OutPower

Reframing D.C. in a Post-Roe World – Lauren Glass

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 am sure you are all too aware that women’s bodily autonomy in this country is no more with the Supreme Court decision that came out June of 2022. There is something very surreal about the whole experience, and I know the memory of that day will live with me for a long time.

Sitting in the LGBTQ Victory Institute office, high energy and enthused about the speakers of the day, it all got crushed in an instant with a singular news notification on my phone. I was surprised at the emotions I felt in that moment – we all knew this decision was coming; in fact we all knew it was going to drop that day. It had been months since the original leak of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision had been released. I thought I had already mentally prepared myself for the final decision and at least semi-processed it.

I was wrong. To my surprise, I did not feel angry at that moment. I did not feel sad. All I felt was defeat; a sense of emptiness. Others around me all reacted differently. Notably, the men less viscerally, which I suppose is to be expected. Some of my peers had tears of anger in their eyes, speaking quickly and loudly with fury in their voice about how they were just so mad. But I could not bring myself to say anything. What was there to say? It was done. I sat there in silence for the remaining hours before I was able to go home, barely speaking a word to anyone. I did not want to talk about it or hear what anyone else had to say. I walked back to my dorm in a fugue state. It was simply a feeling of ultimate and utter defeat. Not despair. Just a feeling of this is reality now. All is lost.

That may seem dramatic for a singular Court decision, but those worth their salt in the political world understand the deeper implications here. It is not just about abortion. It is about women’s rights in this country and the overlapping intersectional identities that tie to that – those with reproductive systems affected by this decision who already hold marginalized identities will be adversely affected by this decision as the layers of oppression build. I myself, as a woman who also identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, already feel this intersection. The SCOTUS decision is deeply personal.

What a strange feeling to be in the epicenter of American politics in Washington, D.C., quite literally working in a political office with the ability to take steps towards change and still feel helpless. Surrounded by the same people daily – incredible minds, powerful people, and passionate activists – feeling like hope is lost and this is the end of the fight seemed melodramatic. I realized it was my proximity to such people and my job causing me to feel this way. I was SO close to the room where it happens, yet outside of it. Unable to create any real or meaningful change through my current position.

How does one navigate their personal feelings and passions towards certain crucial political issues such as women’s reproductive rights while simultaneously feeling trapped in the menial nature of their position? This is not to say that I do not enjoy my work on Capitol Hill – in fact, I would say it is the most invigorating position I have ever held in my life. I know my work, even as an intern, is important and that interns are the backbone that keep my congressional office running (really, that keep every office running).  I certainly do not feel my work is meaningless – every memo I write I learn something, and there is no feeling like watching the Congresswoman deliver remarks on CSPAN that are the words I wrote myself. My work has meaning and purpose to me. It is just a different meaning and purpose than the one I still crave in the current political state of this country. Realistically, participating outside the office in civil unrest, protests, and donating to funds are the extent of what I can do from where I stand. I did do those things Friday as well – I just needed to do anything to feel like this was not the end for women in this country.

The events of Friday helped  remind me of the real reason why I am here for this internship in Washington, D.C., and to frame my Congressional internship in a different way. One cannot be expected to change the world through their first ever Congressional internship. And maybe that is okay. Being present in the physical environment of the nation’s capital and Capitol Hill, especially with the current state of political affairs, makes one anxious to get out there and do something to create change. Rome was not built in a day, and I am recognizing that this internship is a stepping stone to bigger things and more influential positions.