Intention, Risk, and Persistence

A Primer for Phoenix Pride 2017
by Josef Wolf Burwell

I sat near a lovely young transgender woman as she waited for her surgery consult. She was anxious. She tugged at her skirt and flipped through dated magazines without reading the words. Her plans for that consult would make her more true to herself, more authentic in her identity, more feminine to the viewing world. Her surgery is just one option in the web that is gender transition, and she found her way to this place. She waited for her name to be called.

Intention. The value of intention is never lost on a transgender person.

A 49 year old transgender man injects testosterone into his thigh for the first time. It hurts a little and the needle is unpleasant to say the least, but today marks his transition birthday, and in about a year he’ll look much more like the man he has always wanted to be. He’s excited. He also risks losing his current partner to the imminent changes, possibly going bald over time, and advancement in his career. There are questions about who in his family of origin will support him. Who will call him by his affirmed name or use the correct gender pronouns. But he has made this choice, and the drive to have congruence in his sense of gender inside and outside is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that the risks are accepted.

Risks. Transgender people mitigate risks that are inherent to transition and those that are constructed by society and the ones closest to us.

A child says their name is now Ariel, like the princess. But that can’t be, her parents explain, because that’s a girl’s name. Ariel insists that this is their name now, and by the time they reach first grade, there is some question about how they will be addressed in class.

Persistence. Transgender people are nothing if not persistent.

Most people have the circumstance of being born with the assigned sex that their gender identity conforms with. For these cisgender people, it seems difficult to imagine the alternative, and therein lies at least some of the difficulty in understanding and accepting transgender. It’s as if lack of intellectual conception somehow conflates with denial.

If this equivalency were true, then quantum physics could not exist for most of us.

Transgender people are not only a real function of nature, created in the second trimester by a surge of maternal cross gender hormones, but these differences can be quantified and imaged by modern science. PET scans do indeed show brain contrasts relative to affirmed gender, not birth assigned sex, in transgender men pre-testosterone.  So yes, the male and female brain are different from one another, and it follows how you identify, not how you were assigned at birth.

We hear much about gender dysphoria. In fact, it allows for a medical diagnosis to exist- a fortuitous thing for insurance purposes, but it does not mean transgender people are mentally ill. Far from it. One can find it in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM 5).  Dysphoria, by definition, is not mental illness. It literally means dissatisfaction, and that’s a good description of what it’s like to have an incongruent gender sense and presentation, in its most reductive sense.  A transgender person is not satisfied with the gender they have had to conform to, and it’s causing distress to the point of intention, risk, and persistence.

Because that’s what it will take: intention, risk, and persistence.  Lots of it, for impediments seen and unforeseen. But the metamorphosis is well worth it, and the regrets are rare among this special group of courageous warriors. I’ve seen us thrive, I’ve seen us happy, I’ve watched us loving our families and ourselves with the incredible boost that comes from authenticity.

Possibly the only thing more powerful than love is truth. Visit your transgender friends this weekend for a helping of each of these.

Happy Pride 2017
Josef Wolf Burwell, MS, PA-C
Vice President
Trans Spectrum of Arizona

2017 Inaugural Prom (Glitter and Gold)

is proud and honored to give you
Glitter and Gold our Inaugural Prom

The event is an 18 and over event
from 6pm to 11pm on Saturday April 29th
at 1st Congregational Church
located at 1407 North 2nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
DJ is Matt Hutton. He has been a DJ and KJ in the Valley for 9 years,
He specializes in weddings and private parties.
Formal/Semi Formal attire,
We will have a professional photographer,
finger foods, and door prizes.
Couples optional -you don’t need to bring a date.
Just please come and enjoy the fun open atmosphere,
designed to give you the Prom you always wanted.

you can buy tickets $10 in advance, or they are $12 at the door.


