And before Monica Roberts, no journalist had painstakingly recorded and reported on the murders of transgender women of color. She took on both projects alone.
Roberts died in Houston, Texas, this week, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences confirmed to CNN. She was 58.
Officials haven’t released her cause of death, and her sudden passing has devastated transgender people of color who credit her with blazing a trail for them.
She ran a groundbreaking blog
Then living in Louisville, Kentucky, after spending much of her life in Houston, Roberts wrote a column for a local LGBTQ newspaper. There were blogs for trans people then, she said, but none aimed at trans people of color and the issues most pertinent to them.
There also was hardly any reporting on the killings of trans women of color. She started doing it herself.
She’d look for clues in local news reports, like when a murder victim was described as a “man in women’s clothing.” She’d figure out when police had misgendered a victim and then write about that victim on her blog.
Eventually, trans advocacy organizations and national media outlets would notice and cite her work as transgender issues moved further into the mainstream.
She was an activist and political voice
In her own words, Roberts created TransGriot to “build community and pride in being an unapologetically Black trans person” like she was.
Eventually, the blog widened its coverage to champion transgender politicians, Black leaders like the late Rep. John Lewis, President Barack Obama and, more recently, Sen. Kamala Harris, and her beloved Houston Texans (several of her last blog posts are her NFL picks).
And in her activism online and in person before lawmakers, Roberts has made sure that the killings of Black transgender women were treated like the tragedies they were.
Roberts hadn’t covered Felycya’s killing on her blog yet. But without her advocacy for covering stories like Felycya’s, major national outlets might not have either.
“We have that world right now,” Roberts told the Daily Beast in 2019. “The world that we talked about and we thought we would never see has actually happened in literally the span of two decades.”
Houston considers her a hometown hero
CNN’s Harmeet Kaur and Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.