OutPower

Advocacy Through Different Lenses – Unique McFerguson

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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As I cross the halfway mark of my Victory Congressional Internship, I feel comfortable and adjusted to the pace of this new environment. It is becoming second nature to draft letters and memoranda to my Representative and actively interact with professionals in politics, all while somehow maintaining a balance between my coursework, self-care, and a social life. Nonetheless, even though I have settled into D.C., I cannot forget that the reason I am here is to engage with the LGBTQ community, learn about our current and past struggles, and to become involved in fostering solutions. 

Political turmoil surrounding the LGBTQ community has been the focus of the past week. In just this week alone, I have attended multiple briefings regarding the need to protect transgender youth and have received a much higher level of calls from constituents concerned about the state of LGBTQ civil rights in our country. It is disappointing to witness blatant discrimination occurring at a systemic level nationwide after learning and appreciating LGBTQ history and the work of prominent LGBTQ figures to create and defend their constitutional freedoms. However, the fight for social justice is not over, and our last workshop on serving while “out” in the government and in professional settings demonstrated just how meticulous the fight is. One specific LGBTQ issue is tackled starting at the grassroots level, then at the state level, then finally at the federal level, all while being supported by nongovernmental organizations. It is comforting to know that average citizens, major non-profit organizations, and public servants are invested in the fight for securing LGBTQ rights, but also frustrating to realize that the solution to inequality is not simple.

This week, I volunteered with Casa Ruby, a direct service organization that helps secure basic needs for LGBTQ people on a local and national scale. I explored the day-to-day operations of a non-profit organization and connected with LGBTQ leaders. I was surprised to see the meticulous inner workings of a non-profit that do not contribute directly to its overall mission but are vital to its existence. I collaborated with the organization on how to increase outreach through social media, brainstormed fundraising events, and learned the protocol for interacting with clients and the community. I realized the importance of personal and professional experiences in the field of advocacy. Some of the LGBTQ leaders I volunteered with gained their passion for this work through their own past need for advocacy, so their special connection to the work is just as valuable as if they had pursued higher education in the same field. I really connected with Casa Ruby’s mission to educate LGBTQ people on the prevention, testing, and treatment of HIV, to act as a liaison for LGBTQ immigrants seeking asylum or a pathway to citizenship, and to secure housing and food for vulnerable LGBTQ youth. Through this experience, I have gained new mentors and found an impactful way to further engage with my community.

Through speaking with my mentors and professionals that have visited our program, I have learned that being involved within the community and including LGBTQ people in all political aspects can foster solutions to social inequality. Networking is foreign and intimidating to me, but my mentor reassured me that involvement in the community can foster genuine connections and help me advance in my career without the social and professional pressures of networking. In his youth, he joined his local LGBTQ organization, gradually held leadership positions in the organization, and branched off into career positions through the relationships he made in the organization.

The consideration of LGBTQ people in all spaces is also important to the creation of systemic solutions. Our guest speaker, Reggie Greer, White House Director of Priority Placement and Senior Advisor on LGBTQ+ Engagement, was able to directly link transportation and infrastructure to specific LGBTQ issues like community spaces and housing, I would have never considered the face that LGBTQ advocacy is not confined to specific social issues, but rather a necessary factor in every political institution. 

As I venture through my journey on the Hill, as an undergraduate student and beyond, I can use the lessons taught in this jam packed week to continue engaging with my community and effecting change–no matter the scale.