by Jose Hinojosa
I began my internship for the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus in September of 2019 not really knowing what to expect. The Caucus is a non-partisan group within the Texas House of Representatives, dedicated to providing a forum for Texas legislators to discuss the issues that affect LGBTQ Texans and to advancing the goal of equality and justice for all. The Texas House LGBTQ Caucus was formed in January of 2019 by five openly queer women during the 86th Legislature and has been an active force in advocating for LGBTQ Texans. As a third-year undergraduate with a triple major in Psychology, Sociology, and Latin American Studies, I have had a few internships, but I really had not worked in a governmental setting, so this was new and exciting.
For me, a bisexual Latinx individual, having the opportunity to work for the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus was a big step. Academically, it helped me understand the areas and the type of work within politics I’d like to be part of in the future. On a more personal note, getting the chance to work for and be part of the fight for LGBTQ rights in Texas was something that I had wanted to do for a long time and this internship provided me the chance to do so. Additionally, I had the chance to work for Representative Mary González, someone who I have looked up to and striven to be like for a very long time now. Being Latinx and part of the LGBTQ community has not always made it easy to see myself thriving in a career within politics, but Representative Mary González has shown me this is more than possible. This internship was an opportunity to experience firsthand what it is like working as a member of the LGBTQ community and getting the chance to see what the members of our congress are doing to further equality, justice, and representation within our government.
During my internship at the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, one of the most important things I was a part of was planning and promoting a series of town hall-style events and happy hours that the Caucus would be hosting during the fall in El Paso, Austin, and San Antonio. The town-hall format meant that the meetings would be divided into two parts: a Q&A with questions given by a moderator to a panel of the founding LGBTQ Caucus members, and another portion where people of the community had the opportunity to ask the representatives questions. The happy hours, on the other hand, occurred after the town halls and they worked as social events. I did research on local organizations and groups that would be interested in coming to the event, and contributed to the promotion of these events by contacting local and statewide media organizations, LGBTQ organizations, and student groups. I also helped maintain the Caucus social media pages as well as performing in a variety of other office-related tasks.
Throughout this process, there was not one single moment in which I felt that I was not learning. I especially appreciate the guidance of Representative González’s Chief of Staff, Caroline Paplinger, who served as a source of information and help. Caroline worked with me and the other interns up close, providing feedback on our work as well as familiarizing us with how things work in the government. For me, Caroline’s guidance along with that of some of the other interns who were working there is what made this internship an experience of growth and learning.
One of the most memorable moments within my internship was actually at the end when I got the chance to present alongside my fellow Caucus intern Ryan in front of all five of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus Members. This brief presentation consisted of a summary of all the things that we as interns had helped with throughout the fall, as well as our own ideas about how to help the Caucus. It was exhilarating that I was presenting to people who I not only looked up to, but also people who are walking a similar path to the one I hope to follow. The members were responsive to our ideas and seemed very interested in what we had to say.
Ultimately during my time in the Texas House of Representatives, I was able to work in an environment that not only was friendly but also provided me with opportunities to learn and grow as someone who is seeking a career in politics. What surprised me the most is how much work is put behind the scenes and how important this work is. I would encourage more people to volunteer their time in places where people are fighting for a cause.