OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ+ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci.
Rule #1 of the Victory Congressional Internship: Queer history is fundamental to everything we do.
Rule #2: Don’t forget Rule #1.
As my time on the Hill comes to a close and I reflect on my transformative experience as a Victory Congressional Intern, I find myself overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude towards the queer individuals who came before me. From the courageous activists who took part in the Stonewall Riots to the pioneers who bravely came out during uncertain times, I owe them many thanks for the advancements I celebrate today. Without the persistence of the fearless leaders of our community like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé DeLarverie, my first impressions of DC as a queer person would be far less bright and remarkable than now. Their commitment to securing civil rights and bright futures for the LGBTQI+ community in spite of the oppression we faced was extraordinary.
There have been countless individuals who, in the face of societal hostility, had the courage to live as their authentic selves during times when being openly queer was met with disdain and violence. These pioneers were trailblazers who shattered stereotypes, challenged societal norms, and showed the world the power of living authentically. Their struggles and sacrifices have allowed me, at the ripe age of 20, to proudly walk the halls of power in Washington, DC. I cherish the opportunities I’ve had to engage in conversations with Members of Congress, sometimes discussing important issues over a shared bowl of guacamole. I revel in the freedom to express myself openly, both on and off the Hill.
I am proud to share with you that I have felt like myself every single day during this internship. I have realized that there is no need for me to subdue my personality or identity to be more palatable in my professional experience. Unfortunately, this is a privilege that many members of the queer community did not have years ago. Even harder to fathom is the fact that this is a privilege that many LGBTQI+ individuals don’t have today. In Washington, DC, I have been able to express myself openly, knowing that my voice matters and that my experiences as a queer individual are valued. This is a privilege that was hard-won by those who came before me. The confidence that I carry myself with, the bonds I’ve made with my fellow LGBTQI+ “hillterns,” and the pride parade I attended last month are all thanks to their persistence.
While I celebrate the progress our community has made, I also recognize that there is still work to be done. The fight for full equality and acceptance is far from over. The LGBTQI+ community is currently under attack by hundreds of anti-trans, anti-drag, and plainly harmful policies aroundthe country. It is my duty, as a queer person who has benefited from the sacrifices of those who came before me, to continue their legacy and fight for a world where every American– every human – has the opportunity to live as their authentic self out loud. As I leave the Hill, I am committed to fulfilling this duty and look forward to making space for other young queer leaders like myself (and hopefully like you, reader) to come do the same thing. When you get here, remember to brush up on your queer history before you try to make it; you’ll have a head start.
Very truly yours, Eric Thomas
A product of persistence