Pregnancy. The word alone is painful to look at. Bringing a new life into the world is no joke, but A. K. Summers’ Pregnant Butch brings a fresh perspective and some laughs to the whole ordeal/gift/whatever-you-feel-like-calling-it. Her story touches on experiences shared by almost all pregnant women, but really, there are books by the thousand about that. What makes Summers’ book unique are her insights into a masculine woman’s immersion into the realm of the feminine.
Summers, a butch lesbian, decides with her partner that she wants to have a child. Together they explore the various methods available to create a kid, the legal obstacles to same-sex legal custody, and the medical profession’s treatment of pregnant women. But also included are anecdotes about presumptions that her femme girlfriend would be carrying the child, finding masculine maternity clothes, and the conflict a butch experiences when labelled with feminine monikers.
As her physical appearance was transformed from definitively mannish to blatantly womanish, reception from friends and acquaintances also shifted over time; it became more difficult to blend in as a dude when sporting a third trimester bump. She also came to question if she would still look attractive to her partner as her appearance took on more and more female indicators.
The story brought up a few topics that had never crossed my mind before. Such as, is childbirth more painful if the hymen is still intact? And while most of the terminology used for pregnancy is on the cold side, Summers pointed out that the term artificial insemination should not be applied to such an intimate moment. She and her partner were both active participants at the conception of their child, and doctors were referring to it as “artificial insemination” as though she were livestock. We’re talking about sparking a life, a little more awe-inspiring phrasing would be appropriate.
She also even applied a delightful Hulk metaphor for a pregnancy. Think about it: suddenly you’re bursting out of your clothes, your skin changes color (i.e., the mask of pregnancy), and you’re given to bouts of rage. Sometimes all you can say to people is “don’t make me angry.” It makes so much sense that never again will I be able to see The Incredible Hulk as anything other than a pregnant woman.
Summers touched on the fact that despite giving birth as recently as 2005, many aspects of her experience already seem antiquated. Mainstream American society has become increasingly accepting of non-hetero lifestyles and advances have been made in gay rights. This motivated her even more so to share her work. As stated in the introduction:
It seems important to me to pin down a particular moment in time, to document the second before the culture hit a reset button and attitudes flipped. Everyone talks about the “amnesia of pregnancy” . . . I am talking here about the amnesia of gay life before the flip. If you don’t get it down, it didn’t exist. We’ve had enough of that.
This is very true. What we know about history has been controlled by the power structures of the past and they have had the ability to erase and revise the people and events that have shaped our world. But, we’re currently in a time period where almost everyone has the ability to leave their mark, whether through a blog, a zine, or a journal. No longer can the dominant class control what information is left behind. And without everyone contributing to the conversation, entire portions of human experience will be lost. Distributing books like Pregnant Butch will make it near impossible for The Man to edit history.
The drawing style had a wide range, with some panels bordering on caricature, others were detailed portraits, and the rest sat somewhere in between comical and realistic.This graphic memoir has appeal for butches and non-butches alike. 8 out of 10