This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating three of the long, long list of female leaders who’ve shaped the world around us. We’ve covered Betty Dodson, feminist sex-educator icon, as well as Margo St. James, a sex worker and union organizing activist.

This time we’re honoring Monica Roberts, a Houston-based journalist who covered and advocated for the transgender community worldwide. We’ll talk about her extensive coverage on the TransGriot blog and her international achievements and awards, as well as how her work continues to resonate with readers.

Who Was Monica Roberts?

According to local news site Click2Houston.com, Roberts died at the age of 58 on October 5th, 2020. Her death was sudden, caused by a blood clot, as evidenced by her last post on the renowned blog TransGriot, which was published October 1st, 2020.

Roberts founded the award-winning TransGriot in 2006 to cover the local trans community, although her writing appeared originally as a column in 2004, according to Click2Houston. She set the standard for how trans issues should be covered, including how trans people can best be written about posthumously, a major problem for news outlets that didn’t have the knowledge or compassion to do so.

According to The Advocate, she was given the Susan J Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement at Creating Change in 2019, HRC’s John Walzel Equality Award in 2017, and outstanding blog at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2018. She also appeared on MSNBC to talk about the murder of a transgender person; posthumous coverage is often very important because new outlets butcher their stories by using deadnames or the wrong pronouns.

Just hours after a 2019 Daily Beat profile, TransGriot was taken down from Blogger, and at the time Roberts told Out Magazine she’d been given no warning or reason for the takedown. Whether an accident or intentional, it didn’t deter her from her mission.

“My blog is of vital importance, not just to me but to this entire community,” Roberts told Out in that interview. “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.”

On TransGriot, Roberts shared her international accomplishments, too, posting about her role as judge in the inaugural Miss Trans Global virtual pageant. She also covered U.S. politics, writing of her support of trans political candidates like now-Senator Sarah McBride, former press secretary for the Human Rights Council. Since posting about McBridge’s candidacy and her bid for a senate position in Delaware, McBride won her seat, making history as an openly trans elected official.

Roberts’ passing was felt deeply by trans and Black activists and writers and other allies across the country.

"Saddened to hear the news that Ms. Monica Roberts passed this week," Raquel Willis, director of communications for the Ms Foundation, tweeted. "She was such a powerful force for Black trans journalism and I was honored to feature her expertise in last year's [Trans Obituaries Project.] Her work and brilliance live on through us."

Roberts was a Black transgender woman born in Houston in 1962. She graduated from the University of Houston in 1984. As a writer her work also appeared in Ebony, The Huffington Post, Transadvocate and many other publications aside from her own. According to Click2Houston, Kendra Walker, executive vice president at Pride Houston, described the pain of her loss as “immeasurable.” Roberts was also a member of several professional associations, like the National Hispanic Association of Journalists.

“Saying it loud, I'm unapologetically Black, trans and proud!” Roberts wrote on TransGriot.

Carrying Monica Roberts’ Legacy Forward

According to the HRC, nearly 50 trans and gender-non-confirming people were murdered in hate crimes in 2020. One is too many, but it’s clearly an epidemic of violence and hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community as well. There’s likely an LGBTQ+ organization that needs your help no matter where you are. Foster organizations, homeless shelters, domestic violence groups and so many more often focus on the trans community or have specific programs to help since so many queer people are more likely to be abused, homeless or otherwise at risk for so many difficulties. Find a way to get yourself plugged in.

This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating leaders who made the world a better place. Join us in remembering Monica Roberts, a journalist who made a difference in the trans community in Houston and around the world.