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Gorgeous photos show women with mastectomies modeling underwear

Candace Doyal for Play Out

A beautiful new campaign featuring genderqueer breast cancer survivors is revolutionizing how we think of underwear models.

The underwear company Play Out is setting out to offer “lesbian-inspired, gender-neutral, sexy and fun” boxer briefs and boy shorts for people of all genders. 

Founded in 2011 in by Abby Sugar and Sylvie Lardeux, Play Out uses models who defy traditional gender roles, as well as models who’ve undergone mastectomies. The company’s ad campaigns also employ queer imagery, as seen in this this sexy spring season video that looks as if it were shot in a dark, smoky corner of a gay bar.

“This film seeks to inspire everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin, no matter their gender (or even if they don’t identify with a gender), and in turn, feel comfortable in their most intimate garments—underwear,” Sugar wrote in a statement emailed to the Daily Dot.

The company’s latest campaign, though, is making waves for a different reason. The photos feature breast cancer survivors that have undergone bilateral mastectomies, who are posing defiantly topless. Play Out’s photo series was launched in collaboration with the advocacy group Flat Topper Pride, whose members have all had bilateral mastectomies and have opted not to have reconstructive surgery. On the group’s blog, the three models—Melanie Testa, Jodi Jaecks, and Emily Jensen—write about life after breast cancer.

“Prior to my diagnosis, I had never knowingly met a single-breasted or bilaterally flat-chested woman,” Testa wrote in a Flat Topper Pride post. “I imagine there are many women who don breast forms with hesitation, annoyance, or even resentment. Why do we feel that we need to promote the false impression that all women have breasts?”

Melanie Testa.

Melanie Testa.

Nomi Ellson/Play Out

Jodi Jaecks and Emily Jensen

Jodi Jaecks and Emily Jensen

Candace Doyal/Play Out

According to 2014 research published by doctors at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, more than 58 percent of breast cancer mastectomy patients opt not to have breast reconstruction surgery, which usually requires getting breast implants. While some of those may have preferred to wear breast forms, or prosthetic breasts, cancer survivors like the three Play Out models chose to redefine their own relationship to their breasts instead.

The nonprofit BreastCancer.org states that approximately 12 percent of US women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetimes. That’s a lot of people with the potential to undergo mastectomy surgeries, proving Testa’s point in her blog post that the idea that all women have breasts is false.

Rain Dove and Melanie Testa.

Rain Dove and Melanie Testa.

Nomi Ellenson/Play Out

The Play Out campaign strikes a balance between breast cancer awareness and a celebration of genderqueer bodies. For instance, the Flat Topper Pride models write about adjusting to not having breasts by donning Speedos at the local pool. 

For people with androgynous bodies, sometimes mastectomies can even be welcomed.

“I am androgynous. I have always been androgynous. I am gay. I have always been gay,” wrote Jaecks in a Flat Topper Pride post. “These facts, in actuality, helped me decide wholeheartedly to choose a double mastectomy, when early indications from my surgeon potentially held open the possibility of a lumpectomy. 

“I feel good and “normal” in this new body. I feel sexy and attractive and, well,—like me. I have never had a millisecond of regret over my decision. My breasts never defined me, my identity or even my gender. I am not less myself without them, I am more condensedly myself.”

H/T Bustle | Photo via Candace Doyal/Play Out

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.