OutPower

Act One: Questions, Answers, and More Questions – Nathan Phillips

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

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The summer leading up to this internship, I rehearsed the same line when someone would ask me about how I was feeling. Usually, it was questions about how excited or nervous I was. Sometimes, there were questions my family and friends would ask me that I didn’t know myself: Aren’t you going to get homesick? What will you be doing during the internship? Do you get along with the people you’ll be living with?

As I enter stage left, I answer these questions with a monotonous response: I won’t know until I get there. Now I’m sitting in Washington, D.C. and can confidently say: Yes, I get homesick. I help prepare for events with the House Democratic Caucus, work a letter folding machine and learn a bit about the legislative process (amongst other tasks). Thankfully, I am close with the people I live with and the people I work with.

I often find myself thinking about how beautiful everywhere and everyone is in Washington, D.C. The people I’ve met have been lovely– whether it be professional or personal. It makes me smile to think of the friends that I’ve made and the ones that I’ll keep long after this internship comes to an end.

There have been multiple moments where I just sit, observe and marvel that the people I work with and have become close friends with were strangers less than a month ago. After brief virtual introductions and the occasional conversation through text, as far as we knew we only had our queer identities in common. Identities many of us have been proud of, ashamed of, and often a mix of the two resulting from years of confusion, anger or hurt experienced due to the very identities that helped us get here in the first place.

At first, I was concerned about being openly queer because being open about my gender identity as a trans man means leaving myself vulnerable. Even though I love the community that has been built and the friends I have made because of my identity, I can not help but remember the disadvantages of being openly queer. The fear, the insults and the disgust that has followed me like a shadow since before I could even put into words why I was different from the other kids– that never really goes away.

Once I’ve panicked about all the bad, I try to remind myself of all the good. Many of the friends I have made are part of marginalized groups and know what it is like to receive hate for something you cannot change. We combat this by loving each other and our identities fiercely and unapologetically. This comradery built off of mutual experiences, sympathy and genuine understanding became the building blocks of all the friendships I have made– this internship turned strangers into friends within days. I remember Ariana (a fellow Operations intern) throwing her arms around me and exclaiming, “I know it’s only been a few hours, but I’ve really missed you guys.” Referring to myself and my friend Aimee who have been trying to lure friends, coworkers and politicians alike to the dance floor.

This was said during the Democratic Spouses Forum which our entire office worked tirelessly weeks in advance to put together. Held at the Library of Congress, Democratic Representatives and their spouses were invited to join their colleagues to view the art adorning not only the walls but the ceilings, eat snacks and dance to a playlist filled with songs like Party in the USA, YMCA and What a Wonderful World.

This night is filled with dancing, laughing and hard work followed by a triumphant walk back to the office knowing that each of us played a vital part in pulling this night off.

Sitting and waiting for our Ubers to arrive makes me realize I not only miss my family and friends back home, I miss the people I’ve grown to love who can be (quite literally) standing right beside me. I’m very aware of how fast time has flown and how even if it feels like I have all the time in the world, the clock is ticking. Just as I didn’t know how I would feel arriving and staying in DC, I don’t know how I’ll manage to say goodbye to people I feel like I’ve known for years.

As more questions continue to pour in, I remind myself of what I do know. Even 2,765.0 miles away from home, I am surrounded by people who understand and support me in ways only they can– in ways I’ll surely miss once I am home. Working on Capitol Hill and living in Washington, D.C. is surreal in the best ways, just as my family is amazed at my position as an intern I am blown away by people within and outside my office who do the little things everyday to make sure the show runs smoothly. Like a theatrical production, we practice until perfection, plan down to every minute detail and end the show with shouts of glee and praise for everyone’s hard work. For the first time in a long time I feel connected to the work I do– and even though I know I’ll leave Washington, D.C.   with more questions than answers, I know in my heart that I’ve learned and will continue to learn valuable lessons that’ll result in plot twists and character arcs that will guide the story that is my life.