Raquel Willis doesn’t remember the first time she heard the statistic, only that it struck her as terrifying and true. It went like this: The average life expectancy for a Black transgender woman was 35 years.

“Even 10 years ago, I had no access to understanding what a life beyond the present moment could look like for me as an openly Black trans woman,” said Willis, 31, an author and activist. “This kind of American dream has never fully considered the existence of trans people, queer people and, of course, not those of us who are racialized Black.”

The stat has been repeated year after year. Major media outlets report it as fact. Four years ago, another Black trans activist — Ashlee Marie Preston — launched the #ThriveOver35 social media campaign, aimed at showing examples of Black trans women living past 35 years old.