OutPower

You CAN Sit with Us & Finding Community – Samantha Raucher

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

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Stepping off my five-hour flight from Los Angeles, I felt like I was in a state of shock. As I drove from the airport to my new home for the next few months, I could not fully register that I could see the Thomas Jefferson Memorial outside my left window, and the U.S. Capitol Building outside my right (think “Party in the USA,” but hopping off the plane at DCA instead of LAX). I was about to start a new semester and a new job in a city across the country from home, with people I had met once on Zoom.

I had this same feeling of shock as I showed up for the first day of my Congressional internship within Congressman Adam Schiff’s office. I don’t think I will ever get over the view of the U.S. Capitol as I walk out of the Metro station on my way to work, or the excitement I feel when I pass by the office of a politician I admire. Not only is it surreal to be working in Congress and walking the same halls as so many influential leaders, but it is especially surreal to be interning for a political hero of mine – someone that both my family and I have followed and looked up to for a long time. 

However, over the past few weeks, the thing that has stood out to me the most – more than any of the majestic buildings I have seen or the Congressmembers I’ve walked by – is how welcomed and supported I’ve been, both by my office and by the Victory Congressional Internship (VCI) program. 

My first day in the congressional office was undoubtedly intimidating. But what stood out to me that day was not the confusion I experienced while attempting to log into the House systems for the first time or the intense voicemails I listened to, but the staffers who smiled and said hello to me as they walked by. Everyone was genuinely excited to meet me and immediately expressed their willingness to sit down and chat. While it took me a few days to build the confidence to reach out to staffers, I have since had some amazing coffee chats with people working on issue areas I am passionate about, including LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive rights. I have even been invited to briefings (including one where I got to meet Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.) and offered additional work related to the issue areas I am interested in. I have heard that working in Congress is a “people’s game” many times. I think that phrase and the general idea of networking get a bad reputation, because, so far, I have found that it is entirely possible to connect with people in an authentic way. Connection-building is welcomed on Capitol Hill, and most people are truly excited to sit down and talk about the issues they care about. 

My experience in the VCI program has been equally rewarding thus far. Before I had even formally introduced myself in person to my fellow Victory interns, we were already chatting (and teasing each other) about our favorite movies and TV shows. This past weekend, some of the interns hosted a Rosh Hashanah dinner at their apartment. While most of the group is not Jewish, we all gathered to learn about and celebrate the Jewish New Year. As we sat around the table with our plates of homemade food, I took a moment to internally acknowledge the gratitude I felt for the community we had created in just a few short weeks. 

The VCI cohort is similar to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole in that we share some experiences, but have all encountered unique obstacles. We Victory interns understand what it is like to be queer college students hoping to work in public service, but we are also from cities across the country and completely different walks of life. Having this diversity of experience and thought is not only crucial to creating a cohesive group, but is also critical for representing our community. Society still tends to think that the LGBTQ+ community and all other minority communities are homogenous; VCI’s presence on Capitol Hill is a perfect example of the variety of LGBTQ+ experiences and the importance of bringing those to the table. From our conversations and weekly meetings, it has become clear to me that we all understand the weight of the work we are doing, and even more, the power of the perspectives we bring to the Hill. I feel incredibly grateful to be empowered by the LGBTQ Victory Institute and my fellow Victory interns to share my perspective and find my power in Washington, D.C.