AGRA Rodeo February 12 – 14, 2016

PFLAG needs our help with volunteers to sell drink tickets for this year’s Gay Rodeo. The shifts are 3 hours and you get free entry into the rodeo for the day you volunteer. Parking is $5. You will only be selling drink tickets, not the actual drinks. PFLAG has been a major supporter of Transspectrum and just gave us a $500 donation. Please help give back to this amazing organization. Please contact to sign up or for more information.
They have two booths and need 2-3 people per shift. The following are still available:
Saturday 6-9pm, 7-10pm
Sunday 9am – 12pm, 3-6pm, 6-9pm, 7-10pm.
Thank you in advance.

onenten’s : An Evening of Jazz

An Evening of Jazz
with special celebrity guest Jazz Jennings

meet & greet with Transgender youth activist & her family

as seen on the upcoming TLC docu-series I Am Jazz author of  I Am Jazzchildren’s book | Clean & Clear cosmetic spokesperson

•book signing
•art auction
•Jazz music by Aletheia String Quartet
•cash bar
•panel discussion

Saturday, August 8th, 2015 6-9 pm

Bentley Gallery
215 E Grant Street, Phoenix, AZ 85044

Jazz-PosterTo purchase tickets please click:

Camp Born This Way – Registration Now Open!

Registration is now open, and camp will occur 9/25- 556307_157385537784371_2081240511_n9/28.

Camp Born This Way (C.B.T.W.) is an award-winning Camp for Transgender, Gender Creative and Gender Non-Conforming children ages 5-16 and their families. Camp Born This Way is a place where kids can be themselves and play without fear, and their families can find friendship and support. This camp is a dream come true for many families. C.B.T.W. allows transgender, gender-queer, gender-creative, non-conforming and questioning youth along with their families to experience a weekend free from bullying, harassment and judgment.

Additionally, this camp seeks to strengthen the support networks available to these families beyond this one magical weekend. Camp is located in southern Arizona.

For more information and to register:  or

Join TSAZ and The Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS at Dining Out for Life

Dining Out for Life is an international fundraiser for the fight against HIV and AIDS. Local restaurants participate by giving a percent of their proceeds on the last Thursday of April each year. A few cities participate on a different day. The event is held in Phoenix this year on Thursday, April 30th. Members of TSAZ and the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS will be congregating that evening at the Pizza People Pub on Central Ave south of McDowell. We have the back room reserved from 5:30pm to 8pm and other patrons may be eating there as well. Come stop on by and enjoy some great food and support a worthy cause.

Pizza People Pub

1326 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

See for more information and for other restaurants participating in the event.

DOFL 2015 STD card front v5a FINAL

Sign up to participate in the 2015 Pride Parade

Sunday, April 12th 

  • 9:00  Meet at 3rd Street & Oak.  Check in, sign forms, and get t-shirts with Jen / Aiden / Emmett.
  • 9:30  Everyone should be in place and ready to march
  • 10:00  The parade steps off!
  • 11:30 Parade ends at Steele Indian School Park, 3rd Street and Indian School Rd.

A few guidelines to keep in mind from the Pride Parade committee and TSAZ:

  • All parade marchers are strongly encouraged to wear a TSAZ shirt.
  • Marchers will sign a form for code of conduct and liability waiver. The media release is optional.
  • Beware of heat exhaustion and/or stroke. Be aware of hazards while marching. Bring water!
  • No alcohol is allowed during the parade.
  • All dress must comply with Obscenity Statutes in Arizona.  Participants must be fully clothed.
  • No sexually inappropriate behavior or foul language.  Small children and families will be present.
  • Show respect for all gender expression, sexes, ages, races, cultures, creeds, abilities and sexual orientations.
  • To ensure the safety and fun of all parade participants, the Trans* Spectrum of Arizona Parade Marshals reserve the right to ask any participant to leave the contingent if they cannot abide by Pride rules and guidelines.
  • No late-comers will be permitted to join us after the parade begins, per rules of Phoenix Pride.
  • Youth group members are invited to carry our banner and lead our contingent.
  • TSAZ Parade Marshals are Jen and Aiden Sismondo and Emmett Troxel.

DATE: 4/12/2015 (Sun 9:00AM – 11:30AM)

LOCATION: 3rd Street & Oak, Phoenix

Please sign up here