Pioneering Black trans journalist Monica Roberts, ‘a trailblazer and tireless advocate’ for the community, tragically dies aged 58
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.
And even up until this year, her blog was often the first to report on instances of anti-trans murder and violence. We owe a great debt to her diligence and persistence in fighting for the honor and dignity of our lives.
— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) October 8, 2020
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.
Monica was a friend. Someone who I looked to for courage…for voice. I’m better for having spent time in her presence on the rare occasions we were able to be in the same room. And I give thanks for her advocacy! I won’t forget her. May she rise in power. https://t.co/onntk2uIeG
— Darnell L. Moore (@Moore_Darnell) October 8, 2020
Monica Roberts held us down — the first to defend, to celebrate, to amplify. I would not be where I am without Her — a big sister who told it like it was, who centered Black trans lives, brilliance & history unapologetically. Rest well sis. Thank you. https://t.co/pXVRiTcSoQ pic.twitter.com/Gqsvw8ujlK
— Janet Mock ‼️VOTE‼️ (@janetmock) October 8, 2020
In mainstream media? As I sit and watch articles pop up about her life’s work and her passionate writings I am annoyed that we don’t give people their flowers while they are here. I can think of a few trans journalists who deserve bigger platforms and I hope we can amplify them
— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) October 9, 2020
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 was a dear friend, trailblazer and a tireless advocate for Trans-rights. She was founding editor of #TransGriot, the nation’s first blog focusing on issues pertaining to trans women, particularly of color. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/kIAr68Qe3A
— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) October 8, 2020
There has never been anyone like Monica Roberts, @TransGriot, for trans people & reporting. My work is possible because of her, and she always picked up the phone for me/ all who had questions or wanted advice. I can't imagine a world without her. https://t.co/S6Ouii9hvZ
— Kate Sosin (@shoeleatherkate) October 8, 2020
I am gutted by the news of @TransGriot’s passing. Monica Roberts was a light for everyone involved in the fight for trans justice, a warm spirit with a bawdy sense of humor and merciless intolerance for bullshit. She was an tower amongst us and will be profoundly missed. ? pic.twitter.com/Y1Izk5XsK1
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) October 8, 2020
Monica Roberts’ cause of death is not yet known.