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Outdated ideas of gender are holding us all back. When we abandon them and fight for Black transgender liberation, we all flourish.

Award-Winning Black Transgender Activist | Author of The Risk It Takes to Bloom | Co-Founder of the Transgender Week of Visibility and Action

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Amandla Stenberg Talks Anti-LGBTQ Legislation with Raquel Willis (6:53)

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Raquel Willis on her new series about the transgender community (5:44)

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Raquel Willis Discusses Black Trans Liberation (38:40)

Our limited notions of gender are holding everyone back, not just trans and nonbinary people, says Raquel Willis. So when we overturn oppressive systems and work towards freedom, we’ll all thrive together. Raquel is a Black transgender activist and author whose fight for intersectionality and Black trans liberation has gained national attention. She co-founded the Transgender Week of Visibility and Action, was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 and Fast Company’s inaugural Queer 50, and won two GLAAD Media Awards for her powerful work spotlighting trans women of color and trans youth. At a moment where trans people are experiencing more visibility and discrimination than ever before, Raquel’s insights have never been more crucial. In her dynamic and inspiring talks, Raquel draws on her debut memoir, The Risk It Takes to Bloom, to show us how we can all play a role in creating a world where everyone is free to thrive: “I want people to walk away with a curiosity about how the world could be better,” she says.

In these breathtaking pages, Raquel Willis gracefully demonstrates why she is a vital and formidable voice of our time. Frederick Joseph, New York Times bestselling author of Patriarchy Blues

Raquel Willis says we have to see our experiences as interconnected: discrimination against Black and trans people hurts us all, which is why we must stand in solidarity to fight for a fairer future. An award-winning activist and author, Raquel is a thought leader on gender, race, and intersectionality whose work has been recognized everywhere from the Webbys to Forbes. She co-founded the Transgender Week of Visibility and Action, and has held groundbreaking posts, including director of communications for Ms. Foundation for Women, executive editor of Out magazine, and national organizer for Transgender Law Center. In talks, Raquel draws on her experience as a Black trans woman who grew up in a Southern Catholic family, showing us how our diverse backgrounds and interests make us stronger together in the work that needs to be done. She explains the “three C’s” of true DEI at work and on campus—commitment, culture, and content (plus a caveat)—and gives us practical ways to stand up for one another and ensure everyone can thrive.

Raquel’s debut memoir, The Risk It Takes to Bloom, is a powerful and passionate exploration of Raquel’s life, her commitment to speaking up for communities on the margins, and how complex moments can push us all to take necessary risks and bloom towards collective liberation. It traces her experience exploring her gender, examining her relationship with herself and her loved ones, coming out, and finally becoming one of the leading Black trans activists in history. Oscar-nominated actor Elliot Page calls it “essential reading,” saying that “Raquel Willis uses her life story as a means to inspire and encourage us to step into our full selves.”

Raquel currently serves as executive producer for iHeartMedia’s LGBTQ+ podcast network Outspoken, president of the Solutions Not Punishments Collaborative’s executive board, and a WNBA Social Justice Council member. Her writing has been published in VICE, Buzzfeed, and Vogue, among others, as well as several anthologies including Four Hundred Souls, edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blain. She spoke at the National Women’s March in Washington, D.C., shortly after the presidential election of Donald Trump. She has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30, The Root 100, the ESSENCE’s Woke 100 Women, Fast Company’s Queer 50, and more.

Speech Topics

Social Justice
The Risk It Takes to BloomLife, Transformation, and Collective Liberation

How can moments of struggle help us free ourselves to bloom? In this captivating talk, Black trans activist Raquel Willis brings audiences through the themes of her debut memoir, The Risk It Takes to Bloom. She shares her personal story, starting with her upbringing in Georgia in a Black Catholic family and how she discovered the LGBTQ+ community and found her identity. She speaks with deep compassion and vulnerability about how the unexpected death of her father pushed her to examine her relationship with herself and those she loved, and how the epidemic of violence against trans women of color inspired her to come out publicly.

A passionate and dynamic speaker, Raquel shares the path that brought her to pursuing social justice, and shows us how complex moments of activation can push us all to take necessary risks and fight for collective liberation. She explains why solidarity is like a “painter’s palette”: we can all use our diverse backgrounds, interests, and talents to participate in the work that needs to be done. Audiences will walk away inspired to seize their own moments of activation and create real change in their communities.

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Activism & Humanitarianism
From Visibility + VitalityInvesting in Transgender Communities and Those on the Margins

“The trans community is more visible than ever before,” says Raquel Willis, “but we are also under immense political attack across the United States.” In this talk, Raquel unravels the complexity of visibility and what it has meant for the transgender community. She combines personal perspective and critical analysis, using her own story to illustrate the complicated relationship that trans communities have with the concept of visibility and representation.

Raquel argues that those of us who believe in liberation and freedom of expression can’t stop at mere visibility—we must be as much or more invested in the vitality of people on the margins. She calls for us to center the experiences and well-being of our most vulnerable communities, and challenges audiences to commit to social justice, dismantle systems of oppression, and free us all to thrive.

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DEI: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
I Believe in Our PowerLessons of Resilience and Action from Black Transgender Trailblazers

Black transgender activists and organizers have historically played crucial roles in our fight for diversity and inclusion, but their pivotal contributions are often overlooked. In this talk, Raquel Willis navigates this rich yet forgotten history.

She draws from the stories of historical figures like Mary Jones, one of the first openly transgender people in New York history, Marsha P. Johnson, one of the prominent figures of the Stonewall Uprising, and iconic drag queen and activist Crystal LaBeija. Raquel also shares her own experiences in contemporary community organizing, drawing on the many groundbreaking posts she’s held. She weaves history and the present together to illuminate the enduring resilience of Black transgender activists in the face of systemic racism and transphobia, and challenges us all to invest in Black trans liberation and freedom for all.

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