Project AFFIRM



Project AFFIRM is a study of vulnerability, risk, and resilience in the context of transgender identity development.

Project AFFIRM - SF is part of the Health Equity Institute at San Francisco State University. If you have questions, you can email us at or call us at (844) 405-7848



Meet our staff


Advisory Board


Nick Gorton, MD

Nick Gorton is an openly transgender physician. He completed residency and chief residency in Emergency Medicine at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Gorton has a twice-weekly clinic focusing on transgender patients at the Lyon-Martin Clinic in San Francisco. He lectures on transgender health care at medical schools and conferences. He has worked as a medical consultant regarding transgender health care for Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, the Northwest Justice Project, the New York Legal Aid Society, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. He is an active member of the American Medical Association GLBT Affairs Committee and the California LGBT Health and Humans.


Amber Gray

Amber Gray is currently a Group Facilitator and Public Service Aide for the City and County of San Francisco’s Community Behavioral Health Services. She has spent the past 16 years providing HIV Education and Prevention services to high risk youth and the Transgender Community. She began her nonprofit career as a counselor working with at homeless LGBTQQ high risk youth. She later become a health educator for a mentoring program serving Transgender and gay identified youth. Amber transitioned to prevention case management after providing coordinated care to Transgender women in a residential housing program. Amber was later promoted to a senior program management position overseeing HIV Education and Prevention services for HIV+ transgender women of color and their partners. Amber is a team player who believes in utilizing community resources and collaborative relationships to create successful direct client services, social events, and employment opportunities for the transgender community. Amber’s skills and experience include substance abuse counseling, Harm Reduction Group Facilitation, Certified Wrap Facilitator, Case Management, Community Event Planning, and HIV Education and Prevention services. Amber’s dream is to reduce the stigma that continually plagues her community. Amber is committed to encouraging, motivating, and empowering transgender women of color.


JoAnne Keatley, MSW

JoAnne Keatley was born in Mexico City and received a Master of Social Welfare degree from the University of California, Berkeley. At UCSF since 1999, she is the Co-Principal Investigator and Director of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, a capacity building and technical assistance program funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In addition to the CDC focus, JoAnne is the Co-PI and Director of the HRSA funded Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS)-Transgender Evaluation and Technical Assistance (TETAC) Project. During the last decade she has directed multiple federally funded research and HIV prevention projects and has consulted on transgender health at the World Health Organization, the NIH, CDC, HRSA, SAMHSA and at the White House. JoAnne has received numerous awards and recognition including, in 2001, being the first staff recipient of the UCSF Chancellor’s Award for LGBT Leadership and, in 2009, the UCSF Martin Luther King Jr. Chancellor’s Award for advancing cultural diversity and social justice on campus. In 2011, she was honored by Kaiser Permanente with the National HIV/AIDS Diversity Award.


Yoseñio Lewis

Yoseñio V. Lewis is a Latino of African Descent female to male transsexual who has been a social justice activist since he was 13 years old. A health educator, speaker, writer, performer, trainer, facilitator and spiritual hugger, Yoseñio is a Board Member of TASHRA—The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance. Yoseñio is on the faculty for the Sex Justice Track of the Creating Change Conference.  He is also a frequent speaker at the medical schools of the University of California at San Francisco and the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, as well as Stanford University. He served on the National Advisory Board for the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health. Yoseñio was an organizer of and Keynote Speaker for the OPEN-SF Conference (Open, Polyamorous, Ethically Non-Monogamous), as well as a panelist at the Transcending Boundaries Conference. Yoseñio was featured as one of the inaugural honorees of The Trans 100 list. Yoseñio is a co-founder of Big Boys’ Ink™ Productions, a theatrical writing and performing company. Yoseñio has been featured in several documentaries, most recently “Diagnosing Difference,” a full-length documentary about the impact and implications of the Gender Identity Disorder (GID) on the lives and communities of those on the gender spectrum.  Other documentaries include Christopher Lee’s “Trappings of Transhood;” the television channel A&E’s “Transgender Revolution;” “The Believers,” a documentary about the Transcendence Gospel Choir and “Transforming Healthcare,” a short highlighting the issues that Trans people face when accessing healthcare. Yoseñio believes that there can be no art without activism and no activism without art.


Seth Pardo, PhD

Dr. Pardo is an adjunct instructor at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. He is also a Research Fellow at the Rockway Institute for LGBT Research & Public Policy (Alliant International University). He is trained in developmental and cognitive psychology (Ph.D., Cornell University); feminist, gender, and sexuality studies (Certificate, Cornell University), and served a two-year clinical research assistantship in mood disorders with Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, MD (Cambridge Hospital/Harvard Medical School). Dr. Pardo is a Lead Evaluator in Research & Evaluation, Office of Quality Management (OQM), San Francisco Department of Public Health. As Lead Evaluator, he leads the program evaluation for the Minority AIDS Initiative – Targeted Capacity Expansion (MAI-TCE) Project for the city and county of San Francisco.  Funding for the MAI-TCE Project was awarded from the Department of Health and Human Services: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  This grant program is part of the Congressional Minority AIDS Initiative, which was developed to improve HIV-related health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority communities disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and to reduce HIV-related health disparities.


