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Transgender Rights Advocate And Journalist Monica Roberts Dies At 58

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're learning more about the epidemic of violence against transgender people, particularly Black trans women, and one of the first journalists to document it was the late Monica Roberts. She died this week, according to the media in Houston, Texas, at age 58. The cause of death is still unknown.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Back in 2006, Roberts founded the blog TransGriot, named after the West African storytellers who passed down histories via word of mouth. The stories she wanted to tell were those of Black trans people.

TRE'VELL ANDERSON: She had everything on the blog from, you know, obits for Black trans people who have been murdered to NFL picks.

CORNISH: That's Tre'vell Anderson, an entertainment journalist. TransGriot was where Anderson first discovered the first history of the Black trans community. Roberts would take old Ebony and Jet magazines from decades ago and point out the trans people all throughout their pages.

ANDERSON: For me, as a young trans person, sometimes we don't know the history of our community. And if you look at mainstream media, then you're led to believe that everything started with Laverne Cox in "Orange Is The New Black," right? But there have been Black trans people specifically who have existed prior to this moment, prior to this current increase in visibility. And it's important to connect ourselves to that lineage of trans excellence.

KELLY: In her acceptance speech for an award at the 2016 GLAAD Gala, Roberts recalled an email from the mother of one of her readers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MONICA ROBERTS: Trinity (ph) told her mom, Miss Monica showed me my history. Now I'm going to make my own.

CORNISH: That's Miss Monica Roberts, who made sure to properly document the deaths of Black transgender people and celebrated their lives as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIPPIE SABOTAGE SONG, "OM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.