The Significance of the Victory Pin – Alexis Grady

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

The 12 Victory Congressional Interns pose for a photograph with Senator Tammy Baldwin and Mayor Annise Parker

As a student at Howard University, I have had the privilege of living and working in Washington, DC for three years now. This city is small, but the personalities and expectations are larger than life. Living here comes with pressures to find your niche immediately, and excel at a young age. As a Black Queer person, these pressures are amplified. I am aware of the responsibilities I have, not only to myself but to others who look like me that will not have the same opportunities. I am also acutely aware that my Queerness often further others me in spaces where I am already a minority. This impacts the way that I show up in different spaces. I hesitate to come out in the workplace, for fear of reinforcing the stereotype that my blackness already brings and for fear of being labeled a “diversity hire.”

A young person stands in front of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz's OfficeThe two weeks that I have spent as a VCI so far have flipped that expectation on its head. In my cohort, I have found a community of other LGBT policy wonks, each having taken a very different path to get to this moment. We all carry the responsibility of our own communities with us to our internships each day, but we do not shoulder it alone and when we return home, we’re met with empathy and compassion. Working on the Hill in this context is significant to me in a way that defies words.

Because the Victory Congressional Interns are placed in twelve different offices, we are not easily identifiable outside of our home in Foggy Bottom or the Victory Institute Office. One thing that sets us apart is our victory pins: small gold pins that we place on the left side of our suit jackets. It is through the vehicle of this pin that I am ‘Out on the Hill.’ The Victory Institute pin has started more conversations than I have started on my own; people ask me about it in the Longworth Cafe, the metro, and in my office. At first, I would tense every time someone noticed it. But I have always been surprised. Those who know of the Victory Congressional Program instantly break into smiles and congratulations. And those who are unfamiliar with the program seem impressed. And then something even more remarkable happens: we continue working.

The Victory Congressional Internship and the pin that represents the program have led me to come out more times in professional contexts than I ever have before. But it has also given me the courage to walk confidently into the moments that follow coming out. When I am able to bring my whole self to work, I exceed even my own expectations. I am writing legislative memos, answering phones, entering hearing rooms, and even speaking to my Representative without feeling like my identity is a burden. When days are difficult as an LGBT person on the Hill, I have the other members of my cohort to lean on back at the dorms. But increasingly, I am bringing home stories of how good it feels to be Out and doing my best to absorb all of the incredible experiences I am having on the Hill.