TransGriot creator and activist Monica Roberts suffered a "medical emergency" before her death, Houston police have announced, based on a report from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
Roberts died Monday at her apartment complex in Houston, and friends reported her death via social media Thursday. Police initially attributed her death to a hit-and-run crash in the complex's parking lot, but friends and family members said Friday they believed that she died of natural causes. Now the forensics report corroborates that.
Roberts, 58, had been feeling unwell in the days leading up to her death, her loved ones told Houston TV station KTRK. They had urged her to be tested for the virus at the center of the ongoing pandemic, but are not sure if she followed through.
Police had said she may have been the victim of a hit-and-run driver when taking out the trash at her apartment complex in Houston late Monday night. But now they have issued this statement, according to the Houston Chronicle: "There were no obvious signs of trauma to Roberts however evidence at the scene indicated, at that time, she may have been struck by a vehicle. Further investigation and an autopsy conducted by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences determined Roberts suffered a medical emergency and was not the victim of a hit and run crash."
News of Roberts's death surfaced when friends and organizations posted on social media. She had told the stories of Black transgender women, including the epidemic of violence against this population, for almost 15 years on her award-winning blog.
Roberts had received the Susan J. Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement at Creating Change this year, the Human Rights Campaign's John Walzel Equality Award in 2017, and a special recognition award for her blog at the 2016 GLAAD Media Awards. She was the third Black trans person to be given the IFGE Trinity Award, the transgender community's highest award for meritorious service.
She also advised the Houston police on their handling of cases involving LGBTQ+ victims and lobbied government officials for trans equality. She was a founding member of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition and served on the board of the Louisville Fairness Campaign.
"Monica was a great advocate who worked tirelessly on behalf of her community, and she was a great partner with [Houston Police,]" Chief Art Acevedo tweeted of the news. "She will be missed by everyone who knew and loved her, and by those of us at [Houston Police] who worked with her."
She is being widely mourned by friends and fellow activists. "To know Monica Roberts is to know love," David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a Friday press release. "To have watched her work is to have witnessed fierce advocacy. She was often the first to report on the contributions of, and violence committed against, trans members of our community. She spent her life advocating for and chronicling efforts to hold space to ensure that we can all get free.
"We're better because of her life and leadership, and her unyielding commitment to Black people. I pray that those she touched, knowingly and not, will honor her life and her legacy by remaining engaged in the protracted struggle for radically inclusive social justice. We deserve that, she knew it and dedicated her time, talents, and treasures to reminding us of it. Let's honor her through our acts of love and service."
"Monica was fearless, and she demanded respect for transgender people, no matter who it was," added Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal. "Her love for and her commitment to her community saved lives. Monica Roberts never stopped talking about the violence against transgender women. Her mission to end the misgendering of transgender victims in media to ensure transgender women's dignity in death was often the only final rites that they received. Monica's care for those women is her legacy."
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