Patricia Dooley Frye
Patricia Dooley Frye
1943 – 2010
She taught music to thousands of children over a 52-year career, and she was Phyllis' best friend.
Patricia was known as Trish to her family, to her close friends, and to the LGBTQ+ community. However, she was known as Pat to her professional teaching colleagues.
Trish passed comfortably on 28 September after a thirteen-month battle with brain cancer. The doctors at Houston Methodist made a brilliant effort to extend her life and made it possible for her to enjoy friends and gatherings for most of her remaining time. Brookdale Hospice helped her make the final journey in comfort and peace.
Trish is survived by Phyllis, her wife of forty-seven years, by Jan Carter, her sister from Castroville, by Bart, Lori and W.D. (Jan's grown children) and by Landon, Camden, Grayson and Vivian (Jan's grandchildren).
Trish's "children" are the thousands of 3rd to 5th graders to whom she taught music in Fort Bend ISD for 35 years plus the thousands of two to five year olds to whom she taught music at a church school in the same area for another 17 years.
What most people missed about Trish was how incredibly brave she was. She dated but did not marry until she was 29 when she found who she really wanted – a recently divorced man named Phil who had been discharged from the Army because he needed to live as a woman. Trish had dated plenty and said of Phil that if that was all that was "wrong" then she would take a chance. Three years following their 1973 marriage, after her spouse had been blackballed from the Houston engineering community for transitioning to become Phyllis, Trish said her spouse had been true to herself and that she would try to hang on. As neighbors and family pressured Trish to ditch her trans-spouse, Trish grew resentful of that pressure and said that she would stay true to her wedding vows. She was labelled a lesbian, which in the 70's was not a positive career move as a teacher in a rural school district.
She and Phyllis struggled with a mortgage, child support and other bills on only a teacher's salary. Even after Phyllis became a lawyer in 1981, she could not get work. For ten years into the later 1980s, the couple struggled to make ends meet, including the drastic action of not running their A/C in Houston.
All the while Trish was afraid she would lose her teaching job if the school figured out that her man was now a woman.
Trish loved teaching. She would spend much of her summers preparing new or revised lesson plans for the next school year. Phyllis suggested several times that Trish save that effort by simply reaching back to what Trish had used four or five years prior. No way. She wanted to constantly improve on what she had taught before.
Every April Trish put on a musical with her choirs. Her choirs were very large because the only criteria to be in the choir was to attend on time and to behave. She excluded NO ONE on their lack of or marginal singing ability.
And she rejoiced when a former student would bring their child to her class.
In addition to the fear of losing her teaching job, until 1980 there was a Houston ordinance that said Phyllis could be arrested simply for being Phyllis. Every day when Trish left for work, she had to endure the stress that when she got home Phyllis might be in jail.
Most of the neighbors and their kids were horrible. Trish and Phyllis cleaned eggs off their garage door, baby poop off the doormat and spray paint graffiti on the driveway. A tire was slashed. At Halloween, they turned off the front porch light lest some kid get bad candy somewhere and they be blamed. On the mornings after, Trish would survey the backyard fences looking to see if poison had been left for the dogs. And she fielded lots of obscene phone calls which just happened to come at Christmas and Easter.
There were a few exceptionally good neighbors, and the neighborhood really settled down after Phyllis became a lawyer and posed a real legal threat. And over the years, the bad neighbors either got over the trans-couple or moved away. As the new century dawned, the couple was prized. They were invited to and attended many civic club functions and parties. Phyllis was even elected to the civic club Board for ten years. Through all of this, Trish bravely endured with grace, dignity, and love.
Into the 1980s and 90s the Fryes would travel to a variety of transgender conventions around the country where Phyllis gave legal workshops and keynotes. Invariably a wife of a crossdressing husband would approach Trish for advice. They did not want to be labelled as lesbian. They complained that they had married a man and not a woman, and of course they were under tremendous social and family pressure, as Trish well understood. Trish did not coddle. "Quit complaining! You either love this person or you don't! Either stay or go! For me, I don't care what people call me: I know who I am. I decided to stay true to my marriage vows and stayed." Trish would not know, but after she passed, Phyllis got emails and texts saying that Trish's role model had saved several marriages.
Things got easier for the couple as Phyllis' law practice took off. Even so, Trish always feared being fired from the teaching career that she loved or being ridiculed by former teacher colleagues.
Last June the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act employment protections on the basis of sex were extended to both sexual orientation and gender identity. Even though Phyllis now had her own law firm and was also an Associate Judge, 44 years after she had been blackballed in 1976, she could no longer be fired. And although Trish had retired after those fifty-two years of teaching music to kids, she could no longer be fired either. Trish got a chuckle of satisfaction out of that!
In September 2019, Trish was diagnosed with glioblastoma. After surgery she was told that she might make it to the end of 2019. Phyllis, who was dealing with her own cancer for the past ten years, could not deal with both of their cancers plus the house and the yard, etc.; so, they put their house where they had lived and loved for 46 years up for sale. In January they moved to a senior living facility in the West University area of Houston. Trish bravely made it through the New Year and then to her and Phyllis' 47th anniversary in June, and then to her 77th birthday in August. But she was running out of time and passed one month later … courageous and loving to the very end.
There will be no service as both Trish and Phyllis are nonbelievers and also because such a gathering could be a super spreader event. Instead, in August 2021, there will be a celebration of life for Trish on her 78th birthday.
In lieu of flowers, please donate in her name to either the VictoryFund.org
or the Biden-Harris campaign.