The Legacy of Monica Roberts
Monica Roberts, award winning journalist & founder of TransGriot, died last week. She was 58 years old. Her close friend, and fellow trans rights activist, DeeDee Watters made the initial announcement in a Facebook post. Roberts’ mother spoke with ABC news in Houston to confirm that the reports were true, and also shared that “Roberts had been short of breath, but brushed off serious health concerns. Family members had encouraged her to get a COVID-19 test, but are not certain if that happened.”
Roberts is largely credited with bringing much needed media attention to the lives of transgender people, especially BIPOC lives. She transformed traditional journalism, an industry heavily dominated by white cis males, by not only putting the lens on trans folks, but by sharing their stories on her own when no one else would.
She noted how the misgendering of trans people in police reports and in the media, particularly within the first 48 hours of a homicide, delayed the investigation because the public information was inaccurate. She worked with several organizations to ensure that they accurately and honorably reported on the lives of all trans people.
Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, talked about her “confident stature, and how she was not shy to call things as they were,” in an illustrious tribute post to Roberts on Twitter. She served on the first Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board in Houston, TX.
Not only did being a Black transwoman deepen the insistence of her work, but Roberts often joked that she “came from a long line of hell-raisers,” and she did. Her father was a key figure in making sure that Black people working in the radio industry in Houston, Texas didn’t only get positions as DJs, but also in executive sales and management roles. Roberts took to the use of the media to send a much needed message as well, and it has not gone unnoticed.
The current state of trans journalism is not where it should be, but it is far from where it was when Roberts started TransGrio in 2006. It is becoming more common to see more care in the coverage of stories about trans people, especially Black trans women.
Since her passing, globally renowned media publications have been sharing the news of her death, countering false reports of how she died with accurate and verifiable information from those who loved her and knew her well, and celebrating her as the esteemed journalist that she was. Many of these publications were not even reporting on trans people at all nearly 15 years ago when she began her blog, which makes it even clearer the kind of impact that she made on the world.
Thanks to the work that she has done, more BIPOC Trans journalists, artists, and narratives have become more prevalent. Janet Mock, Thomas Page McBee, Raquel Willis, Kacen Callender, and so many other brilliant souls carry on the legacy of her work.