Monica Roberts, the late transgender journalist and groundbreaking advocate, did what most major news outlets and law enforcement fail to do: accurately document the history and lives of trans people throughout the country. After her death in 2020, New York activist Jevon Martin partnered with other LGBTQ advocates to create a resource center in her honor.
“Losing her was like losing our history,” says Martin, a Black trans man who oversees Princess Janae Place, a New York nonprofit designed to help trans folk transition from homelessness to independent living. “This resource center is gonna carry her legacy. It’s important to know the people that paved the road that you’re walking on.”
The Monica Roberts Resource Center (MRRC) will honor trans Pride with its first-ever celebration at 6 p.m. on June 24 at Maceo’s, a local events venue owned by a lesbian couple. The free Pride event will include an awards ceremony to recognize trans individuals and business owners in Houston for their service and advocacy.
“We’re going to need the community to make this work,” Martin says. People can donate to the Monica Roberts Resource Center and learn more about the trans Pride event online.
To create the resource center, Martin teamed up with Dezjorn Gauthier, who oversees a foundation that provides funding for transgender surgeries. Martin has also worked with Kiara St. James, the co-founder and executive director of New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and Dee Dee Watters, a trans local activist who founded TransGriot L.L.C., a Black trans publication inspired by Roberts’ work.
The center will offer Houston’s LGBTQ community recreational activities such as pool, darts, and board games. It will also serve as a drop-in resource center that can connect people to mental health and clinical services as well as LGBTQ-friendly businesses.
“Monica was all about uplifting others, especially the Black trans youth,” Gauthier says. “The MRRC will provide the opportunity for trans youth to safely gather and receive the welcoming support they deserve.”
As a Texas native, St. James hopes the center will uplift Roberts’ legacy and advance the fight for trans liberation in the South. “It is an opportunity to build bridges and replicate what folks in New York City and San Francisco have gotten right.”
The resource center is currently receiving startup support from the Montrose Center’s incubator program, which helps small nonprofits by providing free meeting spaces, discounted office space, and fiscal agency support.
While the Monica Roberts Resource Center is currently only a Facebook page and a website seeking to become a physical space in Houston, it has already helped many members of the queer community. For example, the center directed an individual seeking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to several LGBTQ-friendly healthcare facilities. And since some primary care physicians are unaware of HRT protocols, the center also offered to speak with the person’s doctor about prescribing HRT therapy.
While the center was largely created for the trans community, Martin emphasizes that everyone is welcome. “Because Monica was so diverse and loving, we wanted to make sure that the center is welcoming to the entire LGBTQ community,” he notes.
The center also plans on becoming a media hub where people can share their writing, learn how to become a journalist, and support TransGriot L.L.C.’s mission to uphold Roberts’ legacy through community activism.
Every interaction that Gauthier had with Roberts was life-changing. She believed in Gauthier when others did not, and connected him to the resources and contacts he needed to succeed. Without fail, their conversations ended with Roberts reminding him to never give up.
“The most powerful thing she told me when I created Black T Magazine (the world’s first Black trans culture magazine) was, ‘Never stop telling our stories. No matter how hard it gets, continue to write our history!’” Gauthier recalls.
St. James will also remember how Roberts encouraged her to own her power unapologetically.
Martin knew Roberts for nearly two decades. He remembers running into her at several LGBTQ events, teasing her when her beloved Houston Astros lost a game, and even treating her to a manicure and pedicure for her birthday. He admired her commitment to the LGBTQ community and her vast knowledge of trans issues and activists.
“The Rolodex in her mind was so extensive,” he says. “You could ask her anything, and she’d tell you how to contact the person without going into her phone.”
Martin brings flowers to Roberts’ final resting place at a mausoleum in Houston almost every other week. He cherishes those quiet visits when he can hear her reminding him once again to “just keep your head up, and don’t worry about what people say about you. Just keep pushing forward.”
Martin intends to do just that as the founder and executive director of Houston’s new Monica Roberts Resource Center.
What: Trans PRIDE
When: 6 p.m. on June 24
Where: Maceo’s, 4637 Dagg Rd.