NCTE honoring Phyllis Randolph Frye

Frye, Phyllis R.4

Judge Phyllis Frye

Pioneering Texas trans rights activist Judge Phyllis Randolph Frye of Houston is one of three people being honored at the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 12th anniversary celebration, “The Tipping Point: An Evening to Celebrate and Inspire,” next month. Other honorees are Gabriel Foster and Kellan Baker.

Through her Houston-based law firm, Frye’s has for years fought in the courts and in the streets for the rights of trans people and the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, too. In 2010, Frye became Texas’ first out transgender judge, and now, as senior partner with Frye, Oaks and Benavidez, PLLC, Frye devotes her practice exclusively to transgender clients. In 2010, Houston Mayor Annise Parker appointed Frye as an associate municipal judge.

Frye will receive NCTE’s Julie Johnson Founder’s Award.

Foster will receive the Community Builder Award in recognition of his  work with the American Friends Service Committee. SPARK, Reproductive Justice Now, the Leeway Foundation and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Baker will receive the Andrew Cray Trans Health Advocacy Award for his work as a senior fellow with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress, where he strives to improve data collection regarding LGBT populations.

Amazon’s Golden Globe-winning TV show Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor,will be honored with The Culture Change Award.

The 12th anniversary event takes place from 6-9 p.m. May 11, at The Hamilton Live in Washington, D.C. For more information on attending or becoming a sponsor of the event, go here.

—  Tammye Nash

4 Texans make Trans 100

Phyllis Frye

Phyllis Frye

At least four Texans made the Trans 100 list created by Jen Richards of We Happy Trans and Antonia D’Orsay of This is How.

The four Texans are Phyllis Frye of Houston, Carter Brown of Dallas, Katy Stewart of Austin and Monica Roberts of Houston.

Others names on the Trans 100 are writer Kate Bornstein, Outserve-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, GLSEN public relations manager Andy Marra and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling.

Surprisingly, Amanda Simpson, the highest ranking trans presidential appointee, is not on the list. Neither is Texan Meghan Stabler.

Here are the four Texans on the Trans 100 along with their bios:

Katy Stewart: Katy Stewart is executive director for Transgender Education Network of Texas. She has 11 years of experience in public advocacy and education in Texas communities on GLBT topics with an emphasis on gender diversity. Katy Stewart’s ethic is one of inclusion and empowerment to elevate voices that are often unheard. She also serves as steering committee chair for Trans Advocacy Network.

Monica Roberts: As TransGriot’s founder, Monica Roberts knows that a knowledge of trans history and a presence of visible role models helps build trans pride. She believes it helps eliminate the shame, guilt, and fear issues trans people grapple with, and she believes it helps facilitate community building. She’s proud to be a trailblazing role model for our next generation of trans people.

Phyllis Frye: is a winner of Lavender Law’s highest honor, the Dan Bradley Award of 2001. She was honored by Texas A&M University, beginning in 2009, with an annual Diversity Award given in her name. In 2010 Phyllis was sworn in as the first out transgender judge in the nation, as a City of Houston Associate Municipal Judge. She retains her senior partnership of Frye, Steidley, Oaks and Benavidez, PLLC, which is an out LGBT-and-straight-allies law firm.

Carter Brown: Black Transmen, Inc. addresses disparities that saturate the transgender community. Black Transmen offers a radical, holistic approach to empowering communities through outreach that provides resources, support and social advocacy, nationally. Through Social media advocacy and outreach, Black Transmen, Inc, improves the lives of Trans men throughout the country.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Annise Parker accepts LGBT Trailblazers Award while Westboro Baptist protests outside

A member of Westboro Baptist Church protests outside the LGBT Trailblazers luncheon in Houston on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Noel Freeman)

On Saturday, while Gov. Rick Perry was throwing his prayer rally “The Response” inside Reliant Stadium and GetEQUAL was staging mock funerals at the front gate, the Harris County Democratic Party sat down to a quite luncheon honoring LGBT Trailblazers. The highlight of the luncheon was the videotaped acceptance speech by Houston Mayor Annise Parker (WATCH IT BELOW). In 2009 Parker became the first out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city after years of community service as an activist, city council member and city controller.

Parker was unable to accept her award in person due to previously scheduled city business. Via pre-recorded message she thanked the luncheon’s co-chairs, Robert Shipman and Brad Pritchett, and the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, who took the lead in organizing the event.

Parker’s son, Jonon Tyler, accepted the award on behalf of his mother. Tyler talked about the thrill of riding with Mayor Parker in the 2010 Dallas Pride Parade, about how the crowd seemed to swell with hope and pride at seeing her. “When we see Mayor Annise Parker, we see the best in ourselves,” said Tyler. “We’ve only seen the beginning; the best is yet to come.”

