The Nation’s First Transgender Judge Hails From Texas

Judge Phyllis Frye talks to the Standard about her experience as the first openly transgender judge in the United States.

By Rhonda Fanning September 2, 2015 9:34 am

Before Caitlyn Jenner, there was Phyllis Frye.

But comparted to Jenner – arguably the world’s most recognizable transgender person – Frye came out at a time and place far less charitable: mid-1970’s Texas. Fresh off a profile by The New York Times, Frye talks about her life as transgender woman in the past 40 years.

Born by the name Phillip, Frye was a San Antonio native, Eagle Scout, member of the Texas A&M cadet corps and one-time Army lieutenant. Frye worked hard to adjust to society’s expectations for the sake of family and career.

“I went through a lot of aversion therapy, is what they called it, and it didn’t do any good, so they started to run me out and I fought with them until I got an honorable discharge,” Frye said.

After practicing as trial attorney, Frye was appointed to the Houston municipal courts by Mayor Annise Parker in 2010 and became the country’s first openly transgender judge. On the speed of attitude changes over gender norms, Frye says the Internet is partly to thank.

“And also you’ve got to thank the fact that so many other transgender people, and I hope it’s because of my example, are coming out of the closet,” Frye said. “It’s been a long, long struggle.”