OutPower

Representation is Power – Michael Gadinis

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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Representation has been a constant theme throughout this summer. For starters, I am working in an institution intended to serve as the center of representation for our nation: where we collectively send 541 elected officials to represent our thoughts and needs to the Federal government. Historically, this system has been far from perfect. Those with power and prestige are inherently given an upper hand in running for these coveted seats and the demographic makeup of our nation’s legislative branch has been far from representative of the population as a whole. While this lack of proper representation has certainly improved with time, there is still much more progress to be made. As it stands, only 2% of members of Congress self-identify as LGBTQ+ – far off from proportional representation for our community. As a Victory Congressional Intern, my sexual identity is intrinsically tied to the work I do. I am entering spaces not as an intern who is gay, but as a gay intern.

Is my presence in these spaces representation? After all, I am just an intern. I am not one of the people serving as a representative. This question is one that I still find myself grappling with, but the Friday programming sessions through the LGBTQ Victory Institute have provided me with some clarity. Two weeks ago, the Victory interns spoke with the Victory Fund political team and learned about how they work to get queer people elected. The people behind this process are not representatives, but they are at the frontlines of the war to get queer people into office. The next week, we spoke to a panel of legal professionals who shared their experiences in corporate law, pro-bono litigation, and education. These three accomplished professionals, all of whom work in different legal spheres, shared a similar sentiment: that regardless of what realm of the law you devote your time to, change for the better is possible. To be in the legal space, a space that is historically hetero- and cis-normative, as a queer person is representation in the fullest sense.

Power in the political world does not come easy, and this is something that I learned while doing my community service as a part of the program. Me and one of the other interns and I spent our early hours of July 4th canvassing for a statewide election candidate. This candidate, a queer young person, is LGBTQ Victory Fund endorsed, energetic, and ready to make change at the local level of government. As I walked around the upper-middle class neighborhood knocking on doors and speaking with local residents, I realized that my canvassing for a young and queer candidate was exactly what we mean by “representation.” I was doing the brunt work required for someone to make it into office, and while I may not be the person aiming to be a representative, I was involved in that vital level of the political process and was thus contributing to queer representation in politics. Similarly, by being a gay intern in an otherwise heteronormative space, I am contributing to queer representation in Congress. While this form of representation may not be representation per se, being a gay intern undoubtedly fulfills that mantra of “Representation is Power.”