Raquel Willis

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Raquel Willis
Raquel Willis at Trans March San Francisco 20170623-6535.jpg
Speaking at the 2017 San Francisco Trans March
Born1990/1991 (age 28–29)[1]
EducationUniversity of Georgia
OccupationWriter • public speaker • activist
OrganizationOut magazine

Raquel Willis (born 1990/1991) is an African American writer, editor, and transgender rights activist.[1][3][4] She is a former national organizer for the Transgender Law Center,[1][3][5] and the executive editor of Out magazine.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Willis was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia.[6] She grew up in a Catholic family that encouraged volunteerism, stewardship, and giving back to the community.[3] Her parents were both Sunday school teachers, and she attended church every weekend.[7]

As a child, Willis "was very conflicted" over her gender and sexuality. She was bullied at school and by kids in the neighborhood. As a teenager, she came out as gay, and eventually found acceptance from her peers and parents.[7]

Willis attended college at the University of Georgia, where she encountered more harassment for being gender non-conforming.[3] She came to realize that she was a trans woman, and decided to transition.[7] She worked with other students to counter discrimination based on gender identity.[3] Willis graduated in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.[5][8]

Activism and career[edit]

After graduating from college, Willis moved to Atlanta and began getting involved in activism with fellow transgender and gender non-conforming people of color.[3] She later came to live in Oakland and work as a communications associate, then national organizer, for the Transgender Law Center.[3][4]

Willis was one of the speakers at the 2017 Women's March in Washington, D.C.[9][10] She later stated that though she was glad to be there, she felt that trans women were an "afterthought in the initial planning", and she was cut off by organizers when she tried to say this at the demonstration itself.[11][12]

Willis has spoken out strongly on behalf of trans women, criticizing comments by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that differentiated transgender women from cisgender women,[13] and calling for a boycott of The Breakfast Club radio show after comedian Lil Duval joked about killing trans women during an interview.[14]

Willis designed the Black Trans Flag, a variation on the Transgender Pride Flag with a black instead of white stripe across the middle.[15]

Willis' writings have appeared in publications including The Huffington Post,[16] BuzzFeed,[17] and Autostraddle.[18] She also hosted The BGD Podcast with Raquel Willis.[4][19]

In December 2018, Willis was appointed as executive editor of Out magazine, becoming the first trans woman to take on a leadership position at that publication.[2]


  • 2017 – Sojourner Truth Transformational Leadership Fellow
  • 2018 – Jack Jones Literary Arts Sylvia Rivera Fellow
  • 2018 – Open Society Foundations Soros Equality Fellow

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Root 100 Most Influential African Americans 2017". The Root. September 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Christian, Tanya A. (December 10, 2018). "Transgender Activist Raquel Willis Appointed Executive Editor at Out Magazine". Essence. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Daniel, Ian (August 10, 2017). "Ian Daniel and Trans Activist Raquel Willis on Elevating Trans Experiences". Vice. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Darville, Jordan (July 26, 2017). "How Trump's Anti-Transgender Policy Goes Beyond Twitter, The Military, And The News Cycle". The Fader. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Raquel Willis". Transgender Law Center. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  6. ^ Willis, Raquel. "Bio". Raquel Willis. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c "The Human Element: Raquel Willis on finding empowerment in her gender identity". Georgia Unites Against Discrimination. October 20, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  8. ^ Aaron, Darian (November 11, 2015). "Atlanta trans activist Raquel Willis on gender identity, race on WABE". The Georgia Voice. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  9. ^ "Huge turnout for Women's March". MSNBC. January 22, 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  10. ^ "Women's March on Washington". C-SPAN. January 21, 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  11. ^ Mukhopadhyay, Samhita; Harding, Kate (2017). Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America. Picador. p. 201. ISBN 9781250155504.
  12. ^ Valentine, Claire (September 27, 2017). "Beautiful People: Raquel Willis Is an Intersectional Transgender Activist Fighting for Authenticity". Paper. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  13. ^ Pickens, Ashley (March 13, 2017). "Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Under Fire For "Trans Women Are Trans Women" Views". Vibe. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  14. ^ "Lil Duval Jokes About Murdering Transgender Women, Leads To 'The Breakfast Club' Boycott". Essence. July 31, 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  15. ^ Willis, Raquel (August 23, 2016). "I designed the Black Trans Flag to represent Black trans identity for #BlackTransLiberationTuesday". Retrieved September 19, 2017 – via Twitter.
  16. ^ "Raquel Willis". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  17. ^ "Raquel Willis". BuzzFeed. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  18. ^ "Raquel Willis". Autostraddle. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  19. ^ "Podcast". Raquel Willis. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  20. ^ Williams, Lauren N.; Arceneaux, Michael; Robertson, Regina R.; Sykes, Tanisha A.; De Luca, Vanessa K.; Christian, Tanya A. (April 18, 2017). "ESSENCE Presents 'Woke 100 Women'". Essence. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  21. ^ Office of Transgender Initiatives (March 28, 2018). "How are you celebrating Trans Day of Visibility 3/31?". Retrieved December 11, 2018 – via Twitter.
  22. ^ Antiracist Research and Policy Center (November 15, 2018). "Announcing #TheFD200 Awardee!". Retrieved December 11, 2018 – via Twitter.

External links[edit]