Josef BurwellSheila Kloefkorn Individual Equality Award Recipient

    Josef Burwell MS, PA-C is a compassionate, thoughtful and active member of the Arizona LGBTQ community. He’s previously served on the board of Phoenix Allies for Community Health and is a long-time executive member of the board of Trans Spectrum of Arizona.

    Josef enlisted the U.S. Army in 1979 as a lesbian-identified female and served as a signals intelligence analyst. His position required him to maintain a top-secret security clearance to work with the codes, ciphers and their interpretation. Josef’s personal life came under intense scrutiny by officials after being entrapped by a fellow lesbian servicemember. He was held for four months of interrogation and subjected to various methods of abuse to elicit the names of other homosexuals in the service. His refusal ultimately resulted in an “Other Than Honorable” discharge from military service in 1980.

    Josef’s love of country and commitment to public service did not wane with his dismissal. He successfully fought to have his discharge upgraded to honorable.

    Josef founded the all-volunteer nonprofit Peacework Medical in 2000 with a simple humanitarian mission — bring and hope to those in need. Since its inception, it has provided medical services through humanitarian missions to underprivileged and marginalized communities in developing countries like Haiti, Ghana, Cambodia, and Honduras.

    Since 2011 Josef has also worked as a federal contractor providing emergency services in war-torn regions including Iraq and Afghanistan. During this time he quietly made his full transition as a transgender man without incident or fanfare.

    In 2015 Josef and his team began to set up free primary care clinics in the heart of Phoenix. Working in collaboration with Trans Queer Pueblo and Allies for Community Health they offer primary care and gender transition care services to undocumented or uninsured LGBTQ, and in several cases have helped individuals to secure asylum status.

    Joseph is finishing his final tour as a federal contractor and intends to retire from duty in early 2018.