ON THE HILL is the official Victory Congress intern blog. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at winnerinstitute.org/vci.
As I walk halfway through my Victory Congressional internship, I feel comfortable and adjusted to the pace of this new environment. Writing letters and memos to my rep and actively interacting with political professionals, while balancing my classes, self-care, and a social life, becomes second nature. Nonetheless, even though I’ve moved to DC, I can’t forget that the reason I’m here is to engage with the LGBTQ community, learn about our current and past struggles, and get involved. in the search for solutions.
Political unrest surrounding the LGBTQ community has been at the center of the past week. In this week alone, I attended several information sessions on the need to protect transgender youth and received a much higher number of calls from constituents concerned about the state of civil rights. LGBTQ people in our country. It is disappointing to witness blatant discrimination occurring on a systemic level across the country after learning about and appreciating LGBTQ history and the work of prominent LGBTQ figures to create and defend their constitutional freedoms. However, the fight for social justice is not over, and our last workshop on service outside of government and in professional settings demonstrated just how meticulous the fight is. A specific LGBTQ issue is addressed starting at the local level, then at the state level, then finally at the federal level, while being supported by non-governmental organizations. It is comforting to know that average citizens, large nonprofits and public officials are invested in the fight to secure LGBTQ rights, but also frustrating to realize that the solution to inequality is not simple.
This week I volunteered with Casa Ruby, a direct service organization that helps secure the basic needs of LGBTQ people locally and nationally. I explored the daily operations of a nonprofit organization and connected with LGBTQ leaders. I was surprised to see the meticulous workings of a non-profit organization that do not directly contribute to its overall mission but are essential to its existence. I collaborated with the organization on how to increase reach through social media, organized fundraising events and learned the protocol for interacting with customers and the community. I realized the importance of personal and professional experiences in the field of advocacy. Some of the LGBTQ leaders I have volunteered with have gained their passion for this work through their own past need for advocacy, so their special connection to the work is just as valuable as if they had pursued higher education. in the same field. I really connected with Casa Ruby’s mission to educate LGBTQ people about HIV prevention, testing and treatment, to act as a liaison for LGBTQ immigrants seeking asylum or a pathway to citizenship , and to secure housing and food for vulnerable LGBTQ youth. Through this experience, I gained new mentors and found an impactful way to engage more in my community.
By talking with my mentors and professionals who have visited our program, I have learned that being involved in the community and including LGBTQ people in all aspects of politics can promote solutions to social inequalities. Networking is foreign and intimidating to me, but my mentor reassured me that community involvement can foster real connections and help me advance in my career without the social and professional pressures of networking. As a young man, he joined his local LGBTQ organization, gradually moving into leadership positions within the organization, and branching out into career positions through the connections he made within the organization.
Considering LGBTQ people in all spaces is also important for creating systemic solutions. Our guest speaker, Reggie Greer, White House Director of Priority Placement and Senior Advisor on LGBTQ+ Engagement, was able to directly tie transportation and infrastructure to specific LGBTQ issues like community spaces and housing, I would never have considered the face that LGBTQ advocacy is not limited to specific social issues, but rather a necessary factor in every political institution.
As I venture into my journey on the Hill, as an undergraduate student and beyond, I can use the lessons learned during this busy week to continue to engage with my community and to make changes, no matter how big.