Monica Roberts, Trailblazing Trans Activist And Journalist, Dies At 58, Tributes Pour In
The LGBTQ community in Houston and across the nation is mourning the sudden death of Monica Roberts, 58, a trailblazing trans activist, journalist, and founder of TransGriot, an award-winning blog operated by Roberts since 2006 that served as a leader in timely and accurate reporting of the lives and untimely deaths of Black trans and Latinx women.
A cause of death was reported earlier by Houston's ABC affiliate KTRK that revealed the initial police report indicated she may have been hit by a car, but now, friends and family say the cause could be natural.
Family members told ABC13 on Friday that she had not been feeling well in recent days. They had encouraged her to get a COVID-19 test, but are not certain if that happened.
News of Roberts' passing first broke on social media on Thursday in a video posted by friend and fellow Houston trans activist Dee Dee Waters, with hundreds of tributes from colleagues, mentees, and supporters from across the nation quickly pouring in. Through tears, Waters asked the community for its prayers.
"I just ask that you all please pray for the family, please pray for myself. I don't know how to put it in words," Watters said with tears in her eyes. "Check on your friends. Check on the people that you love. Make sure they know that you love them. We have to be there for each other. I'm lost right now. I don't know what to do."
She began tracking the killings of transgender people nationwide, often reporting on deaths that would otherwise go uncovered because police departments and news outlets would use incorrect names and genders for victims in reports.
“I got tired of them being disrespected in death,” Roberts told the Daily Beast in a profile last year. “We know for a fact that the first 48 hours are critical in any murder investigation in whether the person gets justice,” she added. “So when you deliberately misgender a victim, then you’re delaying justice for that trans person who has been murdered.”
In the years since Roberts began her work, the transgender community has grown to unprecedented levels of visibility and acceptance. Transgender people have been elected to public office across the country and have gained landmark advancements at the state and federal level — most recently, in a Supreme Court ruling on workplace protections. The violence faced by transgender people, especially Black trans women, has also gained national attention. It is now considered an “epidemic” by the American Medical Association, has spurred massive marches and even received mentions during presidential primary debates.
And much of that growth in awareness is thanks to the work of Roberts, advocates say.
“Before anyone really in this country on the national stage paid attention to the deaths of trans and nonbinary people … Monica Roberts was there drawing attention to it,” said Charlotte Clymer, a writer and LGBTQ advocate.
Just this month, Roberts earned an armful of honors in OutSmart magazine's Gayest & Greatest Readers' Choice Awards. She was named most prominent trans female activist, most valuable trans female volunteer, favorite local LGBTQ blogger and favorite national LGBTQ blogger/vlogger.
She was the first trans person to win the Don Hrachovy Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded by the Houston GLBT Caucus, earlier this month. TransGriot also won the 2014 GLAAD Media Award for outstanding blog. Roberts was a founding member of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.
Roberts started her transition in 1993 while working for an airline and said she encountered several forms of discrimination, according to GLAAD.
"While returning home from work in my airline uniform, a passenger made anti-trans comments while walking down the aisle of the airplane to their seat," Roberts recalled.
"I have no regrets and feel my life began the moment I decided to transition. I wouldn't trade the life I have now for my life prior to 1994. Let's face it, I've been to the White House, met interesting people, given speeches, talked to politicians and college students about our issues. I've lived an interesting life since 1994 and I am happy. I am happy in my own skin."
Living Out Loud 2.0 would like to send our condolences to the Roberts family and to all those who loved Monica Roberts as much as we did. Rest in power, Monica. Job well done.