Also honored as LGBT Trailblazers were Judge Steven Kirkland, City Councilwoman Sue Lovell, Judge Phyllis Frye and Linda Morales. Judge John Paul Barnich received a posthumous award.

—  admin

WATCH: Capacity crowd marks Transgender Day of Remembrance at Cathedral of Hope

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

A capacity crowd filled the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday night, Nov. 21.

Nell Gaither, a steering committee member for GEAR, served as MC. She noted the recent spate of suicides among gay youth. GEAR is the transgender program of Resource Center Dallas.

Among transgender adults, 40 percent have attempted suicide, a rate 25 times higher than among the rest of the community, she said.

She said 20 percent of transgender people had been refused healthcare treatment and even more experience harassment in a medical setting.

Among transgender people of color, 35 percent live below the poverty level.

A portion of the memorial was dedicated to Alexander Allison, a local trans man who committed suicide this year.

Among the speakers were Resource Center Dallas Executive Director Cece Cox.

Cox thanked the transgender community for answering her many questions so she can be a better ally. She also commented on the growing visibility of the transgender community.

“When someone tries to make me feel invisible, it makes me feel ‘less than’ and that doesn’t feel good,” she said.

Former Mayor Pro Tem John Loza said the community needs to do more than just tell LGBT youth that in 10 years it will get better — it also must provide the tools for them to get there.

“But there is reason for hope,” he said.

He listed recent gains the transgender community has made, including the election of the first transgender judge in California and Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment last week of Phyllis Frye as a municipal court judge. He lauded Dallas Independent School District’s new enumerated anti-bullying policy that includes gender identity and expression.

As Aaron Barnes and Dorian Mooneyham read the names of 30 transgender victims of violence, members of the community lit candles and laid red roses on a table. Two of those victims were from Houston.

Mo Snow gave closing remarks. “I don’t want to be the reason my partner is discriminated against,” he said, calling her the most loving person he’d ever met.

For the third year, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas ensemble MosaicSong opened and performed during the ceremony. Voice of Pride winners Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales also performed.

—  David Taffet

Phyllis Frye becomes Texas’ 1st trans judge

Phyllis Frye

It’s been a historic couple of weeks for the transgender legal community.

On Nov. 2, Victoria Kolakowski became the first transgender trial judge in the nation when she won a seat on the Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court.

Then, just this morning, longtime Houston activist Phyllis Randolph Frye became the first trans judge in Texas, when Mayor Annise Parker appointed her as an associate municipal judge.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports:

Phyllis Randolph Frye, longtime legal advocate for the transgender community, was sworn in this morning as the state’s first transgender judge. Frye was appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Municipal Judge. The city council unanimously approved her appointment, along with a couple dozen other appointments, with little fanfare and no dissent.

The significance of the moment was not lost on Mayor Parker who fought back tears as she welcomed the appointees to the council dais. Council member Sue Lovell who, along with Parker and Frye, fought for years as a citizen to improve the lives of queer Houstonians, beamed as she spoke of how far the three of them have come. Several council members specifically thanked Frye for her willingness to serve.

It was only 30 years ago that Frye risked arrest every time she entered City Hall. At that time the City of Houston and most American cities had ordinances criminalizing cross dressing. Frye defied the law to fight for it’s repeal, which finally happened in 1980.

UPDATE: Here’s an e-mail that came across this afternoon from Frye:

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,

With humility, I wish to share that this morning, October 17, 2010, I was sworn to be an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts.  Considering the many and varied discriminations I have borne over the past four decades, this is an honor that has great significance both for me and for the OUT-Transgender community.

For those of you who are not familiar, let me assure you of what this means and what it does not mean.

It means that I an assistant judge for the city courthouse.  I will be scheduled to do night court dockets and weekend probable cause dockets in rotation with other Associate Judges.  And from time to time I will sit as Judge in a trial, substituting for an ill or vacationing Judge.  The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are offenses that can be ticketed in this, the 4th largest city in the nation.  This is a great honor.  I thank Mayor Parker for nominating me and the City Council for unanimously  confirming me through a scheduled Council vote.

(NOTE: Mine is the second position where an OUT-TG has been appointed to a City of Houston position.  The first was Jenifer Rene Pool on the city’s Buildings and Inspections Oversight Commission.  Jenifer has recently announced that she is running for City Council At-Large #2 — the incumbent will be term-limited — in November 2011.  If you desire to wish her well or to send her a contribution, she is at <> .)

(NOTE: Mine is not the first OUT-TG Judgeship.  I think there are a few other  appointed OUT-TG municipal judges across the country.  Last month in California, Vicki Kolakowski was elected to a Judgeship, and I think that she will be sworn in January.  Congratulations to Vicki.)

My being Associate Municipal Judge DOES NOT MEAN that I will give up my “day-job.”

I WILL REMAIN as senior partner of Frye and Associates at <> .

