Autopsy Reveals Monica Roberts Experienced Medical Emergency

Monica Roberts during a rally spotlighting anti-transgender violence held during the National LGBTQ Task Force's January Creating Change Conference.
Devon Rowland/ Courtesy of the National LGBTQ Task Force

After initially stating that longtime trans activist and blogger Monica Roberts was fatally struck by a vehicle in a hit-and-run, Houston authorities are now saying she died after suffering from a medical emergency.

It was already understood that Roberts, whose sudden death shocked the LGBTQ community, was taking out the trash shortly after midnight on October 6 when her body was discovered outside her apartment complex at 3030 Elmside Drive in Houston. Though police initially suspected she was fatally struck by a vehicle that bolted the scene, authorities subsequently presented a different explanation.

“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,” Houston police said in a written statement October 9.

Beloved blogger’s family said she was feeling short-winded; medical examiner finds blood clots, overturning initial hit-and-run finding

Roberts’ mother, Mable Roberts, told the Houston Chronicle that the medical examiner informed their family that Roberts had blood clots in her lungs, and a spokesperson for the medical examiner told Gay City News that she suffered complications of acute and chronic pulmonary artery thromboemboli. Roberts noted that her daughter was feeling short-winded on the day she died — and her family suspects she felt weak and collapsed in the parking lot.

It is not clear whether Roberts, who was 58, contracted COVID-19. Her family said she was not showing typical signs of the virus, but her mother nonetheless said “we knew something was going on” and encouraged her to get tested.

Roberts was best known as the founder of TransGriot, which long documented the discrimination, murders, and broader injustices facing transgender and non-binary folks — especially trans individuals of color. Roberts’ impact on the community was on full display in the aftermath of her death when individuals expressed raw emotion across social media platforms and hailed her as a trailblazer who dared to put trans issues on the radar at a time when mainstream society and police largely avoided the community.

The loss of Roberts was especially painful during yet another year of deadly violence targeting transgender individuals. In the days following Roberts’ death, 2020 became the deadliest year on record for trans people in the United States: At least 32 known transgender or non-binary individuals have suffered violent death this year, shattering the record 31 deaths that were recorded in 2017.

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