense of self-worth and security!” I think this is very relevant, because bringing a life into this world requires self-reflection and self-doubt. I believe that her self-doubt and uncertainty will make her an even better parent, since she is actually thinking and making steps and decisions toward a healthy pregnancy and ensuring the health/wellbeing of her unborn child.
All in all, I thought this graphic memoir was an enjoyable, eye-opening novel that made me more knowledgeable and comfortable with queer pregnancies. I think that anyone could benefit in some way from reading this novel. Even if someone is not really interested in pregnancy, that individual will be able to find humor, self-reflection, and diversity in the pages of Pregnant Butch. Reading this novel will promote understanding and acceptance of the others around me while also touching on the private, subjective theme of pregnancy. I feel everybody should read this book to better understand and grasp the perspective of the misunderstood life of a true, real-life pregnant butch.
Summers, A.K. (2014). Pregnant Butch: Nine long months spent in drag.