All of my Identities – Elias Hakim

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute.

Though the program only started three weeks ago, I am already acutely aware that there is nothing else like the Victory Congressional Internship. The Victory Institute brought together 12 exceptional young queer people from diverse backgrounds to establish ourselves in a space that is not built for us. In this short time I have witnessed the importance of representation in our government, and that representation starts with us. Never before have I been surrounded with such passionate and capable young people, and our hard work is outmatched by the sense of community that has flourished within our cohort. Beyond the opportunity to stay in D.C. and intern in congressional offices, Victory has proven to be invested in our success through providing a support structure, leadership trainings, and connections with established professionals that greatly supplement our Capitol Hill experience.

I’m very happy with my placement in the office of Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18). The office is a very friendly and accepting environment with multiple queer staffers, which isn’t surprising given Rep. Maloney’s position as the first openly gay congressman from New York. Last week the congressman took the office interns out for lunch, where I was able to speak with him about his position as an out politician, and how he deals with homophobia in the public arena with dignity and grace. Not only did he share his experiences with me, but he also lightened the mood with some gay jokes in the same vein as the jokes that I’d make with my queer friends. Beyond the accepting and inclusive office environment, the work I’ve been doing has become increasingly substantive and policy based. The projects assigned to me and the connections that I’ve made have already helped me focus my future goals and given me clarity looking forward.

Being a Hill intern, and probably having any job in politics, comes with a unique moral dilemma that arises from the often-conflicting forces of personal values, career incentives, and compromise. Navigating these intersections can be especially difficult when your identity is on the line, and as a queer Arab-American in a space that has historically perpetuated homophobia and anti-Arab sentiments and policies, my identity is on the line. I hope to deal with this struggle in a way that optimizes my experience to grow as a professional, and more importantly as a person. It has been hard having to learn to sometimes stay silent on the issues that are most important to me. Despite this, I have worn my identity on my sleeve, and am actively trying to find and meet with other Arab-Americans on the Hill, while growing my network of LGBTQ+ politicos through Victory. Balancing my advocacy and my role as an intern is difficult, but I understand that advancing my career will give me more influence on the policies that matter most to me.

I am more certain now than ever before that I am doing what I need to be doing with my life. I’m excited for the next five weeks of this amazing experience, and even more excited to walk through the doors that being a Victory Congressional Intern has opened for me.