Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Legal Crusader: A Trans Lawyer since the 1980s, Phyllis Frye Has Had Her Struggles. Life Is Sweeter Now That She's a Named Partner at a Houston Law Firm

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Legal Crusader: A Trans Lawyer since the 1980s, Phyllis Frye Has Had Her Struggles. Life Is Sweeter Now That She's a Named Partner at a Houston Law Firm

Article excerpt

When Phyllis Randolph Frye came out as transgender in 1974 and began transitioning in 1976 to become a woman, it was illegal to cross-dress in Houston, The city ordinance, which barred a "person from appearing in public dressed with the intent to disguise his or her sex as that of the opposite sex." didn't just apply to men who wore women's clothes; it applied equally to women wearing men's jeans. But, of course, it was only used as an extra stick to wield against the LGBT community then.

Now 59, Frye initiated an effort in 1976 to repeal the law. Four years later, after leading a sustained campaign of letter-writing, meetings, and activism, Frye got the city council to kill the ordinance by using tactical maneuvers to circumvent transphobic politicians of the day.

It was an incredible accomplishment for a third-year law student at the University of Houston. After graduating in 1981, though, Frye had no job offers and would spend the next five years selling Amway and doing a bit of consulting for a gay-owned architecture firm. It wasn't until 1986 that Frye took on her first major client and set out on her own as an attorney.

Fast-forward 20 years and Phyllis Frye is now a named partner at the fast-growing Houston firm of Nechman, Simoneaux, and Frye, PLLC. John Nech man and Jerry Simoneaux were both well-known in the local LGBT community when they started their firm in the spring of 2004. About a week after they'd drawn up the paperwork to setup the partnership, Simoneaux told Frye about the new firm when they were going to a legal function together. She wanted to team up with them, and the men jumped at the chance and redid the documents. The firm is one of a very few to have a transgender full partner.

For Frye it was the culmination of a dynamic but highly stressful legal career. "As nice as people were in the gay and lesbian legal community--and as helpful as many of them were--there was no one who would really mentor me," she recalls. "No one was interested in hiring me or bringing me into their firm as a puppy lawyer, so I had no choice but to slug it out on my own."

Slugging it out on her own meant founding the Transgender Law Conference in 1991. It meant leading the years-long effort to put teeth into the T of the major LGBT rights groups. It meant fighting hundreds of court battles for transgender men and women seeking something as simple as a correct driver's license. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.