OutPower

From Angst to Ease: Finding a Home from 3,000 Miles Away – Kaelynn Crawford

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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Joining the LGBTQ Victory Institute as a Victory Congressional Intern has introduced me to an entirely different world, in several different ways. As I begin my first week as an intern on The Hill and with the LGBTQ Victory Institute, I can confidently say that I have found my sense of belonging and community with my cohort.

Growing up in a small rural town in Idaho, public transportation and the buzz of city life was never a familiar sight. Despite this, stepping off the plane and onto the DC metro brought about a feeling of overwhelming unfamiliarity and uncertainty. I was nervous about who I was going to meet, how I would present, and what people would think of me. Upon arriving, I was instantly greeted by the warmest and most welcoming cohort, who all expressed their worries and anxiety as well. The Summer 2022 cohort is comprised of sixteen individuals who all share the same experience of institute programming and an internship on Capitol Hill.  This cohort helped instill a sense of belonging and community and offered reassurance that despite this feeling of loneliness, the community that I was a part of was there with familiar feelings, furthering the notion that representation of the queer community advances a sense of belonging wherever you may be.

Our first day of the program comprised of many pieces of training, as well as a call with the president and CEO of the Victory Fund & Victory Institute, Mayor Annise Parker. Mayor Parker shared feelings about battling imposter syndrome and how to demand respect and legitimacy as a lesbian woman in a male-dominated field. Imposter syndrome includes feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence despite one’s achievements and education, a phenomenon most battle daily. Her story was motivating and inspiring. A key takeaway from the talk was that “killing others with kindness” is a useful tool, especially when being a part of a community that is underrepresented and stereotyped. I found this useful because my identity in Idaho has always been one that is questioned and judged. Despite this, kindness and compassion are what have encouraged decency and humanity within most people further showing the love harnessed within the LGBTQ+ community.

The second day of orientation was our day on Capitol Hill. Touring the Capitol is where my feelings of imposter syndrome came to light. I found myself surrounded by trailblazers in their respective fields, along with a panel of LGBTQ individuals who work there. Much like our time with Mayor Annise Parker, I was delighted and inspired by the representation at such high levels of government. The mission of the LGBTQ Victory Institute is “Representation is Power” and to me, representation means opportunity for people of different races, sexual orientations, genders, and cultures to make the changes they wish to see within a country that seeks to uphold the values of a democracy. When you lack this representation, you foster a lie that does damage to society and enforces a notion that only one “correct” identity exists. Representation within the highest level of government validates those who are different and their experiences. Representation is democracy. As a queer woman, this representation has allowed me to infiltrate levels of government I never knew possible. This representation is not just the story of one person but a story that reaches hundreds. It is a community effort.

The two days of orientation brought about an array of training and taught me to force my seat at the table. Each of us, regardless of race, gender, identity, sexual orientation, and culture deserves respect, as a country’s government should look like the people that it represents.

I found my time at the Capitol to be a social time spent with my fellow interns. We took photos and shared stories and music. We were all so amazed at the different life paths that had led us to this collective moment in an experience each of us will carry throughout our lifetime. More importantly, these different experiences are what will inspire and propel our passions to set into motion the series of changes we wish to make within government.

Despite the fears and anxiety I faced at the airport, I am still overwhelmed, but in a different sense. I am overwhelmed with the amount of love and belonging I feel being a part of the LGBTQ Victory Institute. I look forward to the next weeks to come.