Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag
A.K. Summers, 118pgs, Soft Skull Press, www.softskull.com, $17.95 US
Is it possible to be masculine-of-centre and have a baby? From your own uterus? To give birth without wanting to “bond as woman”? Teek is a tough, self-reflective character who shows us that the exciting and frightening implications of being a pregnant butch (read: totally gender-fucking within her reality) don’t preclude having a baby and being happy about it. Punchy and understanding, tough and curious, this new graphic novel skillfully weaves a tale about gender, sexuality and the perils and delights of living somewhere between the lines. We’re treated to all the emotional, medical and legal guts and gore of conceiving, gestating and birthing in the United States as a butch lesbian, and all the sexism, homophobia, fear, joy and morning sickness that go along with it.
Poking fun is the name of Summers’ game, and it’s both heartfelt and appropriate in this volume, allowing readers to chuckle at the stereotypes we all fall into at one time or another. Unabashed truths are dealt with sincerely and humourously, mostly without a preachy undertone. Although her skill at telling inviting, detailed stories is clear, it is truly disappointing that Summers shows a touch of transphobia (and really, is there such thing as only “a touch”?) She couches it in a seeming desire to appear trans-friendly (using helpful definitions, nodding at the importance of gender diversity) and self-deprecation (calling herself an “old fogey” as if to excuse her disdain for trans men), but in doing so, she’s stoking the sting of this not-so-inclusive-after-all effect.
Pregnant Butch offers a clear, strong and refreshing voice that challenges status quo ideas about pregnancy and childbirth and celebrates pregnant butches. Nonetheless, with her fear of gender “extinction” and her ignorance about trans experiences on full display, Summers upholds the already dangerous divide between lesbians and transfolks and genderqueers. Despite her clarity and humour in making space for butches and their families, there is a big opportunity missed.