When Monica Roberts passed away last year, trans journalists were effusive tweeting about how much she meant to them. She was a leader in the space and inspired so many, making a career as a trans journalist a possibility for those who never dreamed of it. Her legacy lives on in all who came after her and in every news story written about trans people, especially Black trans people.
Roberts was and is definitively the mother of modern trans journalism. When major news sites or channels discuss violence against and murders of trans people, that’s because of her. Her blog TransGriot, which she ran from 2006 until her death in 2020, was one of the first, and for a long time, one of the only, places that reported on Black trans news and celebrated and profiled Black trans lives and history.
Mainstream news and even larger LGBTQ+ news sites didn’t stop misgendering and deadnaming trans people in news reports until just a few years ago. As recently as fi ve years ago, if a trans person was murdered, TransGriot was often one of the few outlets to cover the murder and properly gender the victim. Roberts made sure every victim got their story told and their real name spoken. She made sure that they wouldn’t be forgotten.
A griot is a type of West African oral storyteller who can remember and recite up to 500 years of their people’s history, and that’s exactly what Roberts was for Black trans people, as she chronicled Black trans history on the internet like no one before.
Less than a decade ago, it was nearly impossible to find news stories covering trans people, and even harder to find ones that treated trans folks with any respect at all. Then there was TransGriot. Roberts didn’t just report on the murders of trans people before anyone else; her blog was a daily celebration of Black trans history and culture. And it is now a part of that history.
Her blog celebrated trans women from the past, like Sir Lady Java and Carlett Brown, while also highlighting more current Black trans people who were making a difference.
Roberts showed a whole generation of people on the internet that the trans community has a rich and vibrant history and culture, and she made sure it would never be erased. Roberts won many awards throughout her life for her writing and activism, including two GLAAD Media Awards for Outstanding Blog. And she was named one of The Advocate’s Women of the Year last year.
For trans journalists of color, she was more than just a possibility model, inspiring careers for those writing about issues that affect the community. She also served as a community hub, welcoming in new journalists, encouraging trans writers, offering advice, and building connections. She was always there with a kind word for those who were inspired by her writing.
Her activism didn’t stop there. Roberts was deeply involved in local, state, and national politics. Her blog regularly commented and reported on Houston and Texas politics, giving readers a take on the issues from someone who looks like them. She was also a huge proponent of voting, encouraging others to get out and vote on the issues affecting Black and LGBTQ+ people.
Roberts made sure that generations of trans people to come will know that trans people can exist and be happy, can follow their dreams and be successful. There’s a long history that should make trans folks proud. Roberts is a part of that history.