It was my honour to sit down recently with someone I know from homospun meetings to talk about their new role on the Pride Society Board. Hannah joined last September. I asked the president, David Tillson, about Hannah’s new position on the board, and he had this to say:
“There was a real need. We need to grow as a society. And we need Hannah’s skills. And Hannah volunteered, which we value. And we’ve never told Hannah that it was going to be easy. It’s a growing experience for all of us.”
Q: What’s your name and pronoun preference?
Hannah: My name is Hannah Mang-Wooley. It’s not Hannah pronounced the usual way as in Han Solo, but more like “Hawna”. My pronoun preference is she or they.
Q: So you’re the new person on the Pride board!
Hannah: Yes I am. I’m what they call the “protocol director”.
Q: How’s that going?
Hannah: That’s a hard question.
Q. Okay, let’s come back to that. What made you decide to join Pride.
Hannah: Well, last summer I had heard through friends about a couple of actions by Pride society members that made people in my corner of the queer and trans community feel pretty upset. Then in the fall I heard that the Pride Society was seeking new members. I went to the annual general meeting and the folks there said that they wanted a protocol person, which was someone to help them navigate some of the problems they’ve encountered in the past. So I saw this intersection of things that seemed fruitful- need from within my community, and openness from the pride committee themselves.I was looking for ways to contribute to the queer community, and I felt like joining the board would be a good way to get involved. It seemed like a place where I could make some good change, or where there was the potential for that. So everything kind of coalesced in a good way.
Q: You’re already pretty involved in the queer community in Victoria, no?
Hannah: Well I guess I got involved in homospun this last year. Prior to that I was kind of laying low. I felt like it was time for me to be out there in different communities.
Q: Because you’re looking for romance?
Hannah: [Laughs] Well yeah! But also I’m looking for solidarity and friendship and connection and all of those good things.
Q: That’s an interesting order of adjectives.
Hannah: Oh yes? Perhaps. What would you expect it to be? Like solidarity last? Interesting. I guess until recently I haven’t had that many queer friends in my world. But I’ve always craved that lived understanding of the political aspects of living a queer life in this heteronormative, gender normative society. So I suppose some people would call that just friendship, or empathy… but it’s also solidarity.
Q: Where are you from? Are you okay with talking about this?
Hannah: Yeah sure, I was born in Saskatchewan but I spent most of my life in Calgary. I also had a three year stint in Edmonton before moving here.
In Calgary my community was mostly straight, or straightish, or conforming with the expectations of the dominant heteronormative culture.
But also, I feel like I’m a product of my time in the sense that I didn’t need to find community with the same urgency as perhaps previous generations. I grew up in a very liberal middle class milieu and my straight friends have always been very open and supportive and I haven’t encountered any resistance or discomfort with me being queer. Same with my parents. Supportive. Same with my church at the time.
Q: Are you still a member of a church?
Hannah: No. Not any more. I was really heavily involved as a teenager. Actually [laughs] I wanted to become a minister myself. But that just kind of waned over time. I guess at university I kind of drifted away from that set of beliefs surrounding a singular god or theism. I also drifted away from some of the politics of the church, not related to queerness necessarily – more the notion of doctrine and assimilation of beliefs, and all the talk around “saving the church.” I found myself drawn to other sorts of communities and worldviews.
I was probably also getting more politicized at that time too, and the history of the church was colliding with some of my new values. The United Church is relatively cool and I don’t hold a grudge against them and I’m totally grateful for what I got growing up in that environment. And my first queer interactions were supported through the United Church LGBTQ affirming ministries.
Q: So you’ve traded the United Church for the church of Pride?
Hannah: [Laughs] Yes. The church of Pride. My new flock! Ha ha. No.
But Pride provides a kind of leadership in our community. And I’ve been in a few leadership positions over the years. Like I was chair of the board of my housing co-op in Edmonton and I was a youth parliament leader when I was a teen. I was interested in bringing political issues into those roles.
I guess that is kind of related to my interest in Pride. I’m interested in inclusivity and politics and I’m motivated to think about and act on these things with the Pride board.
Q: Whats’ the connection between the Pride Society and inclusivity?
Hannah: I think inclusivity is something the Pride society has struggled with. At their last annual general meeting they were looking for someone to get involved to connect with and liaise with other communities. That was a kind of willingness to look at their own practices. It’s an admission that some things have not gone right. They, we, want to do better.
