JoAnn Roberts, aged 65, died on June 7th, 2013. She was an early advocate for trans rights, trans community, and built a few institutions that provided people with hope, community, and resources. She started her work in the mid 1980s – more than 25 years ago.
JoAnn Roberts founded TG Forum, which is one of the very first resources my partner introduced me to more than a decade ago when we met. She’s written a great deal for TG Forum over the years. Roberts was a crossdresser with a drag queen’s flair, and she also created Renaissance, which was a huge organization with chapters that was welcoming both to crossdressers and transitioning trans people. They held week-long getaways in Pennsylvania and generally focused their work in the northeast.
She also wrote Coping with Crossdressing, which was written expressly for couples who were negotiating a husband’s crossdressing — and both her first and second wives accepted her as a crossdresser. She also published LadyLike magazine, whose importance is likely to be undervalued now that we have computers: for many CDs, this magazine was the only thing that had useful information about events, dressing tips, and which helped people feel a little less alone.
Dallas Denny has written a piece remembering her on TG Forum; they worked together for years on AEGIS; Roberts also went on to be part of the now-defunct GenderPAC and wrote The Gender Bill of Rights in 1990. It was short, but it was powerful, especially in 1990, when no one was even using the word “transgender” (it was, more frequently, “transgendered”, and even that was rarely used).
The Gender bill of Rights by JoAnn Roberts
It is time for the transgendered community to take a stand, a strong stand, against all gender-based discrimination simply because some people are different and simply because some people do not fit into current social norms of gender roles. It is time the gender-based community articulate this stand in words that clearly define exactly what our gender rights are. It is time to stand alongside other minority rights movements to declare these gender rights as follows:
The Right To Assume A Gender Role
Every human being has within themselves an idea of who they are and what they are capable of achieving. That identity and capability shall not be limited by a person’s physical or genetic sex, nor by what any society may deem as “masculine” or “feminine” behavior. It is fundamental, then, that each individual has the right to assume gender roles congruent with one’s self-perceived identity and capabilities, regardless of physical sex, genetic sex, or sex role.
Therefore, no person shall be denied their Human and/or Civil Rights on the basis that their gender role or perceived gender role is not congruent with their genetic sex, physical sex, or sex role.
She stopped working visibly on trans issues about a years back – having accomplished more than most for members of the trans community.
She will be missed, but she shouldn’t be forgotten.