Madeleine Hall ’21: William Way LGBT Community Center

Name: Madeleine Hall
Class Year: 2021
Major: Anthropology
Hometown: Bellingham, Wash.

Internship Organization: William Way LGBT Community Center
Job Title: Senior Programs Intern
Location: Philadelphia

This summer, I have the great opportunity to intern at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia, which just had its 45th anniversary. The Community Center exists to provide queer people and their allies with resources, support, and opportunities to better their lives. The Center provides a range of services from free peer counseling, support groups for, cheap yoga classes, recovery meetings, education about HIV and testing, and is a judgement free place to hang out 365 days a year. Along with all of this, it houses incredible art exhibitions (come visit now to see an amazing exhibition honoring the 50th anniversary of Stonewall), and the John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives, which has the largest collection of LGBT ephemera in Philadelphia. I think anyone who is in the Gayborhood should stop in and visit, it truly is a wonderful place.

I found the William Way Center on an internet search for nonprofits in Philadelphia, emailed them a resume, and was referred to my current supervisor. After that, it was a quick decision, and I started going weekly in February before starting full time at the end of May. For my specific internship I am working under the Senior Programs Coordinator, who organizes a 50-plus gay men’s social group along with Access Services for the John C. Anderson Apartments. The JCA Apartments are around the corner from the Center, and is low income housing for 65-plus LGBTQ people. Even more specifically, the Center was awarded a grant to start a healthy eating program for the residents of JCA, and since my interests and background align with both food access and LGBT rights, the internship is a perfect match. My organization is on the small side, so I also do anything and everything, from marching in Philly’s Pride Parade to folding and cutting pamphlets.

The award winning gardens of the John C. Anderson Apartments, kept up by the residents.

The award winning gardens of the John C. Anderson Apartments, kept up by the residents.

My absolute favorite part of my internship is meeting and hearing the stories of the residents. In all honesty, I had never really considered my queer elders before, and now I realize that that was an oversight. Many of them grew up in deeply homophobic and transphobic communities, lost countless friends to violence, AIDS, and suicide, and the survivors are now being forgotten by their own community. As much as I love the queer community, so much of it idealizes and focuses on youth, and our elders are forgotten. Despite all this, the folks that I have met at John C. Anderson already feel like family to me. Growing up as a little queer kid, I never had queer elders to tell me about our history, the challenges they faced and surpassed, and now I fully believe that all young queer people should make an effort to talk to our elders. I have befriended a founder of the Gay Liberation Front, an incredible trans woman who was in a John Waters movie, and lovely gay couples who have been together for decades. As I am getting to know the residents, I am also learning so much about what it means to love, to have hope for a better future, and what it means to be a part of a community.