Resilience – Elí Alejo

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.  

I fell in love with a new city – one I thought I would never get used to. Despite the humid weather, the Metro rush hour, and long lines at the grocery store, DC has life to offer. I won’t lie and say I haven’t been homesick for my comforting home in Amherst and my busy bee life in Los Angeles, but I have finally adapted to my DC routine and have become in sync with the world in D.C, something that usually takes time for me when making home in another city. It is somewhat disheartening to know I will be packing up again soon, but I can assure myself that I have left my mark here.

A Victory Congressional Intern smiles for a photo with Representative Sharice DavidsWorking on the Hill has taught me resilience. However, it has only taught me resilience because it was starting to wear part of me down. I became more aware of how my gender and its presentation challenges the gender binary that is existent on Capitol Hill. I have been misgendered and subjected to a gender guessing game, based on how I choose to present myself on a given day. Through this discomfort, I have learned that the questioning of who and what I am is enough to make people begin to question the binary that is enforced within these institutions. I have become comfortable with accepting that I, as a nonbinary trans individual, am doing enough by simply existing and being in these spaces. At the beginning of the internship, I was anxious about having to justify my existence on the Hill, but soon learned that simply living and being my authentic self is enough. I thank the other intern in my office, who also challenges the gender binary daily, for helping me ground myself when times become tough.

I am partly relieved that despite the transphobia in macro or micro instances, my office believes in me and the work that I am doing. From doing day-to-day intern work, I have advanced and been trusted to do more staff assistant and legislative work. The legislative director and legislative assistant have offered me opportunities I wouldn’t have experienced if it wasn’t for how much they believed in me and my work. I am now writing recommendations, researching bills, attending briefings, or simply providing the Congresswoman with what she needs. After a month of working in the office, I have gained the skills I sought out when applying for this internship. I am becoming familiar with how the government is run and how to bring back the knowledge to my community to build more resistance and passion for change. As much work as it is surviving on the Hill, it pays off when I remember that I made it this far for myself and my people.