Monica Roberts

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Monica Roberts
Born(1962-05-04)May 4, 1962[1]
DiedOctober 5, 2020(2020-10-05) (aged 58)
NationalityAmerican
Known forTransGriot
Websitetransgriot.blogspot.com

Monica Katrice Roberts (May 4, 1962 – October 5, 2020) was an African-American blogger, writer, and transgender rights advocate. She was the founding editor of TransGriot, a blog focusing on issues pertaining to trans women, particularly of color. Roberts' coverage of transgender homicide victims in the United States is credited for bringing national attention to the issue.

Early life and education[edit]

Roberts was born and raised in segregated Houston, Texas. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father was a DJ. Roberts graduated from Jones High School in the Houston Independent School District in 1980.[2][3] In 1984, she graduated from the University of Houston.[3]

Career and activism[edit]

Roberts was working in Houston as an airline gate agent in 1993–94 when she began her gender transition.[4] She was a founding member of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition, and served as its Lobby Chair from 1999 to 2002.[5][6] In Louisville, Kentucky, Roberts served on the board of the Fairness Campaign and its political action committee C-FAIR. In 2005 and 2006, she organized the Transsistahs-Transbrothas Conference that took place in that city.[6]

She began writing TransGriot in 2004 as a newspaper column for The Letter, a Louisville-based LGBT newspaper;[7][8] the term "griot" refers to a storyteller from West Africa.[8] Roberts founded the TransGriot blog in 2006.[5][9] Roberts was motivated by a lack of trans blogs focused on black people and other people of color.[9][8] One of the missions of her blog is to "chronicle the history of Black transpeople".[6] The blog allowed her to address community issues in a more timely manner and allowed greater control than the column after it was taken away due to a conflict with an advertiser over her writing.[10] Through TransGriot, Roberts also identified transgender homicide victims in order to tribute the victims, many of whom are often misgendered in police reporting and media coverage.[11] Roberts' coverage of transgender homicides is credited for bringing national attention to the issue.[12]

As a black trans woman, Roberts has explored the intersections of cissexism and racism in her writing. In a 2009 column, she stated that people who have a problem with the word cisgender "are wailing in unacknowledged cisgender privilege", and compared this criticism to white people that "call me 'racist' anytime I criticize the underlying structural assumptions that buttress whiteness".[13]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2006, Roberts won the IFGE Trinity Award for meritorious service to the transgender community; it was the transgender community's highest meritorious service award, and she was the first African-American Texan and the third African-American openly trans person to be given the award.[6] In 2015, Roberts received the Virginia Prince Transgender Pioneer Award from Fantasia Fair, making her the first African-American openly trans person to be so honored.[5][14]

In 2016, Roberts received a Special Recognition Award from GLAAD,[15] and became the first openly trans person to receive Phillips Brooks House Association's Robert Coles "Call of Service" Award.[16][14] In 2017, Roberts received the HRC John Walzel Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign.[14]

In 2018, she was named one of "8 Houston Women to Watch on Social Media" by Houstonia.[17] and won Outstanding Blog at the GLAAD Media Awards.[18] In January 2020, Roberts received the Susan J Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement from the National LGBTQ Task Force.[19] In June 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade, Queerty named her among the fifty heroes "leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people".[20][21]

Personal life and death[edit]

Roberts began her gender transition in 1993–94.[9][4] She had felt since she was five or six that "something was different about me", but didn't have access to black trans role models at that time (the 1970s); she felt that she would have transitioned earlier if she had.[9][7]

Roberts died on October 5, 2020.[22][23][24] Her death was announced on October 8, 2020, in a Facebook post by her friend Dee Dee Watters, and was later confirmed by the Harris County Medical Examiner and local media.[25] Roberts' death was initially reported as a hit and run case, though the medical examiner later stated that the cause of death was a "medical emergency"; her family reported that she was feeling unwell in the days prior to her death.[26] The following week, the medical examiner reported the cause of death was complications of a pulmonary embolism.[27]

