I am heartbroken and in tears as I write this, as are so many members of our transgender community and allies. Monica Roberts, my friend, is dead.
The circumstances and date are unknown as of press time. I myself have been trying to reach her since Tuesday evening, and remarked to an editor friend of mine that it was so uncharacteristic of her to not reply, almost instantly.
The last time we met in person was in Sept. 2018 at the NLGJA convention in Palm Springs, Calif. Monica always stood out, and not just because of her height. She had a smile that lit up a room, and energy to match. But yes, she was 6’2, and once blogged that although she feared her height would be a negative when she transitioned, “The ironic thing is that most peeps when they see me on the street ask me if I’m a fashion model or a WNBA ballplayer. ;)”
Although she was known as an advocate, an activist, an avid fan of the Houston Texans and Astros and a former football player herself, Roberts was best known as the founder of the blog, TransGriot. She started it in 2006, telling Out magazine in 2019 she did so because nobody else was covering the issue of trans riots, violence and inclusion.
“My blog is of vital importance, not just to me but to this entire community,” Roberts said 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.”
Her Facebook page is overflowing with tributes, calling her rightfully “Queen,” “pioneer,” “warrior,” “goddess” and a proud founding member of #TeamTallGirl. MMA trailblazer Fallon Fox posted this:
“My good friend Monica Roberts died today. She was a badass trans activist… I am going to miss talking to her as we often did. This is a tragedy…”
The Houston Chronicle called Roberts “Houston through and through.” Activist Imara Jones tweeted “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.”
Transgender journalist pioneer Christina Kahrl, who is ESPN’s senior editor for MLB, tweeted this tribute:
Rest in power, rest in peace @TransGriot, now @FayeKennett & I are thinking of a last day spent together in N’Awlins & so many times well spent. I am so much the richer for the wisdom Monica freely shared when she wasn’t also making us laugh. Goodbye & bless you, tireless warrior
— The Fabulous Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl) October 8, 2020
“She was such a powerful force for Black trans journalism,” tweeted Raquel Willis, director of communications for the Ms Foundation. “Her work and brilliance live on through us.” #RestInPower
“Monica Roberts was an icon and a trailblazing voice for transgender rights, both in her home state of Texas and around the country,” said HRC president Alphonso David. “We are deeply saddened to learn of her passing, and offer our most heartfelt condolences to her friends, family, and loved ones. For decades, Monica has been a fierce leader – bringing light to the injustice transgender people face, especially Black transgender women. She leaves behind a strong, and vital legacy – one that every LGBTQ person and ally should work to honor and advance. Rest in power, Monica, and thank you.”
Monica was my friend and truly a force of nature. I’m sorry for those of you who didn’t get to meet her in person. She may have been a towering figure, but her spirit and heart were lighter than air. Hers was a gentle soul… so long as you were not what she called a “conservafool.” For them she reserved her ire, and she fought with every ounce of her being. This hurts.
I’m grateful to my friend, Outsports contributor and podcast co-host Karleigh Webb who called me to break the news. And my NLGJA colleague Rick Stuckey, too. He told me Monica had just been welcomed to the organization’s board.
It was a year ago next month Monica joined Karleigh and me in a conversation on our podcast, The Trans Sporter Room. Hearing her voice, recalling how powerful a force she was, fills me with both grief and joy that we were able to share her with you, our Outsports family. Listen here:
Rest in power, Monica. Thank you for getting us this far. We’ll take it from here.