HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston memorial service for global transgender rights activist Monica Roberts, who passed away in early October, started off with an applause, giving thanks to a woman who did more than change lives.
She saved them.
"She was one of the first people that I came out to and told that I was trans non-binary, and she welcomed me and said immediately, 'Welcome to the trans family,'" explained Eric Edward Schell, the founder of non-profit photography studio Pride Portraits. "It was just so unbelievable to be seen by such a leader."
Roberts began transitioning in her 30's and started a popular blog called Transgriot in 2006, a time when many news organizations didn't report on transgender issues.
She worked with local law enforcement to make sure murders in the transgender community were investigated fairly and with journalists to ensure transgender victims were correctly identified after their deaths.
"When things first started, it was just like, 'Are you sure this is what you want to do? Are you sure this is how you're going to make it?' She had the confidence that this is what she wanted to do, and this is how she was going to do it, and she was going to do it her way," said her brother, Kevin Roberts.
"I'm thankful, and I'm grateful to have her make her mark on me and to make sure that Black trans lives matter," said Ashton P. Woods, the founder of Black Lives Matter Houston.
"Transgender people in Texas are not even covered by the hate crime bill. This is the kind of thing that Monica was fighting for," said Roberts' friend and local podcaster Mieko Hicks. "Now, it feels like we're defenseless. It's going to take some really strong women to take her place."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared October 24, 2020 as Monica Katrice Roberts Day.
"When I wanted to open up a funeral home, everybody said it couldn't be done, but Monica said it could be," said Unique Green, who organized Roberts' funeral service. "So, because of Monica, I'm the first Black transgender owner of a funeral home in Texas."