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 I write this, my seventh day in Washington, D.C. is coming to an end. I grew up in the suburbs of metro-Detroit and I’ve often felt that traveling was simply an aspiration. But thanks to the Victory Institute, I’m not only visiting D.C., but I’m working here for several weeks. It still feels like a dream; I have yet to stop looking everywhere with shiny eyes and a tourist smile. Of course, the fast-paced environment has reminded me a couple of times that I am here to work, but the work has felt so educational and rewarding.
The first two days in D.C. were spent with the Institute: learning about the organization, the other students in my cohort, what it’s like to work on Capitol Hill, and how other LGBTQ+ folks have found their way here. Before arriving here, I was intimated by how professionally well-rounded my cohort is and how intelligent they all are. But being with them in person helped me see our similarities more clearly – and opened my eyes to some key differences. Some of us come from places of privilege or discrimination due to race, gender orientation, ability status, or class. Noticing I was one of two folks who are socially transitioning our genders made me feel a little further from my community at home while noticing that two other folks struggle with physical ailments made me feel more seen.
I found this remained true as we continued our “Hilltern” journeys. While riding the Metro trains on my way to my first day in the office, I saw folks in queer relationships enjoying their lives, which gave me hope that it is safe for me to do the same. Oppositely, I was crushed to arrive in the Cannon building and notice that I was the only openly transgender person. It’s difficult to communicate to folks how frustrating it is that the only bathroom you can safely use is in the basement tunnels of the building next door; it feels ostracizing.
Nevertheless, that is why I am here: I came here to disrupt the status quo of Capitol Hill in a way that creates safety for the queer and transgender folks that come after me. It’s not just about going to the bathroom – it’s about creating safe places for people to simply be human. It’s not just about giving tours – it’s about being visible for the genderqueer child in the group who’s never seen a person like me grow up and thrive. It’s not just about writing memos – it’s about bringing policies to the Congressman’s attention when they don’t include people like him and me. It’s not just about networking – it’s about expanding people’s networks to include folks like me and coming to the workplace as my full, authentic self.
My first week on Capitol Hill has been full of adventures, hard work, and new experiences. While I can see why the Hill has a reputation for being “pale, male, and stale”, I also see hundreds of young interns throwing that away. Interns from all over the nation now walk the halls of Congress and the Senate, changing the way our laws are written and flooding our nation with diversity. It awes and inspires me while also reminding me: history has its eyes on me.