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Joining Forces for a Better, More Equal Future: My Summer with the Human Rights Campaign

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rice chapter.

This summer, I worked at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in Washington, DC. After being abroad since January, this was my first introduction to Trump’s America. It was a shock, but felt extraordinary right as an opportunity in which to take action. It was a transformative experience filled with the sweetest of people and a mission: to resist. This was the logo on our staff shirts this summer, but it was also a simple motto that rang true for every staff member, every volunteer, even throughout the walls of the non-profit. HRC has a reputation, especially among the queer community, for being very white, cis, gay male oriented—an image from its past that it has been working to change year after year. In the wake of Trump’s election, HRC realized that it was important to not only diversify in who it reaches among the queer community, but how important it is to align with other marginalized groups as well. It also highlighted the unique position of queer communities in intersectional discourse: queer people can be and are women, men, gender nonconforming, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, refugees, latinx, African American and every single identity because queer people are everywhere—in every society, in every role. This new focus on coalition building resulted in the creation of a new position, Director of Outreach, hiring Alejandro Avilés directly after he left the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in January of 2017. In this new mission, Avilés and President Chad Griffin have worked to build coalitions with the likes of Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood in an affirmation for the importance of women’s healthcare. I saw this attitude transpire throughout my internship.

I worked in the Global Department, with my job being entirely made of building connections with LGBTQ leaders from around the world. More than a few days a week, however, I also went with an HRC contingent for press conferences and rallies on events surrounding Trump’s refugee ban, DACA, to state Black Lives Matter, to support the Paris Climate Accords and the Affordable Care Act, to protect transgender troops, and various other issues of importance in which these nonprofits catering to different social groups came together as a singular force. Being able to fight for global LGBTQ equality day in and day out was a dream and being around those with the same goals was inspirational, but what truly touched me this summer was seeing communities back each other up and work together to produce a better, more equal future. That should hold true in large contexts such as NGOs the scale of Planned Parenthood or the Human Rights Campaign, but even in things from a campus perspective: like Rice African Student Association, the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice, the Muslim Student Association, the Queer Resource Center, the Women’s Resource Center, and so on and so forth. When disenfranchised groups work toward each other’s empowerment, when they show up and turn out without taking over a movement, everyone wins (and you make a few friends in the process). This can be done on every level, and in today’s challenged environment where attacks are constant and vitriolic, it’s so much more important to recognize that no one is equal until every one of us is equal.

Ellie is a Political Science and Policy Studies double major at Rice University, with a minor in Politics, Law and Social Thought. She spent the spring of 2017 studying/interning in London, and hopes to return to England for grad school. Academically, Ellie's passion lies in evaluating policies that further the causes of gender equality, LGBT rights, and access to satisfactory healthcare, specifically as it pertains to women's health and mental health. She also loves feminist memoirs, eighteenth-century history, old bookstores, and new places. She's continuously inspired by the many strong females in her life, and is an unequivocal proponent of women supporting women.