OutPower

Emotions Taking Over While Taking Over Capitol Hill – Alán Cruz

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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As I walked into the Senate building for the first time with the other interns and my supervisor from the office of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), I kept staring at the art, the walls, and how old the building looked. I would have never been allowed to walk and roam the halls, let alone work in this building. This made me reminisce on one of our Friday programming days that we had with the LGBTQ Victory Institute when we went over queer history in the United States and in Washington, D.C. Learning and absorbing information about the history of the continuous struggle for queer and trans people made me extremely emotional, and gave me an opportunity to take a step back to realize the kind of position that I was in as someone who is at the center of multiple marginalized identities being disabled, gay, Indigenous, and Latinx.

In realizing my identities, as I began my first week in the office, I took them with me in shaping the path that I was taking in navigating an institution that historically would have excluded and called for an end to my existence at one point in time. In my Senator’s office, I have the privilege of working as a legislative intern under the judiciary and immigration portfolio, which also covers civil rights, gun control, and other pressing issues that are impacting many communities across the country today. While I am grateful to be engaged in this work, it has also been extremely difficult to settle in living independently for the first time and away from home.

At the end of my first week moving out of my family’s home and into Washington, D.C., all of the stress, anxiety, and overwhelming sensation I experienced caved in and hit me like a train. I broke down. I missed my family. I missed my dog. I missed living in comfort. Moving to Washington, D.C. scared me. This was the first time I lived independently, far away from home without my family surrounding me. In my household, as first-generation and the oldest, I was the pillar that held my entire family together. At the age of 4, I taught myself to speak, read, and write in English by watching PBS kids. After learning myself, I began to accompany my parents to translate for them both verbally and through writing whenever we went out to run errands. I can recall that at the age of 8, I was in charge of enrolling my siblings in school and applying them for free and reduced lunch because my parents did not understand the forms that were written in English, so I quickly became the “secretary” of the household, ensuring that we were on top of all important documents that required my parents’ attention relating to me and my brothers’ education. Living without them felt so unnatural and weird. I kept feeling as if they needed me to function.

After the first week passed, my feelings of anxiety and stress slowly dissipated as I settled in and allowed myself to just be. I was worrying too much about the future and not spending enough time in the present. Although I did start my internship later than the rest of my cohort, beginning my first day of my internship was one of the most exciting experiences of my life.

The confident stride I experienced on my first day continued into the rest of my first week, where I had the opportunity to meet the rest of the team, as well as the Senator herself, on several occasions. While I have only just dug into my second week, I am excited to work with a passionate team who aim to make the world a better place. At this point, I feel extremely comfortable walking into the U.S. Capitol building, feeling as if I earn the place because I am taking and making space for myself and all other marginalized people that deserve to be there despite what society thinks. All my life, I would be told what to do and allowed my emotions to dictate my self-worth, but that is no longer the case. Today, I am allowing myself to feel my emotions and allow them to “take over”, but I am also allowing myself to take over the halls of Capitol Hill.

I am still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, especially as someone who’s a college graduate, but I feel like this is my first stepping stone to figuring out where I fit in the world to make our communities more equitable and safe for all of us.