OutPower

No Struggle, No Progress – Hol Polk

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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I came into Washington, D.C. a bundle of emotions – excited, anxious, prepared to represent, and ready to advocate for change. I was ready to meet my 16 fellow interns and learn about their experiences being queer and about the advocacy they do. I was anxious; I am one of only three southerners in the cohort. I was ready to make a presence in my office but it was difficult to not know what experiences and expectations they would have about queer professionals. I was more excited than words to wa lk into the U.S. Capitol Building. It was as if I was in a dream. The community that was immediately fostered with my fellow interns eased any of these anxieties and somehow made moments even more exciting.

The first pride was a riot. Washington, D.C. pride with sixteen openly queer individuals was a celebration of us, a time to dance, laugh, and be free. In and of itself, it was also a protest. Simply having joy as a queer person is a protest against the cultural norms of our society. Pride is also an opportunity to advocate for the rights that are continuously being stolen from transgender children in my home community in Texas; a protest against the fact that the life expectancy of a Black transgender woman is only 35 years old; a protest in honor of those who came before us to make life better for those after us.

For many in the cohort, it was their first pride. Therefore, we went all out. Friday was filled with LGBTQ Victory Institute programming. This was the first time I sat down for a lesson in LGBTQ+ history, though I have taught myself queer history through literature and documentaries. We also had the opportunity to go on a walking tour of LGBTQ+ history in Washington, D.C. It was inspiring to explore the history of what once was. Following our walking tour, we went to a women’s organized event dedicated to celebrating queerness. I had never been to a space like that, especially with people I have felt so comfortable with.

In 2018, I was a part of the March for Our Lives protests in my local community. Being able to protest for something so personal to me in the nation’s capital was an incredibly important moment. Working in the House Democratic Caucus and being in the actual room where it happens made hearing speakers at the rally more personal and moving. Obviously, there is work to be done. Even within the event, someone yelled that they had a gun. Nothing happened and they were escorted out but it was also a moment filled with incredible fear. Everyone hit the ground, and I froze until other interns were yelling at me and then we were sprinting. Being in an environment in which protest can and does work is incredible but  also frightening and emotionally draining. 

These experiences, both at March for Our Lives and within pride weekend, have made my passion for change making within my office somehow increase. Meeting representatives, Congressional staff members, and people passionate about what I am doing has been incredibly rewarding. Learning the ways in which advocacy is most effective will take me far in my next endeavors. My life has been, and will continue to be. dedicated to making the greatest change possible that will impact the greatest amount of people. Despite my apprehensions and how far we have to go, the people I have met and learned from so far on this journey have filled me with love, joy, and hope. 

Being queer on the Hill isn’t always easy, but when they go low, we go high.