Yeo Writing Prize Amplifies the Voices of Jefferson’s LGBTQ+ Community

Storytelling and poetry can draw people together and create understanding.

This year’s Drs. Theresa and Charles Yeo Writing Prize sought to amplify the voices of Jefferson’s LGBTQ+ community and use storytelling and poetry to bring people together.

“The news is a battleground of ideas with contrasting viewpoints and positions surrounding the LGBTQ+ community,” says Kyle Conner, associate director of the Office of Human Research. “In health care and higher education, we work to improve lives and foster learning, and the Yeo Writing Prize can help us achieve Jefferson’s mission by championing the LGBTQ+ community through writing.”

Conner belongs to the Eakins Writers Council, a diverse group of faculty, staff and students with a common interest in the humanities, especially in the promotion and advocacy of writing throughout the Jefferson enterprise. They present the Yeo Writing Prize and oversee its judging panel.

The Yeo Writing Prize can help us achieve Jefferson’s mission by championing the LGBTQ+ community through writing.
–Kyle Conner, Office of Human Research

Each year, the Yeo Writing Prize tackles a different theme. It previously focused on gun violence and stories of the pandemic and the national reckoning on racial equality.

Read excerpts of this year’s winning essays and poems below and the full pieces here.

The winning work and a large selection of other pieces submitted to the contest will be published in the next issue of “Evanescent: A Journal of Literary Medicine,” another project of the Eakins Writers Council. A party and reading for the new issue will be held at the William Way LGBT Community Center on Aug. 8 from 6-8:30 p.m. Email for more info.

Sara Beachy

Sara Beachy (Photos by ©Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services)

First Place: “Shame and Unfolding Layers of Identity” by Sara Beachy, Postdoc Fellow, Family and Community Medicine
We walked into the room where my grandma lay with her hair back in her customary bonnet and her blue pastel dress on. My mother and I talked to her, and I told her about my studies, choking back lumps in my throat.

At times we just listened to the hymns playing on the TV station. It felt weird that my grandmother would spend the last of her days listening to a TV, a device her church had objected to for her entire life. After a bit, my mother told me that we should head out to meet my brothers for supper. She started for the door, and I felt my body stiffen. This might be my last chance.

“Can you give me one moment?” I asked, turning to my mother.


I stared at my grandmother’s 97-year-old face, her wrinkles shaping her face into the map that always pointed me back home.

“Hi, Grandma, I’m gay.”

Timberlyn Weber

Timberlyn Weber

Second Place: “Trans Body Divined,” by Timberlyn Weber, Collections Management Tech, Scott Memorial Library
In which god is a matriarch who wears blue eye shadow and color-coordinated clothes
In which god is a stoic man whose tanned and tired arms you only see in the dying light
In which god is a mother who married a bad man and left you behind
In which god is a power to be passed down, to be held in every body—yours but never mine
And in god-fearing country, sprang from the soil divine
An unholy body, they said—mine—the god-killing kind.

Alex Hernandez

Alex Hernandez

Third Place (Tie): “A Tapestry of Thoughts” by Alex Hernandez, Resident Physician in Pediatrics, Nemours Children’s Health
dirt-drenched woven fabric
by the thread.
i’d rolled up my sleeves a thousand times,
it clings to my skin with the magnitude of lifetimes.

for some reason, I lay here with ghosts,
tasked with god’s work, no one else knows.
plastic spade in my pocket,
here I stand,
wearing shame around my chest, unseen,
like a forever locket.

they say the grass is green where you water it,
but what if this world doesn’t nurture my crops
so empty, no grass grows at all?

no matter how much water pours
from my hands or onto this earth,
no matter what I will,
or what I offer,
a sacrifice,
a plea,
a prayer,
a thought
into this vast expanse,
emptiness is returned to me.

Malachi Lily

Malachi Lily

Third Place (Tie):Life Cycle of the Blastophaga psenes, or An Awakened Child” by Malachi Lily, Patient, Jefferson Pride Program
The fig tree.
The one in our playground. It was stout and ugly.
I found it unnerving for its unchecked curving branches—its false fruit.
An inflorescence: a cluster of many flowers and seeds ingrown within a bulbous stem.
Its fat leaves slapped your cheeks if you passed too close.
The tree and I shared the opinion that children are raised to be unhelpful,
sh***ing in porcelain vases, straining and sweating, instead of planting the fig’s
fertilized seeds in the earth’s dark.
We were taught—Don’t make a sound. Don’t disturb the ground.
The tree warned us. Adults whispered about us. Made my ears itch
and yours too.

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