Everything’s Okay, Just Senate Slay – David Cleland

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


As a 21-year-old college student from the South, it is hard to know exactly what to feel when you discover you have been selected as a candidate for an internship in the United States Congress. Is it excitement for the opportunities to come? Is it trepidation about the distance from family, friends, and all familiarities? Or is it confusion from the initial disbelief that you were chosen from students across the country? These were all questions, running through my mind. I did not know which one to pick, if I should pick all of them, or if any of them were even the right way to feel. I had never seen myself in this position before. I had never seen “me” represented in such a program or in a place like Congress. I have since learned that the LGBTQ Victory Institute has worked tirelessly to move people like me into the light in order to bring about representation for the LGBTQIA+ community, but leading up to this I felt isolated and nebulous.

However, when I arrived in Washington, D.C., I truly evolved my ideology and honed my understanding of what this opportunity means and how being here should make me feel. During the first couple of weeks in Washington, D.C, the Victory Congressional Internship (VCI) programming included a discussion on Imposter Syndrome. I already knew what Imposter Syndrome meant for the most part, but having the program discuss how Imposter Syndrome manifests in us as Congressional interns really illuminated the doubt I had in myself that was causing this tumultuous array of thoughts and feelings in my mind. From this discussion, I looked back at the questions I was asking myself and came to revelations that have transformed my time on Capitol Hill. Am I feeling trepidation? No, I am not because I know my family, my friends, and all my familiarities will be there when I return, and where I am, now, is where I am meant to be. Am I feeling confused? No, I know exactly why I am here and exactly how I made it here. I deserve to be here. I want to be here which showed me that the only thing to feel from that list was pure, unsolicited excitement for the road ahead; excitement for where I am now, and excitement for where I came from or where I used to be.

Remember, all of these revelations happened within the very beginning of my journey through the Victory Congressional Internship. From there, my time in Washington, D.C. has been nothing short of spectacular, stellar, and one could even say… slay[1]. Everyday I wake up and feel like an amalgamation of Elle Woods from the movie, Legally Blonde, and Carrie Bradshaw from the television show, Sex and the City. Just like these two women, I am a person who is not typically seen or sometimes even accepted in my place of work, but I step out each day with pride, dignity, Dior lip oil, and my six-inch heels and represent my community to the best of my ability. They were pioneers in their films. I will be a pioneer in mine because that is what representation is about, and that is how representation is built. Each day is a new chance for me to represent myself, but along with that it is a chance to represent my community. The beauty of this path towards a higher degree of representation is that I am not doing it alone. On a day-to-day basis, I see queer, LGBTQIA+ people working in all fields and in all positions. It may not be as much as much as we want it to be, but they are present and their voices and presence are seen and heard. I am overjoyed each day to step foot into Congress with my fellow trailblazers in the community and work as hard as any person on Capitol Hill, showing the world that the LGBTQIA+ community belongs here and deserves to be here. My favorite part about this internship has been networking with the other LGBTQIA+ folk on Capitol Hill to see that representation in real time and to understand their unique experiences and outlooks on what it is like to be working on Capitol Hill. This part has been the daily spark that continuously reignites my passion, as it is a daily reminder that I am not alone; I am represented and seen; I just need to continue and further that representation, as a growing LGBTQIA+ young adult. These people and this experience have truly inspired a whole, new perspective on life that give me hope and provide a visual and physical manifestation of representation looks like, now, and what it may look like as I continue down my path.  As Elle Woods once said, “Paulette, I taught Bruiser to shop online, I think I can handle Congress” (Legally Blonde 2, 2003). I can definitely say, I am handling Congress, and with the help of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, my fellow interns in the cohort, my office coworkers, and the other LGBTQIA+ people on Capitol Hill, I am showing everyone around that the LGBTQIA+ community is here to stay and is here to Senate Slay.

[1] Slay- a modern, slang term used to express satisfaction, state of quality, or impressiveness.