Linda Roberts, leader of DignityUSA and advocate for trans and nonbinary persons, was born in 1949 into a working-class family in Washington, D.C. and assigned male at birth. The family (surname Allen) was mostly Irish-American with grandfathers who had emigrated from Ireland. Linda was the third of five children. Her father worked as air-conditioning/refrigeration technician and her mother was an office worker. Linda attended Catholic elementary school, initially in D.C., then the family moved to suburban Silver Spring when she was in first grade. Linda had academic talent which was nurtured by her mother. She also played sports regularly. Linda’s mother or grandmother took the family to Mass every Sunday. Linda was an altar server. She attended a Catholic all-boys high school where she played baseball and thrived academically.
Linda’s explorations into gender can be traced back to early elementary school years when she would try on her older sister’s dresses and makeup when no one else was around. She found this fascinating, but necessarily secretive. When her sister left the family home, Linda would occasionally use her mother’s clothing. Linda’s first inklings about the meaning of this phenomenon came in college when she saw magazines about transvestites and cross-dressing in bookstores.
Linda was the first of her siblings to attend college. She chose Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, because of its journalism school and honor system. She played football and lacrosse, joined Phi Kappa Psi and majored in accounting after her high school sweetheart’s father reacted skeptically to her plan to become a sportswriter.
Linda graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. degree in Commerce and returned to D.C. In spite of some questions about her gender, Linda had developed a very deep relationship with her high school sweetheart. They married in 1972 after both had finished college. Linda joined Price Waterhouse and worked her way up through the firm’s audit division until the birth of the couple’s third child, in 1983. Given the time demands of the public accounting firm, Roberts decided to embrace a lifestyle that would allow more space for herself and family. So she took a position with the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). There she pushed for the merger of the NASD accounting department with its subsidiary NASDAQ’s, and ran this department for 14 years as controller and then treasurer, the top financial officer. Before retiring in 2011, Roberts also played a key leadership role in the historic integration of the New York Stock Exchange’s regulatory organization into that of NASD’s, forming what is now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). She also served as liaison to the Finance, Investment and Management Compensation committees during her long executive level tenure. She’s most proud, however, of helping the NASDAQ grow to prominence.
Linda’s gender questions lingered through these three decades of professional accomplishment and congenial family life. She found occasional opportunities for cross-dressing, although she was constantly on the go with work and family life. She eventually found a therapist with whom to discern how to talk with her wife about this. In late 2004, Linda told her wife about her gender identity and her desire to live as a female. Her wife was not understanding and responded quite negatively and proceeded to share this information with other family members. Linda experienced strong backlash as she was accused of deceitful living and destroying the family. Linda moved out of the family home in early 2005 and stayed in a rental apartment for several years.
Linda participated in a program at John Hopkins with her wife to evaluate and explain her gender identity questions. Linda found that this program was inadequate and recognized trying to restore the marriage was not possible. Linda bought her own home in 2009 so that she could have more private space. She continued to present as male at work because of the lack of legal protection for transgender persons. She provided all of the family’s financial support until her retirement in 2011. Linda was divorced in 2013 and started talking with her children and grandchildren about the transition to living as a woman. She began her full societal transition in 2016 and is identified in all legal, governmental and societal documents as a female, the gender with which she has long identified.
Linda’s faith wavered during the dark period of her transition. She found support within the community she found at gay bars. She started writing poetry. Her self-understanding grew through extensive reading, which included authors Jenny Boylan, Janet Mock and Austen Hartke. As she moved further into transition, she determined to find a community where she could attend Mass as a woman. She started attending Dignity/Washington DC in 2013 and found a spiritual home and community there.
Roberts became a leader in Dignity/DC and also in the national organization, serving as a Board Member for 5+ years and Treasurer for 4+ years for DignityUSA. She has led its Transgender Support Caucus, for which she has authored “Frequently Asked Questions” content on DignityUSA’s website on the subject of “Gender Theology”. She has also written documents on Catholicism and Gender Identity/Theology and Recommendations for Dignity Chapters and Other Churches to Provide a Welcoming and Inclusive Environment for Transgender Persons and Their Families. Roberts told her story to several Catholic bishops who were signatories to an open letter entitled “Created Male and Female,” and challenged them to understand what it means to be transgender and how one’s faith can actually be enhanced by living in the gender with which one truly identifies. She also received a President’s Award from DignityUSA in 2022 for her extraordinary leadership.
Roberts led a workshop at DignityUSA’s national conference in July 2017 entitled “Trans Catholic Voices,” where the panelists shared their stories and faith journeys, and she recounted both biblical passages and recent Catholic Church pronouncements regarding gender theory. In July 2018, she led a workshop entitled “Transgender Support: Trans Christian Voices” at the Federation of Christian Ministries 50th Year Assembly. She led a panel discussion at Dignity’s 2021 Virtual Gathering on the subject of Beyond the Binary – Emerging Issues in Gender Justice.
Roberts was honored in 2018 with the Engendered Spirit Award as a Capital Pride Hero on behalf of Capital Trans Pride and the Capital Pride Alliance (Washington, DC). This recognition is given annually to outstanding supporters, advocates and activists of the transgender community who have brought about positive changes to the lives of transgender persons and their community.
Roberts has also participated in nine volunteer trips with Global Volunteers, including delivering lectures on Transgender 101 and her personal story in Costa Rica and Appalachia in West Virginia. In the spring of 2017, her volunteer efforts were profiled in an article in SAGE magazine, an organization which provides support and advocacy for gay elders. She is an approved visitor through Prisoner Visitation and Support and has begun visiting transgender inmates monthly at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, FL.
Roberts moved to The Villages, Florida in 2018 from Gaithersburg, Maryland. She remains a member of Dignity/Washington and was the recipient of a Community Service Award in 2017. She is also a member of St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church in Lady Lake, Florida. Linda is an avid dancer, bicyclist and enjoys ladies’ softball, golf, pickleball, beach tennis, water volleyball, bowling and swimming. She also enjoys reading, film, theatre, concerts, and travel. Linda is also a member of Rainbow Family and Friends of The Villages, The Villages Mini Cooper Club and the Mid-Atlantic Club in The Villages. In addition to her three adult children and six grandchildren, she sponsors two young girls in India and the Philippines through Unbound.
(This biographical statement was written by Mark Bowman from information provided by Linda Roberts and edited by Roberts.)
Biography Date: September 2022
Catholic (Roman) | Trans activism | Dignity | Washington, D.C.
“Linda Roberts | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed May 29, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/linda-roberts.