A Legal Eagle fighting for equality | Media Pyro


Phyllis Frye was not afraid of a fight. His reputation is synonymous with the transgender community’s desire to insert a T in LGBTQ, and his rise to the law is a highly publicized one. Known as the “grandmother of the legal and political transgender community,” Frye has a gentle side that is characterized by compassion and caring despite her aggressiveness in the courtroom and politics.

Many aspects of Frye’s life and times can now be better understood thanks to an authorized biography written by Michael G. Long and Shea Tuttle, with an introduction by Shannon Minter and published by Texas.
A&M University Press. Phyllis Frye and the Fight for Transgender Rights is a 268-page journey that explores Frye’s sexuality and gender, as well as her struggles and triumphs in bringing transgender issues to the forefront of the public’s mind. tribe

“The title of the book says ‘The Fight,’ and I won. If you read to the end, you’ll see that I won,” Frye said.

And he fought and worked. Frye has fought for nearly every job, relationship, and professional qualification in his life—fights that are well-discussed, including some sarcastic words to indicate a less-than-easy path. .
has gone. Although the road is rocky, he quickly paves an easy path for those who follow his example of motivation.

Although Frye was a prominent lawyer, his admission to law school was more than a matter of choice. Trained in the military and a dual graduate of Texas A&M University engineering programs, Frye enjoyed a career in the oil and gas industry. However, his preference for wearing women’s clothes and preaching Christianity during working hours (despite his male body at the time) clearly confirmed his his employers and his colleagues. He was often assigned to menial duties and then fired from certain duties.

And that’s what led to his second career in the courtroom.

“I became a lawyer by accident,” Frye admits. “When I started transitioning in 1976, I was not only fired, but black-It was fostered by the Houston engineering community because they didn’t care about this strange man who turned into a woman. Because I was discharged from the military and eligible for the GI Bill, I thought I could get a master’s degree in business administration because [it would buy me some time while I was unemployed]. And maybe, in those classes, there will be some kind of young engineering manager who will recognize me as a person, rather than a ‘thing,’ and I can get a job.”

Frye enrolled at the University of Houston when the school introduced an MBA-JD program. In Frye’s view, it would give him more time to rely on the GI Bill for income. In addition, he knew that a lawyer could fight and correct the injustices faced by trans people at that time.

“I thought if I became a lawyer, maybe I could sue [the people who were] let my life be miserable. That’s the reason—and the only reason—I went to law school,” he added with a wry smile.

An excerpt from page 96 of the book captures Frye’s early struggles and subsequent successes in raising awareness of gender equality issues:

When she graduated from law school, Phyllis felt a deep sense of accomplishment. First, he entered law school despite the fears of some professors and administrators. Then, during her studies, she became active in restricting her use of women’s bathrooms and petitioned the City Council to repeal the anti-cross-dressing ordinance, which helped introduce issues. transgender in the 1979 National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights, She participated in marches and rallies where she continued to raise the issue of transgender rights, winning her first court battle for transgender woman, fought against the dominance of the district attorney’s office, befriended judges and lawyers, silenced the Christian Legal Society, and resurrected her. grade. Perhaps most importantly, she has come to terms with her identity as a transgender woman.

Frye’s story is about persecution, rejection, and triumph. He was also the first to tell people that his success was due to the friendship and love of his partner of 48 years, Trish, who died in 2020 of brain cancer.

“My sister-in-law Trish, to whom the book is dedicated, is a wonderful couple. I could not have done this without his support. Whenever I’m down, he comforts me. Whenever I’m confused about what to do next, I talk to her. During those times I did not get a job, his money was the only source of income. We were afraid that her employer would find out that she was married and lose her job. But it’s the persistence and self-pride that people can see by reading the book,” Frye explained.

One of Frye’s lasting achievements was the International Conference on Transgender Law & Action, a series of conferences from 1992 to 1996.

“This was the beginning of the legal and political movement of the transgender community. Lawyers and judges came to speak at the hearings. And, at first, some transgender lawyers did not show up. But they went time, others start law school.

[I educated and inspired] many people came to the meetings about what they could do as lawyers to raise hell where they lived. It just grows, grows, grows, and it expands.

Hellraiser or patriot? The book suggests that Frye is a bit underwhelming—or at least to get the attention of Annise Parker, another Houston-centric LGBTQ icon who is the city’s first female mayor.

Parker and Frye have a long association in local activism, so given Frye’s work in law enforcement, it was a no-brainer for Parker to ask Frye to be municipal judge. Frye accepted the position as an associate judge in the Houston city courts, making him the first transgender judge in the world.

Frye says most of his cases involve traffic disputes, but one of the highlights of his work is marrying couples—especially LGBTQ couples after marriage equality. law of the land.

“When same-sex marriage was legalized, I performed many same-sex weddings. I met gay couples who had been together for a long time and they said they wanted to get married but can’t afford a big ceremony. I said they should get married in a courthouse, for legal protections. When they come to my office with a marriage license, I’ll get them married. everyone is protected by the law. I have done many things and it is very good.

After a career spanning seven decades, the powerful judge is eyeing his retirement from the bench.

“I’m stepping down because 12 years is enough. I’m going to be 75, for goodness sake! I’m enjoying my life.”

She has plans for life after her career—like continuing to advocate for the transgender community, especially those in their senior years.

“Most transgender people don’t have surgery below the waist. It’s expensive and most people can’t afford it. That’s fine when you’re young, but when you start getting old and looking at hospitals, nursing homes, or hospitals, it’s different. It appears above the leaves and also below the leaves. People who work with their catheters, wash or change their clothes—they start to confuse patients. This is microaggression,” Frye said.

“Transgender elders should respect their gender. People who use the wrong pronouns don’t have to keep reminding themselves where they are from. That’s something that will be a long-term goal. Every time I get paid to speak, I keep talking about transgender elders,” she said.

As Frye heads into retirement in January 2023, one thing remains constant: he has lived his integrity and is committed to ensuring that there is a T in LGBTQ.

Phyllis Frye and the Fight for Civil Rights Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.


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