Phyllis Frye, formerly Philip Randolph Frye, recently became Texas’ first transgender judge. Frye was appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and unanimously approved by city council, to Associate Municipal Judge on November 17, marking an historical event for the transgender legal community.
Frye has been an active legal advocate and activist for the transgender community, championing transgender, gay and civil rights. For a long time, it was a crime in most cities across the country for anyone to cross-dress in public spaces. There have long been active city ordinances in place, which Frye helped repeal in 1980. Over 30 years ago, Frye risked to be arrested every time she entered City Hall.
As Associate Municipal Judge, Frye will be an Assistant Judge to City of Houston’s Municipal Courthouse, doing night court dockets and probable cause dockets on the weekends, and will also sit on low-level misdemeanor trials as a substitute judge.
Frye will continue to be senior partner at her law firm, Frye and Associates, who are well known for defending and advocating for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. So far, Frye is the third transgender judge in the nation (but the first in Texas). The other two judges are in California.
“Phyllis Frye is a very well-known radical transgender activist. We don’t think it is consistent with the values of the vast majority of the people. We think it is an anti-family lifestyle and agenda,” said Dave Welch, the executive director of Houston Area Pastor Council.
Many right-wing Christian groups were not happy to hear about Frye’s new position because they fear this might be a precursor of something much larger if and when Frye continues up the chain of judgeship, to the higher echelon of the court system.
“As we all know, municipal court judges are the first step in the elevation of different judgeships. They typically go on to civil district court judges or family court judges and beyond, so this is not a benign appointment. It’s a statement. It really is. We’ll be calling on the churches to stand up and be involved,” Welch said.