We Belong. – Vanessa Alva

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

This experience went by a lot faster than I anticipated, but I am certain that I am leaving the Victory Institute a better leader – and person, in general. This experience allowed me to picture myself in spaces I never thought I belonged in because they weren’t created for people like me. Although the underrepresentation of both LGBTQ and people of color (poc) is a constant reminder while working on the Hill, the support system we built in our cohort made it bearable. We found ourselves asking for advice on how to advocate for issues in our office, suggested briefings we would be interested in and vented about experiences of micro/macro-aggressions. It was especially necessary to have this group of exceptional people as a support system under Trump’s administration where we constantly were exposed to news of legislation that threatened our existence.

Programs like the Victory Institute have allowed marginalized people to imagine ourselves being in these spaces and see how desperately needed we are #AmericaNeedsUs.  Prior to Victory, I saw politics somewhere in my future but I did not necessarily see myself running for office. An openly queer Latina immigrant running for office and winning in Georgia did not seem like a tangible goal, however, I am leaving Victory inspired and more hopeful than ever to go back to Georgia to do just that.

Georgia will always be home despite the times where I was made to feel like I was not welcome. This summer taught me to appreciate the value of local and state politics through the work Victory does. Victory introduced me to leaders back home like Rep. Sam Park who is working to make Georgia feel like home for everyone. It is so necessary to have this kind of representation in states like Georgia where there is no law that protects people from workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Especially now, the work that needs to be done can happen at the local and state level which makes It even more important to have us working both at federal and state-level politics. It was really inspiring seeing how passionate the other VCI interns are about their home states and it made me hopeful for the future.

This experience could not have come at a better point. I was close to losing hope in politics and distancing myself from a system of oppression that targets vulnerable communities. I needed this summer to show me how much we can contribute to our society by just being present in these spaces. I would not have wanted to experience this with anyone other than the VCI interns in this cohort because they taught me the importance of a support system/hype crew. They have inspired me and taught me different ways of thinking about issues based on their experience. I know the future is in good hands if we have people like them in leadership.