Stepping Out – Donna Gary

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. 

I came to DC to learn more about legislation and to bring that transparency in government processes back to the communities I move through. This internship has been so much more than that. I have already learned so much about myself and my own story. Before this experience, I had never been to D.C. let alone thought about living in Foggy Bottom for two months.

Upon landing, I quickly realized how small D.C. actually is. Someone recently told me no building could be taller than the capital. This created the spacious yet crisp feeling of being a SIM in a new world. Everything was clean, even the trains and you always felt as small as you were big. The sidewalks never got too packed, unless it was 8:00a.m. and you were amongst the sea of interns on the blue silver or orange lines. The dome honeycomb-like structure and the way every train station looked exactly the same also made me feel like an avatar. My authorized intern ID, that looked very Congressional and official to my surprise, seemed to hover above my head like a beacon that said “Intern Donna.” I could feel it’s presence every time I saw someone else with a visible ID, which was everywhere from the trains to the Capitol Hill Campus. I’ll say this right now, the tunnels are real! That is all.

The airport was the size of a spacious gas station. I remember finding my roommate, with a phone on 1% no less, in the airport immediately. She had waited three extra hours after her flight for me to land to take an Uber together. I was terrified of having roommates I didn’t get along with. As an RA back at my university, I was worried about living with people for the first time in a year and a half. I promised myself that I would reach out, get to know my suite-mates and actually put in the work to make our space cozy. My roommate waiting for three extra hours at the airport for me was the first sign that I was going to be living with people who actually cared about me. I had been waiting for the warm summer weather of DC for a long time. New York and Chicago had been raining and weather moody. When we stepped out of the airport I welcomed the heat, and the sprawling empty sky you think only airports can demand.

We quickly realized we would be stuck on our phones to navigate our first week in D.C. We had three days to unpack, grocery shop, and explore before our nine to five started. As an entirely LGBTQ cohort, we went everywhere together. I wanted to go to CVS and it was assumed someone would come with me. One of the first places we went together was Target. About four of the twelve of us decided we needed hangers or we would be doomed. We ended up going all the way to Maryland. When I say all the way to Maryland, I mean a couple stops on the Metro. I was weary of nesting because I was recovering from a week and half of being so sick I probably should have been on bed rest. The high pollen count in New York had triggered my asthma and one day I woke up with no voice. My last few days in New York in school and the following eight days in Chicago had been eerily quiet. I played charades and thought twice about everything I tried to express. For the first time, I realized I was scared to meet my new roommates and cohort without a voice that could project or laugh too loud. I was glad I got better in time but was still pretty weak when I landed. That’s why my roommate waiting and coming with me to our apartment space in GW housing felt like a little miracle. She wasn’t doing everything for me but it was nice to have someone on the ground, in the program who had my back from the beginning.