"I was a sick kid who needed a lot of care growing up, and I think that was difficult for my family to handle," says A. Andrews, a 34-year-old nonbinary activist. "I was also the only queer person, disabled person, artist person in the mix, so there was definitely a lot of friction in navigating identity with a home life that I found challenging."
Those early years were formative for Andrews, and the hardscrabble upbringing in their self-described "very small and hard family" still factors into their work.
"Why autobiographical work has been so crucial to me in my creative life has really stemmed from the more unique circumstances I grew up with. That eagerness to really process and look at my life in an authentic way and to connect with others in ways that, when isolated, don't seem all that possible," Andrews says. "I am really drawn to the creative process and its ability to share and receive information and support in more accessible ways."
Andrews's 2020 book, A Quick and Easy Guide to Sex & Disability, is a vessel for them to connect with others, making information and support accessible for youth. They explain that the nonfiction comic is "aimed at opening the door for more productive and inclusive conversations about sex, sexual health and education, and disability."
"Disabled people often lack vital information about our bodies and touch that is actually representative of us," they say. "So the thought of not only creating something that addresses that need, but being able to illustrate and make it fun and pleasure-focused -- and skip medicalized and often ableist messaging -- was an absolute dream to put out into the world."
The feedback Andrews has received from young readers regarding the book's impact has been "a humbling experience," the author says.
"The reward for me is in that connection. Knowing that something I always needed when I was young and confused and scared, navigating the world feeling really alone -- that I could work to put that out into the world for others who might stumble upon it when they need it," Andrews says. "It's just really cool."
This story is part of The Advocate's 2021 People of the Year issue, which is out on newsstands November 23, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.