Raquel Willis’ recently released memoir “The Risk It Takes to Bloom” delves into the intersecting challenges that she’s faced as a Black trans woman activist while embracing those identities full stop.
The author, a former executive editor of Out, The Advocate’s sibling publication, opened up about navigating a world still full of racism and transphobia.
“I’ve experienced misogyny, transphobia, and so much more,” Willis shared, shedding light on the intersecting struggles.
“The Risk It Takes to Bloom” also explores themes of isolation and the importance of community support, which are particularly significant for those marginalized within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. In her book, Willis’s story of growing up in Georgia includes poignant experiences like attending a family funeral during a crucial stage of her transition. This event illustrates the intricate balance of maintaining a personal identity while navigating familial expectations and societal norms, even while not fitting into either.
The noted writer also hosts a new podcast, “Afterlives: The Layleen Polanco Story,” inspired by her award-winning work on Out magazine’s Trans Obituaries Project. “Afterlives” honors the memory of Layleen Polanco, an Afro-Latina trans woman who died at Rikers Island, and the project examines the systemic failures leading up to her death. The podcast coincided with Trans Awareness Week, taking an empathetic approach to true crime by focusing on the impact of society on trans lives, particularly trans women of color.
Addressing violence against transgender people, especially Black trans women, and trans youth, Willis emphasized the need for self-representation and authentic storytelling.
“I think what’s important is to remember that trans folks and particularly the Black trans women who often bear the brunt of violence and the trans youth who are bearing the brunt of legislative violence right now,” she said, in the wake of more than 500 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that has been proposed in state legislatures according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
For young LGBTQ+ activists, Willis advised prioritizing personal safety and wellness.
“One of the most radical things that a trans person can do of any age is to prioritize their safety and their wellness,” she advised, underscoring the need for self-care in the face of persistent activism.
“People should give ‘The Risk It Takes to Bloom’ a chance because it explores the experience of a Black trans woman from the South, (who is) of the millennial generation, who always strive to understand both our place in the world but also the impact she could have to make things easier for the next person,” Willis explained.
Reflecting on the memoir’s publication, she expressed joy seeing it out in the world after its Nov. 15 release, “Which is wild, by the way; so wild,” she said.
Willis explained the importance of trans voices leading their own histories and telling their own stories.
“We don’t need to be filtered through someone else’s lens,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Advocate.com, and is shared here as part of an LGBTQ+ community exchange between Q Voice News and Equal Pride.