V12 – Eli Alejo

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

Eli poses at VCI graduation with Sarah Pope, Program ManagerDuring the graduation reception, I realized how far I had come from the beginning of summer until now. It hardly felt it had been eight weeks. I was beginning to get used to the routine and the people I was constantly around. The Victory Congressional Intern cohort was my first “chosen” family; it became hard to imagine leavingI felt similarly on my last day in the Congresswoman’s office as I had to confront leaving the other interns in my office, the staff assistant, and the legislative director. I find it difficult to begin to write about the ways I grew professionally, mentally, and emotionally. With my chosen family, they challenged me to become a better communicator and guided me towards ways to take more initiative. Leaving DC I’m more confident with myself and my abilities to create change in my community.

The Hill isn’t easy for those with a racialized and/or marginalized identity. I’ve experienced a variety of spaces that feel more welcoming that others. Isome spaces, I have found myself often being the only person with my racial and marginalized identity. My brownness and transness are inseparable and set the tone for the experiences I will have in the workplace or public spaces. Through hardship, I have learned the importance of a strong support system and selfcare. Days will get tough and tiring but having a system in place lessens the emotional impact.  

If someone were to ask me what is one thing you would tell someone who is coming into the Victory Congressional Intern program is to be open to what community can look like and feel like. It’s challenging as a queer individual to find community and make spaces that are judgement free that fully accept all of you. As a support mechanism, I recommend reading books that are about queer resistance. I had the pleasure of reading Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, the novel became part of my growth. It’s comforting to know about the universe(s) of queer existence in time and space. James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time was another novel I had that helped ease my anxiety about existing as a person of color in predominantly white spaces. 

In regards to my professional development, I felt like I thrived this summer; my challenges ultimately refined my skills as a writer and researcher. Within my first week of working in the office, I was given responsibilities that many interns hardly receive. I was tasked to keep track of bills the Congresswoman had co-sponsored, attended briefings on behalf of legislative staff, and then wrote memos about the topic. The memos ranged from aviation regulations to banning conversion therapy. I had to learn about Kansas and the constituents the Congresswoman served when writing recommendations on bill voting.  

Working for Kansas District 3 taught me how to work with constituents who were on the moderate spectrum when it comes to progressive legislation. I had to learn what were the priorities for Kansans and who they were: from their unionizing rights to their educational curriculum. Growing up and studying in progressive states like California and Massachusetts only exposed me to a limited view of the political world. I’m thankful to have been politically challenged because the skills I have obtained will better equip me for any governmental position I will have in my educational or professional career. 

Lastly, I am grateful for what I’ve learned this summer not only about myself but my peers. I take away lessons on building community, fostering acceptance, and reimagining a world where our struggles as LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are no longer existent. I leave this internship hopeful about the future of my cohort and am equally excited about the leaders that they will all become. I thank Victory Institute for creating a program where I can envision myself and my future political path. Without the contribution of Victory Institute and my cohort, I wouldn’t have grown within the last two months. This experience is one I will not forget and it is one I will carry to encourage others that change is possible.