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Surviving Breast Cancer as a Queer Black Woman

‘I wish someone on my journey would have told me more often that black is beautiful.’

Sexuality educator and writer Ericka Hart has never been embarrassed by her body: ‘I am naked a lot. Just in my life,’ she explains. So it only made sense that after she was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer in 2014 and had a double mastectomy, she embraced her scars by showing them off. She now participates in ‘topless activism’ to ‘push up against these socially constructed normatives about gender that people with bodies like [mine] are supposed to be clothed and covered and modest.’

Cosmopolitan/Ruben Chamorro

Hart first identified as bisexual in high school in the US, but ‘found queer’ by the time she got to college. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer long before that, so when Hart was diagnosed, she ‘[had] fears around the medical industry just with the history that’s happened to [black people’s] bodies in this country,’ she told COSMO. Hart says she has also faced assumptions about what kind of care she can afford and about her sexuality: Not only do doctors assume she’s straight and not ask her about her sex life, she says, but they also assume she doesn’t have the money for certain kinds of care because she’s black.

These fears and preconceptions are ‘definitely connected to my survival and not talking about them is a disservice. I can’t say that they are exempt from my identity as a black queer person.’

Her form of activism is not just ‘to show my breast cancer scars, it’s also to place myself in a narrative where I’m oftentimes erased,’ she explains. Her survival story is now an integral part of her identity, one which she shares with people constantly. She hopes to help young people who are just now starting their journeys to find a place because ‘I wish someone on my journey would have told me that black is beautiful more often.’

Watch the rest of Hart’s story above.

Interview/Directed by Senior Video Producer Jason Ikeler

Videographer/Editor – Andrew Clancy

Additional footage by Aly Spengler

This article was first published on Cosmopolitan.com

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