OutPower

Contradictions – Noura Lamb

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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This summer has kind of felt like a sprint to the finish line – where you can’t even stop to catch your breath or look back behind you. While in this last week there is no slowing down, I’m trying to look back over this incredible experience. One of the first things I see is so many contradictions:

 

A strong urge to head back to Indiana, to leave the Washington, D.C. atmosphere behind me.

Yet –

A fear that there is so much more I have yet to see: Anthem concerts, the National Museum of the American Indian, farmers’ markets, and the longest escalator at one of the metro stops.

 

The brutal heat and unrelenting humidity of Washington, D.C.

Yet –

The need for a jacket in order to sit in my very cold office within the Rayburn building.

 

I only have eight weeks in Washington, D.C., less if we count a week of Covid isolation.

Yet –

I meet at least one new person everywhere I go, and for each person, I receive some part of their story.

 

I only have eight weeks in Washington D.C., although it feels like much less.

Yet –

I see an exponential increase in my knowledge of the legislative process.

 

A cis-gender, overwhelmingly white, work environment.

Yet –

A queer cohort who asks questions to government officials and lobbyists, pushing them out of their comfort zone.

 

Losing my concentration and getting caffeine jitters by 1 pm.

Yet –

Being officially done for the day – no homework! – after 5 pm.

 

Isolation in living hours away from college people I love who used to be a building over.

Yet –

A caring roommate who bought me flowers and read cheesy newspaper columns from across the apartment when I had Covid.

 

Adrenaline pushing me to consume as much information as I can on Capitol Hill.

Yet –

Absolutely no motivation to read for pleasure. Questioning if “consumption” of information is the right approach.

 

Frustration with government inaction as the bill that could ban assault weapons sits in a sub-committee, while I watch on the news that a shooting has taken place in Indiana.

Yet –

The ability to write cosponsor request memos, in which I give a recommendation to the Congressman, and he sometimes takes my suggestion to cosponsor legislation- direct action and influence.

 

Endless rules hearings and hundreds of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Yet –

Heightened appreciation for the thousands of staffers that keep the government in one piece and running every day.

 

The feeling of self-sufficiency and independence of navigating a city on foot, where I used to drive everywhere in Indiana.

Yet –

I arrive late to happy hour because I would rather wait 10-25 minutes for the bus than walk an extra 10 minutes at the end of the day.

 

The brutal historical genocide in the United States being swept away in favor of an enormous painting of Pocahontas’ baptism – active erasure and mythologization.

Yet –

Panels in which indigenous people tell their stories and advocate for their communities (albeit without sovereignty and to a majority white panel of elected officials).

 

Protesting outside the Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, with feelings of disgust and anger as I lose my belief in the law.

Yet –

Sitting at a desk, working for the government, when I get a notification of a road closure only to find out later that the “road closure” was protesters getting arrested.

 

Letting my nerves get the best of me and staying silent throughout a conversation with Representative Mark Takano.

Yet –

Speaking to my legislative director in a fast-paced conversation as we find the common language of Indiana being our home.

 

Witnessing food deserts in certain Washington, D.C. neighborhoods when volunteering with Martha’s Table.

Yet –

Being told that a house in Georgetown was last sold for 6 million dollars.

 

An aching neck and slumped shoulders on the metro back to Shenkman Hall.

Yet –

Listening to Kate Bush as I walk down the Rayburn halls, feeling my heart beat as I walk into the Rotunda.

 

I feel in conflict with myself and the city itself this last week. Yet rather than let the confusion of such highs and lows overwhelm me, I’m trying to remind myself that contradictions have to coexist and that binaries only constrict us. This in turn helped me to return to the notion that queerness is often in conflict with and contradicts the binaries around it. This summer I have felt a strong cis-gender push within the Capitol Hill culture – there are no gender-neutral bathrooms and there exist different dress codes according to gender. While I am currently using the label genderqueer, this environment asks me to assimilate back to my sex assigned at birth. At first glance contradictions, binaries, and certain conflicts ask you to choose a side, but at this point moving forward I know that I want to feel all the parts and that I am not about to start choosing a side now.