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.
Usually when I tell people I am from Kentucky, the response goes one of a few ways: either an “I’m sorry,” a condescending “Really?” when they find out a queer person can be from Kentucky, or “And you like it there?”
I was nervous about whether people in my cohort, 15 other students from around the country participating in the internship, would have preconceived notions of me being lesser because of my hometown. To my utter delight, I found a community united in queerness that embraced each other for where we came from. As the cherry on top, I discovered I would get to participate in the program with another Kentuckian! We found out we attended the Governor Scholars’ Program our senior year of high school together, and it was such a beautiful moment to recognize each other’s growth from that shared experience to a new one. We get to show Capitol Hill that Kentucky is queer together as we work towards ensuring Kentucky’s representatives reflect all Kentuckians.
I have been greatly anticipating meeting my cohort and beginning my work on Capitol Hill. My flight to Washington D.C. was jampacked with excited nerves, followed by slight nausea after circling the airport for thirty minutes to allow the Memorial Day flyover to conclude. It felt surreal to sleep in this city and find a piece of home in it when I moved in; I had finally made it to the experience that my whole year has been leading up to. I had questioned my participation in the internship ever since I received my acceptance. Do I belong here? Am I qualified? Do I deserve this? I figured I would find out my first day of orientation if this Bluegrass girl was in way over her head.
The most striking feature of this internship experience so far has been the community feeling in our cohort right off the bat. We all took the DC Metro on our first day together as a group, learning to stand on the right side of the escalator together, and we all went up the elevator together to the Victory office. Our first day of orientation was filled with uplifting each other, discovering fun facts about each other, and learning about our diverse lived experiences in a space of respect and acceptance.
Icebreakers are out and warm-ups are in according to our Victory internship manager Itay Balely, and I certainly quickly warmed up to my cohort. Orientation activities included educational activities, seminars on imposter syndrome and networking, a tour of the U.S. Capitol building, professional headshots, meeting with Victory President & CEO Mayor Annise Parker, and lots of sweating! It was so inspiring to hear from Mayor Parker, who taught me that it is important to make space for yourself instead of waiting for someone to give it to you. Through it all, I have found the strength to get through the long days from my cohort’s enthusiasm and support.
A defining moment for us was coordinating our elevator pitches. Our task was to introduce ourselves to the Victory staff with a quick elevator pitch summarizing our backgrounds. The twist was that we had to introduce the next intern with a connection that we had discovered by talking to each other. It was a beautiful symbolic moment of acknowledging that we all come from different backgrounds and places but we find the connections that unite us.
Representation matters to me because of one statement: Kentucky is queer, and its representatives should be queer. Even with only a week under my belt, I already feel like a stronger advocate for my state and for queer people everywhere. My roommate and I sat down one night when we were supposed to be taking the trash out and just discussed for an hour how great a future world could be and our plans to work towards that. This experience has emboldened me, excited me, and reassured me that my voice matters.
On my first day on the Hill, I learned the ins and outs of answering constituent calls and emails, giving tours, and how much crazier the U.S. House of Representatives is when it is in session versus not in session. One moment I really enjoyed was when the individual giving me my ID badge asked about my pin. I told them it was for the LGBTQ Victory Institute and told them our mission, and they said “Well, that’s a worthy endeavor for sure!” It is rewarding to know I represent a just and valuable cause.
I took my first constituent call in the afternoon of my first day, and I managed to be excited even with a person yelling at me on the other line. The political process just feels so much more tangible when you work in a Congressional office and know that the calls you are listening to are going to be shared with the representative for consideration. Although my day ended with heavy rain and I forgot an umbrella, I choose to think of it as a rebirth and a new beginning instead of unfortunate weather.
I am so excited to continue this journey of representation for both Kentucky and for the LGBTQ Victory Institute on Capitol Hill!