Houston attorney Phyllis Frye (pictured) says she has become the first transgender judge in Texas and may be the first one in the nation. Frye, a partner in Frye and Associates, says that on Nov. 17, she was sworn in as an associate municipal judge in Houston but will not take the bench until she completes training for the job. According to NYDailyNews.com, California elected the nation’s first openly transgender judge in November, when Victoria Kolakowski won election to the Alameda County Superior Court. But Frye says Kolakowski won’t take office until January 2011. “For all intents and purposes, I am a judge now,” Frye says. Gwendolyn Goins, public information officer for the Houston municipal courts, says Frye is not scheduled to assume her judicial duties until early 2011. Jessica Michan, Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s press secretary, says Parker appointed Frye at the Nov. 17 city council meeting. Goins says the appointment is for a two-year term. As an associate judge, Frye will hear cases involving traffic violations or Class C misdemeanors in which only a fine will be assessed, Goins says. The 62-year-old Frye, who was born Phillip Randolph Frye, says she is very proud for a chance to be a role model. Frye made a name for herself in 1980 when she successfully lobbied for the repeal of §28-42.4 of Houston’s Code of Ordinances, which made it illegal for a person to appear in public wearing clothing associated with the opposite sex. Under the ordinance, a woman could be arrested for wearing fly-front pants, and a man performing in drag at a bar could be arrested if he did not change his costume before mingling with customers in the bar, Frye recalls. “It was used to persecute gay and lesbian people as well as pre-operative transsexuals,” she says of the ordinance. “I fought it for three years,” Frye says, noting that she has the ordinance that repealed the cross-dressing prohibition hanging on the wall of her office. Frye says she will continue as a partner in her firm after she begins her judicial duties. Her practice involves chiefly criminal defense, as well as representing clients with transgender and intersex issues, Frye says.
-- Mary Alice Robbins