The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute Thursday announced the appointment of Ben Panico as a Victory Congressional Fellow for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. The appointment makes Panico the only openly transgender person working in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first openly transgender person to serve as a Victory Congressional Fellow.
Funded by a generous grant from the David Bohnett Foundation, Victory Congressional Fellows work in an LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair’s office, supporting the caucus’ executive director. Fellows also participate in educational and leadership development programs to learn about the legislative process and careers in policy-making.
“Ben Panico brings a wealth of experiences to this position, and as Capitol Hill’s only openly transgender staff member, he brings a much needed voice to the table,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute. “I am confident Ben will be able to gain immense experience and assist in advancing an equality agenda in Congress.”
“Our goal in partnering with the Victory Institute is to groom the next generation of LGBT leaders,” said Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation. “We are proud to support Ben Panico in his development as an influential leader who can change his community and our world.”
“I first started my work at Victory as a Congressional Intern and have now risen through Victory’s programing to a Congressional Fellow. This is an opportunity for me gain professional experience and build a network of connections,” said Panico. “Visibility has been so integral to the LGBT community’s progress over the years and I believe it’s essential to continue that tradition to increase awareness about transgender issues on Capitol Hill.”
Prior to being selected as a Victory Congressional Fellow, Panico won a Victory Congressional Internship, a competitive leadership program that brings outstanding LGBT students to Washington, D.C., for a semester working for members of Congress. He was formerly an intern at Equality Maryland, where he did outreach for marriage equality legislation and a transgender rights bill. Panico also wrote a report to the Maryland Department of Corrections on best practices for transgender inmates, helped translate Equality Maryland resources to Spanish, and organized listening sessions for members of the Latina transgender community in Prince George’s County.
A native of Connecticut, Panico graduated from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a minor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. At JHU, he served as the Director of Operations for the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance, lobbied university administrators for an LGBT resource center, and spearheaded the development of a Safe Zone training program.