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Pioneering Black trans journalist Monica Roberts, ‘a trailblazer and tireless advocate’ for the community, tragically dies aged 58

Vic Parsons October 9, 2020
Monica Roberts smiling

Monica Roberts was a pioneering trans rights activist in Houston and across the US. Twitter/RaquelWillis)

Monica Roberts, the pioneering Black transgender journalist and activist, has tragically passed away at the age of 58.

Roberts was best known for her blog, TransGriot, on which she started covering trans issues in 2006 – long before mainstream media, or even LGBT+ media, began paying attention.

She changed the way that journalists reported on trans issues, and in particular improved the way that Black trans women were written about. It is thanks to Roberts that political attention was belatedly paid to the violence faced by trans women of colour.

Trans activists Dee Dee Watters shared on Facebook that Roberts died on Monday (October 5).

“As I type this tears are filling, my eyes my best friend, my sister, my role dog Monica Roberts was called home to glory on Monday, I’ll provide details soon! Just please check on each other and please don’t ask me what happened!” Watters posted Thursday (October 6).

Since then, tributes to Roberts have been pouring in on social media from activists, actors, lawyers and politicians alike.

Raquel Willis, the Black trans activist and former Out magazine executive editor, tweeted: “Saddened to hear the news that Ms Monica Roberts passed this week.

“She was such a powerful force for Black trans journalism and I was honored to feature her expertise in last year’s #TransObituariesProject. Her work and brilliance live on through us. #RestInPower.”

When she started TransGriot in 2006, Monica Roberts wrote in its mission statement: “I will introduce you to and talk about your African descended trans brothers and trans sisters across the Diaspora.

“Claim and document our chocolate flavored trans history, speak truth to power, comment on the things that impact our trans community from an Afrocentric perspective and enlighten you about the general things that go on around me and in the communities that I am a member of.”

Roberts, who was based in Houston, Texas, was also a co-founder of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition in 1999 and was remembered as a “leader” and “elder” by the Transgender Law Center.

“We are devastated to learn of the passing of TransGriot. Monica Roberts was a long-time movement leader, elder, and journalist who did groundbreaking work for our communities for decades,” the Center wrote.

“She means so much to all of us. This is heartbreaking and beyond words.”

Among the many others to pay tribute to Roberts were writer and director Janet Mock, actor Trace Lysette and author Darnell L. Moore.

Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee tweeted that Roberts was a trailblazer for trans rights.

“She worked closely with my office and legislators on the state and local levels to advance legislation that promoted protections for members of the LGBT community,” Lee added.

“Although she was known nationally, she never failed to lend her platform to support those in need. She was our shero. Rest in power, my prayers go out to her family, friends and to all who knew her.”

Monica Roberts’ cause of death is not yet known.

More: black trans women, Monica Roberts, transgriot

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