Where are the spaces I feel that I can breathe in confidence? Where are the spaces I feel I don’t have to put up a facade? Where are the spaces where I get to let my guard down? SPOILER ALERT. There are none. Navigating the Hill as a gender non-conforming trans person really has made me appreciate the queer and trans spaces, and family, I’ve found here in DC. On the other hand, it’s also made me hyper aware of my own gender expression.
Prior to starting on the Hill, I could care less about the hairs on my chin, the tone of my voice, or whether I choose to wear pants or a skirt—now I’ve felt inclined to think about all of the above constantly. Once I received the news of being chosen as a Victory Congressional Intern, I was ecstatic but immediately began to wonder how I would have to shift my gender expression to be safe and respected. I questioned whether or not I would have to shave every morning, whether or not I would have to wear a suit, whether or not my Senate badge would have my legal name—it did.
As I complete week 7 of my internship, I’ve reached a point where I‘ve realized that I won’t let this space define my gender. I won’t let the deeply rooted, and colonized notions of gender force me into binary expression because it is what makes other people more comfortable. I won’t default to using ‘she’ because it is what people are used to. But I will make you use ‘she’ if it’s what I choose to use. Regardless of the space I’m in, that being an entirely queer space or a space such as Capitol Hill—I deserve to be respected. All trans people deserve to be respected. But sadly, that’s not the reality.
A couple weeks ago, I had a discussion with a colleague regarding efforts to make the Hill more inclusive and accessible to various communities such as those with disabilities, aging populations, and even animals. (You’re more likely to see dogs walking down the halls of Congress than you are to see a trans person). When expressing discontent with the lack of trans-inclusive spaces, specifically gender-neutral restrooms, I was met with an “Oh well… that’s not going to happen anytime soon; that’s a really huge issue.”
My safety and comfort is a debatable issue? I am met with demeaning stares every time I go pee, many times waiting in the stall to avoid them. I force myself to even to sit sometimes, because most people don’t understand that some girls pee standing up. And don’t even get me started if I were to choose to go into the men’s restroom.
So no, asking for more trans inclusive spaces on the Hill isn’t too much. It’s barely enough.
The lack of trans inclusive spaces on the Hill only reflects the social and political climate for trans people across the world. I begged the question of where the trans spaces are on the Hill, but also I find myself asking where are the trans spaces period. In a society where trans people are pushed to the margins and discriminated against in every aspect of society—the workplace, education, by the police, within the LGBTQ community, it comes as no surprise that it would be ANY better on the Hill.
This coupled with my identity as a femme Latinx person, intensifies these feelings. The experiences of transmasculine people, white trans people, and even those that are cis-passing or stealth are very different than a non-binary trans femme of color. These intersections are often forgotten and ignored.
I make it necessary to bring up trans people into political dialogue any chance I get. I ask questions about how trans people are impacted in briefings, I include trans people in my memos, and I put my pronouns in my Senate email signature. Although I know these won’t change the entirety of the Hill culture, I hope to spark conversations about trans inclusion in hopes of making the space easier to navigate for future gender non-conforming trans people of color.