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.
Out of my time on the Hill, my favorite part was all of the fantastic hearings and briefings I was able to attend. These are moments that I had watched on live streams, Instagram reels, and Tik Toks for years, and now I was actually sitting in the room. I was watching history being made; it was in those rooms that I truly realized the gravity of where I was working and who I was working for.
The most interesting, and most impactful hearing I went to was the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about the state of LGBTQ+ rights today in America. One of the witnesses on the panel was the President of the HRC, Kelley Robinson, and in her opening statement, she spoke a lot about different laws being passed in each state. Near the end of her statement, she said “For every Tennessee, there is a Minnesota,” highlighting the disparities of LGBTQ+ rights between various states.
I felt like falling out of my chair when I heard her say those words. See, I am from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, proudly so, but I go to school in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I’ve always known the two states are very different, and that is a big reason why I decided to move so far away to go to college. Minnesota has been passing incredible, progressive laws lately including plenty that protect LBGTQ+ rights specifically those involving transgender people, and it’s no secret that Tennessee has been doing the exact opposite lately with their drag ban and other discriminatory laws.
I knew exactly where Robinson was coming from when she said this, but to hear these two states, both of which I live in, be referred to as diametrically opposed in terms of my own rights as a queer individual was heartbreaking. I felt like I was being torn in half. Part of me will always live in Tennessee, and I have so much love for my home state. Tennessee has beautiful mountains, warm and friendly people, and the best chicken you’ll ever eat, but I know about the hate that lives there as well. That’s all to say that this hate lives in Minnesota as well – that this hate lives in every single part of this country. One thing that the Victory Congressional Intern cohort has taught me is that while we may all come from every single corner of this country, none of us has been without struggle to get to this place.
Every single day on my walk to my office, I pass by the office of one of the Senators from Tennessee. It hurts me so much to walk past the office for my own state, see other interns file in through the door, and have to walk past to get to the office I work in for a state I’ve never even visited. I love the work I have done and I love the office I was placed in, but I do hope one day I’m able to work for an office from my own home that has politics I align with.
I, as a queer woman from the great state of Tennessee, just want to say that I am proud to always call the South home. No matter how many times people apologize to me when I tell them where I’m from, or ask with pity what it was like growing up there, I will still be proud of my beautiful home and the wonderful people I know who live there. Through my time on the Hill, I have learned that I need to stop running from where I’m from because I’ll just be running forever. While it’s true that for every Tennessee, there’s a Minnesota. However, I, and others like me, still exist in states like Tennessee. And trust me, they all should not move to Minnesota – there’s a lot of snow there! Instead, I want to commit to working on my home community with the knowledge I’ve learned from living in a place like Minnesota, bringing that back to Tennessee in the hopes that one day we’ll see change make its way all the way back to the Senate.