Many LGBT activists, writers, and other celebrities paid tribute to Roberts via social media following the announcement of her death, including Janet Mock,[28] Raquel Willis,[29] Jen Richards,[30] Darnell L. Moore,[31] and Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Monica Roberts' 2006 Trinity Acceptance Speech". ifge.org. The International Foundation for Gender Education. Archived from the original on July 3, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  2. ^ Allen, Samantha (February 19, 2019). "Inside Monica Roberts' Mission to Identify Transgender Murder Victims". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on October 10, 2020. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Smith, Tierra; Lopardi, Michael (October 8, 2020). "Houston transgender journalist, community leader Monica Roberts dies at 58". Click2Houston. Archived from the original on October 10, 2020. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Brown, Shaquanda (November 3, 2016). "Monica Roberts: Call of Service Lecture 2016". Phillips Brooks House Association. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Lee, Steve (July 13, 2015). "Monica Roberts recognized as transgender pioneer". San Diego LGBT Weekly. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d "TransGriot Monica Roberts On Black Trans History". One+Love. February 20, 2014. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Upkins, Dennis R. (February 1, 2016). "How Has Transgender Activism Changed in the Past Decade?". Bitch Media. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Barnes, Rebekah (August 10, 2016). "Advocates Janet Mock, Monica Roberts Discuss Gender, Trans Rights". The Chautauquan Daily. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d Haywood, Mari (February 28, 2013). "Filling a void in the blogsphere: Monica Roberts for Transgriot". GLAAD. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  10. ^ Smith, Gwen (November 16, 2019). "Monica Roberts on the key to her awesome trans advocacy: "I'm an equal opportunity offender!"". Queerty. Archived from the original on December 20, 2019. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  11. ^ Allen, Samantha (February 19, 2019). "Inside Monica Roberts' Mission to Identify Transgender Murder Victims". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on October 10, 2020. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  12. ^ Teeman, Tim (October 8, 2020). "Monica Roberts, Pioneering Transgender Journalist and Founder of TransGriot, Dies". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on October 10, 2020. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  13. ^ Enke, Anne (May 4, 2012). Transfeminist Perspectives in and beyond Transgender and Gender Studies. Temple University Press. p. 211. ISBN 9781439907481. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c "2017 Special Guests and Awards". HRC Houston. Archived from the original on April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  15. ^ "TransGriot's Monica Roberts to receive Special Recognition Award at GLAAD Gala San Francisco". GLAAD. September 2, 2016. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  16. ^ "10th Annual Robert Coles "Call of Service" Lecture and Award". Phillips Brooks House Association. October 28, 2016. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  17. ^ "8 Houston Women to Watch on Social Media | Houstonia". Houstoniamag.com. Archived from the original on June 18, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  18. ^ "GLAAD Media Awards: The Complete List of Winners 2018". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 14, 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  19. ^ Ajani, Ashia. "How Monica Roberts Became One of America's Most Respected Black Trans Journalists". them. Archived from the original on March 19, 2020. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  20. ^ "Queerty Pride50 2020 Honorees". Queerty.com. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  21. ^ Bull, Chris (July 11, 2020). "These queer media stars are helping save America from itself". Queerty. Archived from the original on July 15, 2020. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  22. ^ Guerra, Joey (October 8, 2020). "Monica Roberts, a towering advocate for transgender rights in Houston and beyond, dies". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 10, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  23. ^ Street, Mikelle (October 8, 2020). "Monica Roberts, TransGriot Creator and Pioneer in Trans News, Has Died". Out. Archived from the original on October 9, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  24. ^ Reynolds, Daniel (October 9, 2020). "Trans Activist Monica Roberts Felt Ill Before Death, Says Family". The Advocate. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  25. ^ Schmidt, Samantha (October 8, 2020). "Monica Roberts, a pioneering transgender activist and journalist, dies at 58". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 10, 2020. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  26. ^ Shay, Miya (October 9, 2020). "Trans rights advocate Monica Roberts wasn't feeling well before her death, family says". ABC 13. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  27. ^ "Autopsy: Transgender rights activist died from embolism". ABC News. Associated Press. October 16, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  28. ^ @janetmock (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" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  29. ^ @RaquelWillis_ (October 8, 2020). "Saddened to hear the news that Ms. Monica Roberts (@TransGriot) 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" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  30. ^ @SmartAssJen (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" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  31. ^ @Moore_Darnell (October 8, 2020). "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" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  32. ^ Morrow, Nick. "The Human Rights Campaign Mourns the Loss of Monica Roberts". Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on October 10, 2020. Retrieved October 9, 2020.

External links[edit]