I really want to participate in that. Inclusivity is a process. There may be no end point. And the members of the Pride board are keeping that process going
So it’s positive. It’s not always easy. But you know, earnest, optimistic naivete is my natural state.
Q: I want to be delicate, because it’s a sensitive issue. Are there areas or issues you’re wanting to work on?
Hannah: Yeah, there are particular areas that have been articulated by the board. One is trans inclusion. Another is involvement of Indigenous communities. And another is interacting with more “radical segments” [uses dancing fingers] of the Victoria queer community. What I mean by “radical segments” are the folks who are more actively involved in anti-oppressive politics.
One of the challenges we face as a board is that we’re all white, and nobody identifies as trans. And our whiteness gets in the way in terms of trying to understand the, well, negative, experiences of queer and trans people of colour at Pride events. Same with our collective cis privilege. So there’s a lot of work to do.
Sometimes I wonder about using the language of privilege, because really what we’re talking about are forms of supremacy. In more radical politics we talk more freely about kinds of supremacy, like cis supremacy. But, you know, if you say “white supremacy”, people will think “skinheads”- which isn’t what’s happening on the Pride board!
Q: So what’s the connection between Pride and politics?
Hannah: Pride is political and it always has been. It’s about being intentional about the kind of politics we practice and put into the world.
The default politics of any group will often fall into the politics of privilege. It takes some intentionality to see that and question that. Overall the Pride board is quite homogenous and privileged as far as race, class, gender, and ability. So it’s something we’re working on. And it’s a process.
Q: Do you have any food sensitivities? Do you drink coffee? Do you eat meat?
Hannah: This is turning into an interesting interview!
Yeah, I have a number of food intolerances. I can’t have gluten, dairy or soy. I don’t drink coffee, it makes me angry. And yes, I eat meat. I was a vegetarian, but with the development of my other food restrictions I branched out.
Q: Do you drink beer? What’s the connection between Pride and alcohol?
Hannah: I don’t drink beer because of the gluten. I drink alcohol though. The tricky thing with Pride and alcohol is that the Pride festival is very dependent on alcohol revenue. There are many people who want to, or need to, avoid alcohol and I totally want to honour that, but unfortunately In many ways the relationship between Pride and alcohol is one of practicality. So a dry Pride is not likely.
Q: What do we have to look forward to this year at Pride?
Hannah: I’m really looking forward to Pride in the Word. Vivek Shraya is coming, as is Ivan Coyote, and there are so many good local writers as well. There’s also an art show that will be really cool. And the parade of course!
I’m also excited about Alt Pride! I think the more queer events in Victoria the better. And Alt Pride can reach a broader audience maybe and connect.
Q: Your job seems difficult, because you need to maintain good relationships with the other Pride Board members and you also need to be a critical voice. How do you do that?
Hannah: It’s a tricky balance, for sure. Honestly, I don’t really know. I could utterly fail, either at maintaining good relationships or at being a positive and critical force on the board. To be honest I’m more likely to err on the side of maintaining relationship, at the expense of bringing a critical perspective. Sometimes I feel really unequipped for this job that I’ve taken on. But it’s been really helpful to get validation from people that what I’m doing is important even if it’s not perfect. This is something I’ve heard from both within the Pride board and outside of it.
Q: Are you conflict averse?
Hannah: Maybe. I don’t like fighting, it’s not something I enjoy, but I’ll disagree if I have to. I tend to be really patient and give people the benefit of the doubt. This position is good for me, though, because I have to hold my ground. I have to take a stand on certain issues and I have to back up my stance with reasons. Some of these issues are too important to avoid them or give in. For example, we now have a gender inclusive washroom policy and even though the board was ready for this, it still required meeting folks where they were at and it took conversations and some convincing.
Q: What’s your sign?
Hannah: Cancer. [Shakes head] I don’t know what that means. The funny thing about having a twin is that the astrology stuff rarely applies to both of us.
Q: Closing thoughts? What can we all do to help you out and help out the Pride board?
Hannah: I want feedback and suggestions! That is so helpful. I’m just one person, and my background with the Pride festival in Victoria is also pretty limited. I’m new here. It would be wonderful if other people want to join the board. I think it’s really great when the board represents a good cross-section of the queer and trans community, and as it is there isn’t a tonne of diversity. We want folks who have ideas. We want folks who are enthusiastic about Pride, and want to hold us accountable and help us stay relevant.
You can also find Hannah on Instagram: @emdubbleyou.