July 2, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Trans activist Roberta Gills dies at 63
Roberta Gills, gay news, Washington Blade

Roberta Gills, an active member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, died June 7 after a battle with cancer. (Photo by Shannon Wyss)

Roberta “Bobbie” Gills, a longtime advocate for transgender equality and an active member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, died June 7 following a battle with cancer. She was 63.

A statement released by D.C. Trans Coalition organizer Jason Terry says Gills was born in D.C. and lived most of her life in Arlington, Va.

“Bobbie was a tireless advocate for human rights,” Terry said. “She joined the D.C. Trans Coalition in 2009 and she quickly sparked conversations that ultimately led to the successful passage of the Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Act last year [by the D.C. City Council].”

Gills became a leader in D.C.’s Trans Needs Assessment Project and represented DCTC at a number of events,” Terry said.

According to Terry, Gills worked for many years in the parts department at a car dealership in Arlington before she was fired after she came out as transgender.

“Undaunted, she increased her activist efforts, enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and also began working with the Kiwanis Club,” Terry said. She served from 2012 to 2013 as co-chair of the Capital Trans Pride celebration. She later graduated from NOVA with honors, according to a write-up released by family members.

“She was one of the most generous people I knew,” said DCTC organizer Shannon Wyss. “Cancer has claimed another wonderful person, someone who found her truth, lived it despite its costs and because of its triumphs, and advocated so that others could be as true to themselves as she,” Wyss said.

Gills is survived by her mother, Clara S. Gills; her brother, George W. Gills; sister-in-law, Thu Nyugen; and sisters Suzanne J. Macinnis and Janet G. Kimble along with many cousins, aunts and friends.

A funeral service was held June 12 at Murphy’s Funeral Home in Arlington. Interment took place at Mount Comfort Cemetery in Alexandria, Va.

Family members suggest that donations in her honor be made to the D.C. Trans Coalition or the Northern Virginia Community College Education Fund.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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