Published on May 12th, 2016 | by A.K. Summers


Those OTHER Nurses: A Nursing While Butch Comic by A.K. SUMMERS

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This is dedicated to all nurses: the lactating shell-shocked, the fantasy shirtwaisted, and the real ones in scrubs who take care of people.

At different points in my life, my primary association with nurses and nursing had to do with activities and interests OTHER than the suckling of offspring. I know I’m not alone here, as Gregory Isaac’s classic reggae tune “Night Nurse” attests, as well as the never-flagging popularity of Halloween naughty nurse costumes (though I think nothing tops the erotic elegance of an old-fashioned shirtwaist!).

Ahem. However…

When the suckling definition of nursing took over, I felt like an enormous OFF switch had been flipped in my sexual life. There is just nothing like the first-time shock and hardship of caring for a young child. Again, this is not a unique state.

Having grown up queer, I’d first experienced separation from my sexual self in other contexts: as a closeted young person, whose sexuality is presumed to be nonexistent or is taken up with attempts to mislead others about being straight. Later, I experienced it as a semi-closeted person, working in jobs and living in neighborhoods where hostility and danger to queer people necessitated an obfuscated sexuality. And until in relatively recent history, I felt it as a sort-of sexually invisible person in heteronormativeland, where the sexuality of people like me was not represented in any mainstream way and where my queer sexual self was a matter entirely up to me and my sex partners to construct and maintain.

So the separation from my sexual self in the context of new parenthood felt terrifying, terribly sad, and perhaps, I worried, even permanent. I’ve been thinking about this time recently and wanted to make a piece about this aspect of loss that comes with the initial taking on of the physically intense and psychic exhaustion of parenthood—and about the hope and pleasure of reengaging with it when the dust settles.

Check out AK’s prior Nursing While Butch comic, too!

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About the Author

A.K. Summers is the author and artist of the graphic memoir Pregnant Butch (2014 Soft Skull Press-Counterpoint), which was nominated for a 2015 Lambda Literary Award and included in 2015 Best American Comics as a notable comic. She lives with her son in Providence, Rhode Island.

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