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.
As I write this, the start of my last week in Washington, D.C. is barreling toward me. It seems only yesterday I was writing about arriving here, with “shiny eyes and a tourist smile.” I say with gratefulness that this feeling never left me. The rich history, busy environment, and diverse population enriched me in ways my home state of Michigan never has. I learned so much professionally, socially, and personally during my time here. At the same time, I feel like the city learned from me.
I was the only out-transgender person in the office of Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01). It was apparent from day one that I would be having unique experiences in D.C. that no one in my office would understand. For example, each day I have had to decide between walking ten minutes to the single-stall bathroom in the basement, feeling dysphoria in the women’s restroom, or praying that I “pass enough” in the men’s restroom. This is something that my colleagues have never had to consider. Another time my trans identity stood out was during my second week in the office. I had just finished my second virtual briefing of the day that involved transgender legislation; as I unplugged my headphones, my fellow intern turned to me and said “Are you okay? You look exhausted.” She had no way of knowing I had just listened to folks talk about my life being in danger for two hours. Still, I couldn’t help feeling frustrated that she would never face this type of oppression. Although these experiences were frustrating, I felt I was changing the course of my office for the better. By speaking up for my identity, I planted the seed for other trans & genderqueer interns that will come after me – and the Pappas team is ready to water it with their support.
Within my cohort, I am one of two transgender folks that are openly transitioning. At times, I found this to be a barrier to connecting with them; not fitting in on either side of the binary can make it hard for us to relate. As a result, our weekly programming was also difficult at times. How can one simply nod while others discuss how “eye-opening” it is to learn statistics about transgender deaths? It was disheartening to hear my colleagues reflect on transgender death statistics in ways that reflected their privilege. Nevertheless, I’ve been thankful that my colleagues can move forward with a new perspective and advocate for my community.
Finally, I found that being transgender in D.C. was both rewarding and scary. In my college town and main community, I am surrounded by transgender and genderqueer individuals. It seems that in most of my classes, I am never the only transgender person, and my friend group displays a wide variety of gender expressions. Here, however, I found my community dwindling. With this observation, I questioned if D.C. was safe for folks like me. It was a bit nerve-wracking to take the Metro alone or explore museums on my own. But I am relieved to say I did not have any discriminatory interactions during my time here. I also found that the transgender community here simply flocks together, just like it does back home. I attended a gathering exclusively for transgender folks and found most folks knew one another, despite the gathering being rather large. While this reassured me that I was not alone, I couldn’t help but feel like a goose in a duck flock in other places, such as the Capitol building.
But to recount my first blog post: that is why I’m here. I came to Washington, D.C. to pave a safer, more diverse path for the queer and transgender folks that come after me. I came to upset the status quo in a way that will make the Hill a bolder, braver, more beautiful place to work. While sometimes it’s terrifying to be in such a targeted marginalized group, it is also where I find community and passion. Being openly transgender in Washington, D.C. has given me a new perspective on dysphoria, advocacy, and best of all: trans joy.