OutPower

Brave Enough – Connor Lee

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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W hat a week! This week absolutely rocked my world, and I cannot wait to see the opportunities and experiences that the next seven weeks hold. 

On our first day at the LGBTQ Victory Institute office, we heard from former Mayor of Houston and current President & CEO of Victory Annise Parker. It is one of my personal goals in life to be in “the room where it happens”—where big decisions are made and where positive changes for constituents are created. This goal is particularly important to me because I am someone with a diverse background. Mayor Parker not only has been in “the room where it happens” for decades, she has made history while doing so. Hearing from Mayor Parker further inspires me to step off the sidelines, make my mark, and follow in the footsteps of groundbreaking LGBTQ leaders like her. In essence, within my first full day as a Victory Congressional Intern (VCI), I experienced firsthand the importance of what this program is all about: learning from those who have paved the way, while also blazing our own trail forward to increase LGBTQ representation. 

Plus, being in a room full of LGBTQ leaders gave me a taste of being in the room where it is happening—as we are gathering together in a room of our own to work towards our shared vision of increased LGBTQ representation. I feel both empowered and motivated to continue this important effort to increase LGBTQ visibility and representation in government.   

Our second day was jam-packed: we toured the U.S. Capitol building, took some photos on the steps (shoutout to my roommate for her excellent photography skills!), talked with current Capitol Hill staffers, and heard from VCI alumni. The following day, I had my first full day in the office of Representative Sean Casten (IL-6). My coworkers simply could not have been more welcoming—my fellow interns and my intern managers were approachable and supportive. I can already tell that working in this office is not going to be something that I will want to fast forward through, but rather, something that I look forward to. While I initially felt a bit overwhelmed by the pace and the size of Capitol Hill, in the past few days alone, I have already become pretty grounded and comfortable in this environment of advocacy and activism. I think this is a testament to the culture of community that the LGBTQ Victory Institute and Congressman Casten’s office create. 

In a week full of highlights, one of my favorite moments was when my fellow Victory Congressional Interns and I took turns introducing ourselves to the LGBTQ Victory Institute staff. Rather than merely saying our names, majors, and Congressional placements, each of our introductions was rich in story, emotion, eloquence, and character. While we are alike in our identification with the LGBTQ+ community, what we each bring to the LGBTQ+ community is unique. This made our introductions both diverse and resonant. 

For my own introduction, I referenced a quote from one of my personal and poetic heroes, Amanda Gorman, who told the world at President Biden’s inauguration that “there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” This message and mantra of being “brave enough” has stuck with me—in college, in Student Government, in victories, and in losses. This week, I joined a cohort of new VCI leaders in a new city. Together, we were, and are, brave enough to make an impact in the heart of American politics in Washington, D.C. I look forward to seeing how we will continue to be brave enough through the rest of our program.