Houston transgender journalist, community leader Monica Roberts dies at 58

HOUSTON – Journalist and transgender activist Monica Roberts died recently at the age of 58, according to the Harris County Medical Examiner.

KPRC 2 has learned from Houston police that while it initially appeared that she may have been the victim of a hit-and-run, an autopsy by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences determined she suffered a medical emergency and was not the victim of a hit and run crash.

On October 5, officials said Roberts was killed by a blood clot and had heart disease as an underlying condition.

Roberts was the creator of the award-winning blog, TransGriot, which has been covering the trans community since 2006.

Roberts and her blog has gained notoriety for its covering of trans issues, setting the standard for how to posthumously identify and tell the stories of transgender people.

The GLAAD Media Award-winning blog not only covered the violence against, but also shared the accomplishments within the trans community, according to “Out” magazine.

RELATED: Search underway for driver who hit and killed Houston transgender community leader while she was taking out trash, police say

“My blog is of vital importance, not just to me but to this entire community,” Roberts told “Out” at the time. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into some trans millennial who tells me that my blog inspired them to do this or inspired them to do that. At least five people have told me that reading my blog posts is what kept them from committing suicide. So every time I sit down and start writing a post, I keep that in mind — that what I’m writing may inspire someone who does not want to persevere.”

Roberts earned several awards for her work including the Susan J Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement at Creating Change in 2019 and outstanding blog at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2018, according to the LGBT-interest magazine, “Advocate.”

She was also listed in the “Out 100” list in 2019 and received the Phillips Brooks House Association’s Robert Coles Call of Service Award in 2016 and the Virginia Prince Transgender Pioneer Award in 2015, according to TransgenderMap.com.

She was also a vocal voice in Texas politics.

Roberts is a Black transgender woman born in Houston in 1962. She graduate from Jones High School in 1980 and then graduated the University of Houston in 1984.

Across nearly two decades, her work has appeared in the the Bilerico Project, Ebony.com, The Huffington Post, Advocate, Loop21.com, Transadvocate, Racialicious, Feministe, Global Comment, What Tami Said and Womanist Musings.

The TransGriot originally started as a column in 2004.

Honored by community

Kendra Walker, executive vice president at Pride Houston, said she first crossed paths with Roberts while doing advocacy work a few years ago.

Walker described Roberts as an activist, a pioneer, a blogger, a writer, an author and motivational speaker who was on the front lines fighting for her community.

“When you lose someone like that, the pain is immeasurable,” Walker said. “How do you replace that? How do you replace your number one fighter?”

Jessica Tyrie, a trans activist, said in a telephone interview that Roberts' passing would be felt in many places but especially Houston.

“She spent so much of her life here and just implementing change in any way that she could to make sure that Houston was a safe and inclusive space,” Tyrie said.

Many others took to social media to pay their respects and remember Roberts' legacy.

“I’m shocked at the sudden loss of [Monica Roberts,]” activist and producer Imara Jones wrote. “For trans journalists she was a pioneer and an essential North Star. I know so many of us will be deeply saddened by her passing.”

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo wrote on Twitter: “So terribly saddened to hear of the passing of my friend and fighter Monica Roberts. She was a bright light and relentless champion for what is right. Monica, I will miss you so much."

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales said: “The sudden death of @TransGriot is a huge loss. Her fierce advocacy for #trans rights was crucial and admirable. Let’s vow to remember her and stand in solidarity to advance her work. She worked to stop anti #transgender violence and discrimination. Rest in Power.”

Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez also released a statement:

The Equality Texas family is devastated to learn of the death of trailblazing transgender activist Monica Roberts. Monica was part of our family and our dear friend and we have fought side by side at the Texas Capitol for two decades. Our hearts break tonight at her loss. We join our community across Texas and the transgender community across the country in mourning.

Monica was an award-winning journalist, who in 2006, launched the TransGriot blog as the founding editor. She was one of the first bloggers to center and accurately depict stories about communities of color. She was force – a fearless, unapologetic Black trans woman who fought courageously for everyone’s human rights. She tapped into her authentic organizing frequency on the daily to disarm and connect with people on a human level. The ferocity, authenticity and passion she brought to our movement was unmatched and her legacy will live on for decades to come.

Last year, Equality Texas honored Monica Roberts as our first transgender activist of the year award during our 30th Anniversary Gala. In memory of her legacy and the contributions she has made to the LGBTQ community, Equality Texas will rename the award in her honor to the Monica Roberts Transgender Activist of the Year Award, so that her legacy will always live on and her larger than life presence and impact she had on our community will always be remembered.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with the correct date of Roberts' death.

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