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.
Despite the sweltering D.C. air clinging to my clothes, my hair, my everything, I couldn’t help but smile. Walking to work, I marveled that my morning commute takes me down First Street, right through the middle of two iconic D.C. landmarks.
To my left: The United States Capitol. I’m close enough to see the dome’s glass paneling. I picture myself inside leading a tour for Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s constituents, naming all the portraits in the rotunda and describing our lawmakers’ motto: “e pluribus unum.” Out of many, one.
Turning my head to the right: The Supreme Court. I watch as little kids run up and down the steps and remember coming here when I was 14 years old, head craning to stare in awe at the institution that had just legalized gay marriage. At the top of the Court, etched in stone hundreds of feet above the milling families, reads, “Equal Justice Under Law.”
Every morning, I’m a tourist seeing the city for the first time. Like clockwork, at 9:30am, I nearly give myself whiplash looking between these two institutions. An ultimate sandwich, with me right in the middle.
Even though I’ve been here almost two months, I feel the same sense of inspiration and wonder each time I walk down First Street. The hundreds of years of history, legacy, protests, violence, and victories squeeze in beside me, condiments creating a hearty meal.
And here I was, the filling, tiny in scale. I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to work for Congress one day. But, lo and behold, one could find me in the marbled Senate Hart building, interning for a Senator whom I relate to on a host of levels– including, but not limited to, being a bisexual, Independent Arizonan.
This summer was one of the first where my queer identity was professionally visible. As such, I’ve come to understand that successfully maneuvering this relationship between self and identity— being authentic in every sense of the word— is essential for happiness. Frankly, doing so is a feast for the senses.
Achieving this authenticity wouldn’t have been possible without the VCI community. The greatest people since sliced bread, my fellow VCIs supported me and gave me memories that’ll last forever: from salsa dancing in dorm hallways, to attending my first Pride, to eating ice cream in the freezing rain.
Plus, the Victory Institute indeed does hit every nail on the head in preparing us for the opportunity of a lifetime. In addition to matching us with suitable offices, they also ensure we’re constantly learning and evolving regarding queer representation and history.
During our weekly programming, for example, I learned the feminist significance of why “L” comes before “G” in “LGBT.” I learned about the origins of Pride and why such celebrations must never fade. I learned from Mayor Annise Parker that the work is more important than the job. But most importantly, I learned much about diversity, inclusion, and advocacy within the thoughtfully- chosen summer ’23 cohort, made up of incredible individuals who will undoubtedly change the world (and already have).
Alongside my fifteen VCI friends, this summer has been one of the most influential of my life. And while being sandwiched every day between the Capitol and the Supreme Court and interning for Congress hasn’t failed to be awe-inspiring, I understand recent legislative achievements and new legal rulings don’t guarantee perfection. I’ve listened as fellow interns gingerly hope for a more progressive future in the wake of personal experiences, recent disappointing Supreme Court rulings, and more. Our optimism isn’t necessarily rare, but cautiously maintained— tiny taste tests yearning for what’s supposed to melt in your mouth.
And despite the stars in my eyes, I still see the pitfalls and shortcomings of our institutions. Being here as an openly queer person is an uplifting testament, and D.C. hosts more space for our people than I’ve ever experienced. But it’s also a reminder of all the work that still needs to be done. History is not yet behind us.
After all, justice never comes served on a silver platter. It’s demanded and paid for. Sometimes it’s even wiped away, and the process of achieving hard-fought victories must begin again. And yet, I know my sense of reverence every morning will not cease. Because no matter how imperfect these systems are, our presence here– all sixteen of us– is a symbol of a more savory future that I’m certain is on the horizon. The mere fact that every day I find myself in a civic sandwich proves it.
Food for thought.