I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.
For many, 2020 was a tumultuous year to put it mildly. It certainly didn’t lack for tragedy and loss. On a personal note, the biggest loss for me was the passing of the incredible and extraordinary Monica Roberts.
I've said it before, I'll say it now, and I'll say it again many times later. There have been a number of us who have come up through the equal rights activism ranks. Monica Roberts, without question, was the best of all of us. The Transgriot founder and publisher was the epitome of beauty, wisdom, class, and grace. To the world at large, Monica Roberts was a leader, educator, pioneer, award winning activist, superheroine, the personification of #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackTransExcellence. For me, she was also a mentor, a role model, and family.
I first met Monica on the comment boards of Jasmyne Cannick’s website. Outspoken and unapologetic in calling out the racism, transphobia, privilege, antiblackness and toxicity of the “gay community,” Ms. Cannick, Monica, myself, Rod McCullom and a few others found ourselves in the trenches and were regular targets for attacks, harassment and even threats from white fauxgressives. Of course after series of ass kickings (online and in real life) later, when all was said and done, truth and history vindicated us—we were the last ones standing. As Monica and I bonded, I was introduced to Transgriot and became a huge fan of her writing and the woman herself.
Be it trans issues, womanism, activism, self-love, being a true leader, I learned so much from Monica and evolved exponentially because of her influence and example. Needless to say I was truly honored and humbled when I was invited to pen a few guest posts for Transgriot on more than a few occasions. One of the kindest gifts I ever received was when I logged on Transgriot to find a post where Monica congratulated me on the release of my sophomore novel, West of Sunset, and promoted it on her platform.
But that was Monica. She not only fought tirelessly against systemic oppression but she also took every opportunity to celebrate the descendants and legacy of the African Diaspora, people of color, her TLGBQ siblings, and minorities in general. For some, social justice is an activity, for champions like Monica, being a freedom fighter was who she was. When a young woman in Houston was seeking to transition and didn’t know where to begin in terms of seeking resources, I DM’ed Moni and within minutes she had an entire list for me to pass along to my friend. Moni never passed on a chance to help those in need.
Transgriot was a game-changer and provided a much needed voice for those who are often erased and silenced. Suffice it to say, I was all too happy to celebrate both Monica and the 10-year anniversary of the groundbreaking website with a 2016 interview for Black Excellence Month.
My fondest memories of Monica weren’t limited to social justice. It was no secret that as a native Houstonian, Monica was a very proud Texan and a huge football fan. She had more than a few choice words for the traitorous Houston Oilers when they defected and became the Tennessee Titans. I, on the other hand, have a huge disdain for the NFL in general. And the only Titans you will ever catch me tuning in for is the live action DC Comics superhero series. However, anytime the Titans faced off against any team from Texas, I became an honorary Tennessee Titans fan and an NFL expert just so I could tease and troll Moni. But given the Tennessee Titans record with each passing season, it’s clear that Monica continues to get the last laugh.
For us, Thursdays were Shondays as we were both huge fans of all things Shonda Rhimes, be it Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and even the criminally underrated The Catch. She and I spent hours discussing our not-so-guilty pleasures, the VH1 dramas Single Ladies and Hit The Floor. As Monica’s resident comic book geek, I was all too happy to introduce her to Black Panther, Princess Shuri specifically, and all things Wakanda. Oddly enough Monica joined the ancestors last fall, a few weeks after BP star Chadwick Boseman’s passing.
To date I haven’t been able to process her passing. It feels like coming to the realization that you’ve lost a limb or you’re walking around with a gaping hole in your chest. Some days are better than others. But there are still times where it’s all I can do not to curl up in a corner and shut down.
My longtime buddy Kirk Boxleitner stated it best, “In addition to her great achievements, it was always clear in your interactions how much you both meant to one another and respected the hell out of each other.”
Since news of her death, not a day has passed that a comment or a post of hers hasn’t appeared in my social media memories. It’s bittersweet in many respects. In some regards it’s a grim reminder that she’s gone. At the same time, it’s a gentle reminder that a part of her is still here with us.
Monica’s A1Day1, Dee Dee Watters, is continuing Moni’s legacy by gathering and amplifying the voices and works of the next generation of Transgriots.
As I discussed with Fallon Fox, I plan to honor Moni by doubling my efforts to be the best possible advocate I can be for my trans and gender nonbinary siblings. I know I won’t always get it right, but I’ll do my best. I don’t expect anyone to take me at my word alone. I prefer to be about that action anyway.
Rest in power, Monica. Thank you for everything and God bless.