OutPower

The Final D.C. Chapter… For Now – Julianna Rittenberg

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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Somehow, we have reached the end of this internship way too quickly. As I am preparing to leave Washington, D.C. at the end of this week, I have been thinking back over what I have learned during this internship.  

This internship has given me so much. It gave me a network of queer professionals in my field to turn to with questions. It gave me some friends I know I will now have for life, like my roommates. It gave me confidence and a clear path for the near future.

I entered Washington, D.C. a nervous college sophomore who had never left Ohio for longer than a week. In just a week, I will be leaving the city self-assured and confident, better suited to pursue internships tailored to my interests and ready to finish my bachelor’s degree.

Washington D.C. has been good to and for me in so many ways. 

While I have been confident and open about being LGBTQ+ for the majority of my life, my identity is still something I struggle with. I struggle with sorting out what are societal expectations that I have had thrust on me from a young age and what is genuine attraction. In the last two or so years, I have found a label that fits: queer. It gives me room to work out my struggles with heteronormativity while still giving me the comfort of knowing I belong somewhere. This city gave me a new space to test that label in. While in Washington, D.C., I switched between two labels, trying them on in a new space with new people to see if queer truly fit. At the end of this experience, I can say that it does. 

I have always believed in the power of representation. I have attended several events in Washington, D.C. where I have been one of less than five women in the room, if not the only one. Where I am the only person from the Midwest. While I have always known that I would be one of the first in my field, I always hoped to break barriers. Washington, D.C. has taught me the reality of that knowledge, both the loneliness and the power that comes from breaking barriers. It is lonely, it is empowering, and it is educational. It has demonstrated the importance of helping others from minority communities as I continue to work my way into political and governmental spaces. 

Washington, D.C. has taught the importance of being authentic. The representative whose office I have been working in is a very real person. I have met dozens of LGBTQ+ people who do their best to be truly themselves while working in politics. I have been inspired and reminded of the importance of staying true to yourself while working hard. Conforming to other people’s expectations in order to have a career is not the way I want to accomplish my dreams. I want, and need, to be myself.

Finally, being in a city where I came in knowing no one and just beginning my career, made me grow in confidence. In just over two months, I have learned a transportation system, navigated the U.S. Capitol campus, successfully written several memos, debated legislation with my coworkers, and embraced my history nerd heart by giving tours of the U.S. Capitol. I have learned that I am capable. I can be successful in political work. I can follow my dreams. I will be okay. 

I am so incredibly thankful to the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute and Representative Sharice Davids’ office for giving me this opportunity. As I head back to Ohio and school, I am excited to take what I have learned here and apply it to the rest of my education. This may be the end of this Washington, D.C. chapter but I will be back. That is the promise I am making today. 

This is not goodbye, simply see you later.