November 13 through November 19 is Transgender Awareness Week, followed by Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20. During this time, Legacy honors the transgender community who have helped pave the way for LGBTQ+ equality.
By Barrett White
The LGBTQ+ community has seen much progress over the last 50 years. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have always existed, and been present in societies farther back than antiquity. The modern movement for equality in America, however, is generally agreed to have been kick-started with the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City.
The national movement, which paved the way for everything that modern Pride festivals celebrate today, was largely born of the work put forth at the Stonewall Inn on those raucous nights in June 1969. At the forefront of the riots were folks like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, transgender women of color who would continue to fight for equality for years after Stonewall until their deaths (save for Griffin-Gracy, who is still with us – and still fighting).
By the 1990s, Houston had our own firebrand making waves on the national front for transgender equality. Houston native Monica Roberts quickly became known as an imperious force in the movement with her blog, TransGriot.
TransGriot became one of the only outlets for transgender youth to read the transgender narrative as the internet age began to flourish, inspiring countless trans+ and questioning folks to come out and live their authentic lives, many reaching out to Roberts in the process.
Over time, Roberts began to use TransGriot as a platform to correctly identify and honor murder victims in the transgender community by matching legal names with the individual’s correct name. Oftentimes, people would be posthumously misgendered, which could delay their investigation. Roberts worked tirelessly to bring justice to the victims and their families.
Monica Roberts passed away of natural causes in Houston on October 5, 2020.
Legacy honors Roberts and her work while observing Transgender Awareness Week, which runs annually from November 13 through 19, culminating in Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20. These observances are especially important in a state like Texas, which leads the nation in murders of black transgender women, according to a report released by ABC13 last year.
In Houston, pioneer for transgender rights Dee Dee Watters works steadfastly to ensure visibility and equity for the transgender community. Watters was a protégé to Roberts, the two as inseparable as sisters.
“I have a quote that goes, ‘I am she. She was me.’” Watters says about the staggering murder rates among transgender women, and specifically Black transgender women. “People need to recognize that this could happen to you or me.”
Legacy honors Helle Jae O’Regan and Merci Mack, the known transgender Texans taken from us before their time in 2020. As we do each year, Legacy will illuminate the Westheimer-facing façade of our Montrose clinic with the colors of the transgender flag on the evening of November 20.