Our firm will continue to provide a variety of legal services for the LGBT and Straight-Allies community.  And our firm will continue to fight the Nikki Araguz case, of which many of you have followed.

I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more Mayors or other appointive bodies to give OUT-TG lawyers a chance to be appointed to various judicial posts across the nation.  I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more OUT-TG lawyers will run for elected Judgeships.


For more go to
Phyllis Randolph Frye

—  John Wright

‘The same-sex marriage fight is just as much a transgender fight as it is (an LGB) fight’

Phyllis Randolph Frye

Phyllis Randolph Frye, the well-known transgender attorney from Houston whose clients include trans widow Nikki Araguz, sent out an e-mail Sunday slamming national gay-rights groups for ignoring the issue of “‘tranny’ same-sex marriage” in Texas.

Referencing an op-ed that appeared in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle about the Araguz case, Frye notes that in the six weeks since the story broke, few people have gotten behind her client’s legal fight. Nikki Araguz is seeking to receive death benefits for her husband, Thomas Araguz III, a Wharton firefighter who was killed in the line of duty early last month. But Thomas Araguz’s family has sued to deny Nikki Araguz those benefits, arguing that their marriage was void because she was born a man, since Texas’ prohibits same-sex marriage.

“Why is it that the Prop 8, same-sex marriage fight in CA and the DOMA same-sex marriage fight in the Northeast are BOTH so well funded by lesbian and gay groups and lesbian and gay individuals, but the same-sex marriage fight in Texas has been thus far supported ONLY by a small number of mostly transgenders plus three LGBT-allied churches, mostly in Houston, all in Texas?” Frye wrote.

“Where is the same national support given for the L and G same-sex marriage struggles?” she added. “Has it remained nonexistent for over six weeks now because this Texas fight is insignificantly and merely a ‘tranny’ same-sex marriage fight, so who nationally gives a shit? Then are we a National LGBT-inclusive community, but NOT when it comes to financing the ‘tranny’ same-sex marriage fights? From here, it seems to me — still —  that the national L and G groups and the big bucks L and G attitudes haven’t really changed very much. FOLKS, IT IS TIME YOU FIGURED IT OUT THAT THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE FIGHT IS JUST AS MUCH A TRANSGENDER FIGHT AS IT IS A LESBIAN, GAY AND BISEXUAL FIGHT.”

—  John Wright

Houston LGBTs to celebrate anniversary of repeal of ordinance banning cross-dressing

Phyllis Frye

Back when I was in junior high school — the early to mid 1970s — our school had a dress code that prohibited girls from wearing pants with rear pockets. See, pants that had pockets on the back were “boy” pants, and girls weren’t allowed to wear “boy” pants.

Having always been a jeans kind of gal myself, I broke that rule often. And I got in trouble for it more than once.

But obviously, my rural, smalltown junior high school wasn’t the only place that had such rules. Most cities had ordinances that prohibited cross-dressing. My old friend, the late Joe Elliott, told me that in the ’60s when she was a dyke about town, the butch lesbians always had to be careful not to dress too masculine in public, or they would be arrested. And I have heard drag queens talk about how they had to make sure to wear men’s underwear under their dresses to avoid arrest.

These ordinances were usually used by police to justify harassment of “the queers,” especially the transgenders and the butch lesbians. Such was the case in Houston, where next weekend the Transgender Foundation of America will hold an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the repeal of that city’s “no cross-dressing” ordinance.

Lou Weaver, who is on the TFA board, sent out an e-mail Wednesday announcing the event.

“This is not a joke!” Weaver wrote. “At that time women were expected to have their zippers on the side or in the back, otherwise, they were cross-dressing. This led to constant harrassment and several arrests for trans identified women, lesbians and anyone else the vice squad did not approve of.”

Well-known Houston attorney transgender activist Phyllis Frye led the three-and-a-half-year-long battle to get the ordinance repealed, and she will be on hand at the event to “share stories about fighting for transgender rights,” Weaver said. One of those stories is Frye’s account, following, about how they slipped the repeal vote past the homophobes/transphobes:

“On August the 12th, 1980, after several delay-tags that were put on to the repeal ordinance, it was again before Council. At the time, our Mayor was Jim McConn. He was out of town, as was Jim Westmoreland. McConn knew that it was coming up on the agenda, and he had told the Mayor pro tem for that day, Johnny Goyen, that it was alright with him. City Secretary, Anna Russell, waited until Council members Homer Ford and Larry McKaskell were on the phone. When they got on the phone, she immediately handed the repeal to Johnny. You see, the deal is that under council rules if you’re present and you don’t vote no, then it’s an automatic yes vote. Homer and Larry were on the phone. They didn’t even know what was going on. There was only one no vote, and that was Council member Christen Hartung, she was the sole and only no vote. I still hope that somebody will beat her. Homer and Larry went to Johnny about five minutes later, and Johnny says, ‘oh, I didn’t know that was going through.’ The ordinance was repealed and it has remained so to this day.”

