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.
After a long week of working from home, I decided to go on a walk along the Anacostia River while the sun set on Saturday night. The warm sun attracted many others who also wanted to enjoy an evening by the water. As I watched the families playing tag and the dogs playing catch, I thought about the stories that make up each of their lives; stories that I will only catch a brief glimpse of before they flee in an instance. But there is so much depth and history behind each person that we interact with everyday that we will never understand through our tran
sactional encounters. Meaningful decisions made by people we don’t even know have had tremendous impacts on the standard of living we currently know.
Over the last few weeks, we have been learning about the stories of some historically significant figures in marginalized communities. One that stuck out to me was the story of Ernestine Eckstein, a gay woman of color that advocated for equality based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Ernestine grew up in Indiana and studied journalism at the University of Indiana. From the moment she had the opportunity, Ernestine involved herself in advocacy work, eventually becoming the vice president for the “The Ladder”, the official magazine of queer women’s rights group “Daughters of Bilitis.” As I learned about the work that Ernestine engaged in, I began to connect with her as a person, but was also much more motivated to participate in activism within my own community.
We were also able to visit the National Museum of African American History & Culture together through the program and learn more about intersectionality, discussing the dynamic between marginalized communities and diving into the complexities that overlap. Every time we discuss another issue, I am always incredibly impressed by the depth and reflection that remains constant despite the topic we discuss.
I never learned about LGBTQ+ history in school. Maybe a mention here or there, but nothing of substance that I can recall. The queer community has rapidly been growing, and yet we hear very little about its origin. Being involved in legislative work has already opened my eyes to how recent LGBTQ+ history has been made. Just this week, I have been working to help Congressman Schiff pass an inclusive policy letter that would erase the 3 month waiting period that men who have sex with men have to observe before they can donate blood. These are policies that have been based on discrimination and are overdue for change, and I am working hands-on to directly combat discriminatory practices like this one.
I am so thankful for the enriching experiences that I am exposed to while working on Capitol Hill with the Victory Institute! There is still so much more to learn, but I have already accumulated experience and knowledge that will help me continue to learn the history of other significant people while uplifting the stories of future activists.