OutPower

Art & Advocacy – Hol Polk

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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There is nothing quite like growing up in the South. Your primary forms of entertainment are walking around Walmart for hours, swimming in your local river, and going to the movies with your friends. When I came to Washington, D.C., I arrived with the fear of the preconceived notions of me and where I grew up. When introducing myself to others here, it is often met with an apology for my home, or with the notion that I am trying to escape. Other times, I have been met with curiosity and love for my lived experiences, especially within the intern cohort. 

Four members of my fellow interns and I were drawn together through a shared love for Despicable Me and Minions. Representation is power, especially within the media. We live in a diverse and multifaceted society and when our references of queer communities are positive, they serve to normalize and validate our experiences. I was ecstatic when I found out Jack Antonoff, the co-founder of the Ally Coalition, was producing the soundtrack to Minions: The Rise of Gru. The album features multiple LGBTQ+ artists and activists, including Phoebe Bridgers and Caroline Polachek. As I look back upon seeing Despicable Me for the first time when I was just eight years old, I reflect on what it would have been like to hear such a wide variety of queer artists.

Within the movie itself, there was an incredibly similar experience to the ways in which I have found change can be made, both on and off the Hill. When the main character learns the corrupt ways of the leaders of his organization, he is the first person to speak out and protest against them. Then, his supporters rally behind him as he attempts to navigate this new space. When he befriends a mentor, he is guided towards more effective ways to work against the system. Suddenly, he has an entire group supporting him. Being queer on the Hill, the main character’s experience resonated with me. 

Coming into the Victory Congressional Internship, my primary means of advocating was through community organizing. Investing in mutual aid networks, communicating why change is necessary, and organizing protests and sit-ins on my campus at Texas A&M. Walking into the U.S. Capitol and truly being in the formal space where change is created was incredible. However, I was also suddenly thrown into a role where I am navigating being professional in advocating my experiences, yet standing firm in what I believe in. This method of advocacy has definitely taken some time to adjust to but it has become easier as my network has grown. As the weeks have gone on, my fellow interns, both at Victory and in the House Democratic Caucus, have been incredible in supporting one another in these extremely important conversations calling for change. 

When I walk into a space that is actively looking to reject my experiences and identities, it is never easy. However, even just existing in a space on Capitol Hill is inherently a protest against the system that was built against queer folks. Especially on the journey home , it is so important to continue being in these rooms to work for what is just. In Minions: The Rise of Gru, those in the uprise against the system were truly trailblazers.  I have gained so much through seeing a new favorite film with the activists I have come to know through the LGBTQ Victory Institute. As I work both in my office and back at home for my fellow queer Texans, I will take these lessons and experiences far.