There was a time when Kristin Lynch wore a dress to her job in politics, or one of those blouses that could be described as “flowy.” Now she wears a suit and tie, plus a crisp button-down shirt.
It’s not so much a fashion statement as a reminder that you need to be yourself, even in the halls of Congress.
“I feel pretty strongly about my identity as a lesbian. I think that impacts my work here,” the 35-year-old said of her role as communications director for Sen. Cory Booker.
She’s only lived in D.C. for two years, but Lynch has already made her mark. There’s the trivia night she co-hosts at A League of Her Own, a lesbian bar in Adams Morgan. (Her role? “Quiz master.”)
There’s the sweat she leaves on the field for the “Washington Senators,” an elite women’s team in the Gay Flag Football League.
And then there’s her job on Capitol Hill, where she’s trying to be the role model she wishes she’d had. When she was coming out a decade ago, there weren’t a lot of lesbians in power. That’s still true today.
“I certainly feel like being queer and also Latina, I am not the norm here, especially on a senior staff level,” says Lynch, who is part Mexican.
Working for someone like Booker has made it a little easier. The Democratic senator (and now presidential candidate) is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to diversity, hiring women and minorities, according to Lynch.
“We have an all-female senior staff, but that’s not the way it is across all offices,” she says.
It wasn’t her plan, but Lynch has made her career helping would-be presidents stay on message, whether in Congress or on the campaign trail. She got her start in 2012 as press secretary for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, well before he threw his hat in the presidential ring.
Before she became one herself, “it never clicked that politicians had communications people,” says Lynch. She remembers staying up as a teen to watch the results of the 2000 election roll in — a peek into her own future of long hours and late nights.
After stops in the press shops of two other Coloradans, Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Jared Polis, she landed the role of communications director out of Denver for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — aka, her “dream job.”
Clinton’s defeat upended her hopes of working in the first woman-run administration and meant it was time for her to consider other options. That’s when she moved cross-country to D.C.
Capitol Hill can feel insular and isolated from the problems the rest of America faces, Lynch says. But she’s glad to see lawmakers making a renewed push to fight discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, as the House did last month with the Equality Act.
Even the simple act of knotting her tie each morning can matter. A Congress that doesn’t reflect the diverse constituents it represents is a “disservice to the country,” Lynch says. That goes for staff too.
The Hill “can sometimes be a place that is very homogeneous. Particularly for women, women of color and queer women, if that is part of your identity, be proud of it,” Lynch says.
“A lot remains to be done,” she adds.
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