Remembering Transgender Activist Monica Roberts

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday October 10, 2020

Trailblazing African American transgender rights activist and TransGriot founder Monica Roberts died earlier this week. She was 58.

Roberts' blog, covering trans issues since 2006, was the recipient of a GLAAD Media Award. The blog was a platform to acknowledge the accomplishments of the trans community and draw attention to acts of violence against trans people in a time where mainstream media avenues did not — and still often don't.

In addition to her blog, Roberts' also wrote pieces for Ebony, The Advocate, The Dallas Voice, and OutSmart Magazine. Roberts' legacy is represented, in part, by the influence of TransGriot on the lives of trans people, and in the ways the blog expressed the experiences of trans people of color.

Several friends and colleagues of Roberts — including Dee Dee Watters, Raquel Willis (director of communications for the Ms. Foundation), and activist and producer Imara Jones — responded to the tragic news of her loss on social media:

Lambda Legal issued a statement with comments from Avery Belyeu, director of Lambda Legal's South Central Regional Office in Dallas, and CEO Kevin Jennings. Belyeu said of Roberts, "she dedicated her life to creating a more just and equitable world for transgender people. She championed the voices of the most marginalized, particularly the voices of black transgender women, in the work for equality." And Jennings said, "Monica Roberts created TransGriot; a blog focused on the lives of transgender women, especially those of color when no one else was telling those stories."

NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists said in a statement, "now, sadly, we do have to carry on without her. That means we all have a duty to take on a piece of the work that she managed to tackle single-handedly. We have to make sure that more of the trans community's stories are told."

Earlier in the week, a report surfaced that Roberts had been killed in a hit-and-run crash. But sources close to Roberts have said that isn't true. There was also a report that Roberts hadn't been feeling well; but at the time of her death, it was unclear if she had been tested for COVID-19.

The Harris County medical examiner identified a body found early Tuesday in the parking lot of an apartment complex as that of Roberts. She died of an unspecified "medical emergency," according to a Houston police statement issued Friday. Friends of Roberts posted on social media that she had been ill before Monday, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.