The anniversary event will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, at 604 Pacific in Houston. Everyone is welcome. Food will be provided but bring your own beer and wine.

Today, we celebrate a court victory over Prop 8 in California and move one step closer to eventual full marriage equality in this country. But as you celebrate remember that just 30 years ago, butch lesbians in Houston couldn’t wear zip-up Levis without risking arrest.

So if you are in Houston next weekend, go on over to 604 Pacific on Saturday afternoon and celebrate  a significant historical victory. And if you’re not in Houston, well, take a minute that day to stop and say a silent thank-you to those men and women, like Phyllis, who were willing to stand up and fight the good fight when it was much more dangerous to do so, and win the battles that make it possible for us to live as openly and freely as we do today.

—  admin

Do e-mails, witness statement prove that Nikki Araguz’s husband knew she was transgender?

As Nikki Araguz continues her battle to receive death benefits, lawyers for the transgender widow have asked that the lawsuit against her be dismissed. On Monday, they released copies of e-mails between Nikki and Thomas Araguz written on the day of her transition surgery, Oct. 7, 2008. The e-mails appear to refute claims by Araguz’s family that Thomas Araguz didn’t know his wife was transgender.

The e-mails said:

Thomas Araguz: “What can i say to make you feel better? The only thing I known (sic) is ‘I LOVE YOU.’ Trevor and Tyler miss you dearly, they love you with all their little heats. (sic) Today has been a hell of day, would you agree? After taking (sic) to you, I called my mother and law (sic) to let her known (sic) the good news, about your opt. An (sic) you know she spead (sick) the good news all the world. HEY I TO GO I A HOUSE FIRE. ILU”

Nikki Araguz: “My sweet husband, I LOVE YOU. It has been a day heck and also God answered prayers. I love you so much. We can now move on with the rest of our livrs (sic)…I just got this thing to work somehow and the pain lady came in and gave me morphine…si I am fading fast. You are my best friend, and Praise God fro (sic) you…this is wild that little thing is gone…I think I am supposed to see it for the first timr (sic) tomorrow….Imiss my boys too…Have a great day at school tomorrow…Love you sweet wife, Mrs. Nikki Araguz”

Read more here from Also, the Houston Chronicle reports that the Transgender Foundation of America released a statement from a woman who says she saw Thomas Araguz accompany Nikki to an appointment at a transgender clinic in 2007.

The parents and ex-wife of Thomas Araguz, a volunteer firefighter in Wharton who died while battling a blaze last month, have taken Nikki to court, saying that Thomas never knew Nikki was transgender and that their marriage was not valid. They want all of his $600,000 estate to go to his parents, ex-wife and his two sons from his first marriage.

The family argues that the marriage between Thomas and Nikki was never valid, whether Thomas knew she was trans or not, because Texas law considers Nikki a man, despite the transition, and the state does not recognize same-sex marriage. Nikki’s attorney, Phyllis Frye, however, points to a change in state law that took effect last year that recognizes a sex-change as a form of identification to get a marriage license. Frye says that Thomas and Nikki had, at the very least, a legally recognized common-law marriage.

David Woods, who writes as the “Houston Libertarian Examiner” on, says he has a way to settle the matter. Consider the marriage a contract between Thomas and Nikki, and keep the government out of it altogether.

He writes, in part:

“When it comes down to it, ‘marriage’ is all about love, sex, and romance. What in the world is the State of Texas doing regulating love, sex, and romance? Shouldn’t that be between the partners and God (or if they don’t believe in God, then just between the partners)? Why do politicians, bureaucrats, and judges need to enter this picture?

“One might answer that a marriage partnership does have legal ramifications because it is also a legal contract involving matters such as property dissolution, survivor benefits, and medical decisions. Ok, good point. After all, the enforcement of contracts is a legitimate function of government.

“But there should be no difference between a ‘marriage’ contract, and any other kind of contract, regardless of the relationship between the parties or the reason for the contract. A contract is a contract is a contract, as far as the government is concerned. The word ‘marriage’ is irrelevant and immaterial, and should be stricken from any legal document or statute.

“So, if two (or more) people want to ‘marry,’ that’s their personal business, not the state’s. If they choose to sign a legal contract, the courts will honor it, but keep the word ‘marriage’ out of the discussion. And when we change the law to reflect this simple concept, then courtroom fights such as Mrs. Araguz’s will be history.”

Now, I would say there could still be some conflict and court cases if, as in the case, one party (the family) claims that another party (Nikki Araguz) wasn’t honest and tricked the other person into signing the contract under a false pretense. Still, I think Mr. Woods has the right idea: If marriage is “sacred” and people oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds, then take the government out of the marriage business.

—  admin