OutPower

Congressional staff diversity key to good public policy

It’s been about two months since I started my year-long Victory Congressional Fellowship with the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, and it has been an incredible experience. As I walk from the Metro to my office building, I see the Capitol dome and find myself in awe that I actually get to work in this institution. A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tour the House floor. It was surreal to walk in the same room where the State of the Union takes place, where the stand-alone bill to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell passed 250-175 almost six years ago, and where so many other important pieces of legislation have been (and will be) discussed and voted on.
As a fellow with the LGBTQ Caucus, I am tasked with managing our online presence through Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps one of the most critical things the Caucus does is keep the LGBTQ community visible – highlighting victories and obstacles so the public knows what Congress is doing. In addition, I oversee three policy areas for the Caucus: international LGBTQ issues, criminal justice and immigration. I coordinate with members and advocates on these issues and find ways the Caucus can affect change. I also learn more about issues that are meaningful to me and have a particular impact on our community.
I may have only been working on Capitol Hill for two months, but I already recognize how critical the presence of openly LGBTQ people is in these institutions, not only as elected officials, but also as staff. In particular, I have become even more cognizant of how necessary the presence of LGBTQ people of color is. We all remember the infamous “Speaker Selfie” from earlier this summer, where few if no people of color were present in the photo. I live that experience; I am more often than not the only person of color walking in hallways built with bright white marble. Fortunately, I have been able to meet other LGBTQ people of color on the Hill and their presence is gratifying, but we are often tasked with the responsibility of being the only voices in our offices. When LGBTQ- particularly LGBTQ people of color – are disproportionately affected by poverty, homelessness, violence, and discrimination, our voices are vital at every step in the decision-making process. When public figures attempt to pass anti-LGBTQ laws or make anti-LGBTQ statements on the floor of the legislature, they should have to look us in the eyes as they do so, rather than in our absence.
I am grateful for the opportunities that the Victory Congressional Fellowship has given me, and the community that I have joined. In the next year, I look forward to all that I will learn and all the people I will meet. I have no doubt that in the years to come, my experiences through the fellowship will prove vital.

Fellows & Interns