by Aliya Bean
Victory Congressional Fellow 2018-2019
Today marks my last day as the Victory Congressional Fellow. Over the past 13 months, I learned so much from the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and achieved more than I could have imagined.
Just months into my fellowship, it was clear that I would not have the typical Fellow experience. By mid-November, I not only was the first Fellow to work in a majority pro-equality House of Representatives, but also, I was unexpectedly promoted to Interim Executive Director of the LGBT Equality Caucus. I was thrown into the deep-end and tasked with an enormous range of responsibilities.
By March, I had recruited the largest LGBT Caucus in House history—upwards of 160 members—and organized two highly attended roundtables for Members of Congress with transgender youth and their parents. I wrote and helped garner 95 Congressional signatures for a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services opposing discrimination in child welfare agencies, which was endorsed by several organizations, including the ACLU and Human Rights Campaign.
Even though every day of my fellowship was filled with memorable experiences, three of my most noteworthy moments were:
- witnessing and being intimately involved in the historic passage of the Equality Act,
- personally interviewing nine of our openly LGBTQ lawmakers from both the House and Senate for Pride Month,
- and organizing and moderating an unprecedented Hill briefing on LGBTQ reproductive justice to a packed room of nearly 100 people.
None of these experiences were even conceivable when I began my time on the Hill.
As I reflect upon this past year, it is obvious that I more than met my original goals, hopes, and dreams. I not only learned the ins and outs of the legislative process on the Hill, but also participated first-hand in moving forward key LGBTQ legislative priorities. I met and formed enduring relationships with Members of Congress, fellow Hill staffers, and influential figures in the field of LGBTQ and social justice advocacy.
I like to hope I made the Hill a bit more intersectional—serving as an LGBTQ resource for staffers and Members, and as a liaison between advocates and the Hill on the vast array of issues that impact the LGBTQ community, from immigration and detention, to racial and criminal justice, to reproductive justice, economic justice, and more.
Today I leave the Hill enamored by its wonkiness, its dedicated and tirelessly working Members and staff, and its electrifying and unpredictable atmosphere. I know now that in the Spring of 2021 when I graduate from University of Chicago with a master’s in public policy, I will likely return to Washington, DC. Whether I end up working again on Capitol Hill, or elsewhere, I know that the skills and experience I gained as the Victory Congressional Fellow will arm me to rise to challenges, seek out new adventures, and succeed in whatever path I choose to pursue.