Jenna Rapues

Jenna J. Rapues, MPH is a program liaison for the Community Health Promotion & Equity Branch (CHEP) at the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH).  She leads the SFDPH’s Transgender Advisory Group (TAG). From 2008-2013, Jenna provided technical assistance to the department’s Community Assessment, System/Program Evaluation and Research (CASPER) workgroup on the development, dissemination and community engagement of the department’s Policy and Principles for Collecting, Coding, and Reporting Social Identity Data (Sex and Gender Guidelines). Her efforts aided to gain the approval of the guidelines from the Health Commission. In 2010, Ms. Rapues coordinated the department’s Transfemales Empowered to Advance Community Health (TEACH), the first nationally recognized Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) study recruiting the largest sample of transfemales nationwide. The goal of TEACH was update the city’s transfemales sero-prevalence data and evaluate the health and prevention needs of the community. She is featured in 3 national articles highlighting the health risks and burdens of disease among transfemales in San Francisco. More recently, Ms. Rapues provides technical assistance and leadership in assessing the department’s transgender health programs and services with the goals expanded coordination and support towards the development of a department transgender health action plan..


Research staff

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Kelly Johnson, DrPH, MPH

Kelly Johnson is the project coordinator for AFFIRM’s San Francisco site. She is also a postdoctoral research fellow with the Health Equity Institute at San Francisco State University. Kelly holds a doctorate in public health from UC Berkeley and a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins. Her dissertation research used visual qualitative methods to examine resilience and social support among trans, genderqueer and non-binary adolescents between the ages of 16-20. Prior to working with Project AFFIRM, Kelly was a Program Manager with the Global Health Science research group at the University of California, San Francisco, where she managed two HIV behavioral surveillance surveys of Haitian populations in the Dominican Republic. She also worked on the SHINE study, an HIV risk and resilience study of trans-female youth in the SF Bay Area. Her research interests include adolescent health, qualitative methods, LGBT health, harm reduction, HIV prevention, stigma, and resilience.

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Trent Yuhas

Trent Yuhas is a graduate student research assistant for Project AFFIRM in San Francisco. Trent holds a BA in Political Science with a minor in Multicultural Queer Studies and is currently pursuing a MA in Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. With a demonstrated interest in education and activism, Trent is committed to pursuing projects emphasizing public service and social justice as core principles of ethical research practice. Their personal research interests include critical theories of the body and identity, neoliberal political rationalities, and sexual and gender identity formation at the intersections of race, class, and nation.



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Eli Alston-Stepnitz, MA

Eli is currently working towards his PhD in Sociology at University of California, Davis. His primary research interests are gender and sexuality, particularly the ways gender and sexuality intersect with law, science & technology, and popular culture. He recently completed a project entitled “On the Basis of Sex”: The (Il)Legitimation of Trans Bodies in Law" looking at the ways sex and gender identities are regulated by the state.

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Hannah Forsberg, MPH

Hannah Forsberg is a queer cis-woman who has worked in community based reproductive and sexual health in the Bay Area for a decade, providing health education, training staff and volunteers and supervising clinic operations. She recently graduated from the Master of Public Health program at SF State, and was lucky enough to work as a Research Assistant with Project AFFIRM during her time as a student. Her direct service and academic work focuses in queer and trans access to affirming reproductive and sexual health care. Hannah is currently working on an assessment of healthcare providers’ practices, challenges and needs related to pregnancy prevention care for transmasculine assigned-female-at-birth people, which she is looking forward to presenting on at the 2019 American Public Health Association Conference. She plans to use her research to advocate for community-centered sexual and reproductive healthcare access.


Wiley Kornbluh

Wiley is currently working as a Research Associate at San Francisco DPH's Applied Research, Community Health, Epidemiology, & Surveillance (ARCHES) division. Wiley will also be starting an MPH program in community health education at SFSU this fall.. 




Allen LeBlanc, PhD

Dr. LeBlanc is Health Equity Institute (HEI) Professor of Sociology at SF State. LeBlanc earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from The Pennsylvania State University and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California, Los Angeles, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. His work on societal and individual responses to chronic illness and disability; the social etiology of SOCIAL stress and health; and government programs relating to disability and health care for low-income Americans has been widely published. His ongoing research projects examine stress as it emanates from stigmatized identities and social roles, in order to deepen current understandings of stress processes affecting individual health and enduring health inequities at the population level. With regard to Project AFFIRM, he is interested in examining stress experiences as they vary across the lifespan, and as people move through critical developmental trajectories, especially those that involve marginalization by the larger society. He is currently the Principal Investigator of an NICHD-funded study of the relational context of stress experience and health among same-sex couples (Project SHARe: Stress, Health, and Relationships, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development).