Nearly four decades before Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world, Phyllis Randolph Frye came out as a transgender woman in a far less glamorous way. No Diane Sawyer, no Vanity Fair.
It was the summer of 1976. As Bruce Jenner, 26, was celebrating his decathlon victory at the Montreal Olympics, Phillip Frye, 28, was admitting defeat in suppressing his gender identity. He, becoming she, had already lost a lot: He had been forced to resign from the military for “sexual deviation.” He had been disowned by his parents, divorced by his first wife and separated from his son. He had been dismissed from several engineering jobs.
Now, with the encouragement of his second wife, Trish, he was starting to transition and wanted to be forthright. Going door to door, he distributed letters to advise the community that the neighbor formerly known as Phil — the husband, father and born-again Christian; the former Eagle Scout, Texas A & M University cadet and Army lieutenant — was going to start living full time as Phyllis.
In response, she got her house egged, her tires slashed, and her driveway spray-painted with obscenities. Teenagers openly mocked her, the engineering profession blackballed her and the federal government rejected her for a job because of her “desire to impersonate the opposite sex.”