Monica Roberts, a trailblazing Black transgender journalist and global LGBTQ rights advocate, died Monday at age 58.
Roberts’ death was publicly announced Thursday by fellow transgender activist Dee Dee Watters, who wrote on Facebook that her longtime friend had been “called home to glory.” Medical examiners in Houston, where Roberts lived, and the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition also confirmed the news. The cause of death was not immediately announced.
Roberts was best known as the creator of the award-winning news site TransGriot, which set a media precedent for coverage of transgender issues. Founded in 2006, the site is widely credited with bringing national attention to transphobic violence and homicides, and received two GLAAD awards. (Watch Roberts’ speech at the 2016 GLAAD Media Awards above.)
On the site, Roberts described herself as “proud unapologetic Black trans woman” who worked “to foster understanding and acceptance of trans people inside and outside communities of color.”
“For decades, Monica has been a fierce leader — bringing light to the injustice transgender people face, especially Black transgender women,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David told HuffPost in a statement. “She leaves behind a strong, and vital legacy — one that every LGBTQ person and ally should work to honor and advance.”
National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey echoed those sentiments, saying Roberts’ “journalism was groundbreaking, her advocacy impactful and her spirit and passion limitless.”
“There are people — especially trans members of our community — who are alive and thriving today because of her work,” Carey added.
Born in Texas in 1962, Roberts came out as transgender in her 30s, and transitioned in 1994. She worked as an airline gate agent for 14 years, and switched into LGBTQ advocacy work and journalism after witnessing the transphobic violence her peers faced, and seeing trans murder victims misgendered by mainstream media outlets.
“I happened to be born at the time that I needed to be born in order to kind of set the table for the advances that we’re making,” she told the Daily Beast last year. “Our rights movement is like a relay race. The torch got handed to me at a certain point and when it’s time for me to pass it on, I’m just going to turn around and hand that torch back to the next generation for y’all to advance — and then hand it to the trans kids behind you.”
“Our goal is to never let the flame go out,” she added.
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