an interview with Hannah McElhinney

Hannah McElhinney and Rudy Jean Rigg are names you need to know. The writers and creators of Rainbow History Class are dedicated to making sure we never forget the queer and transgender history that has been erased from our textbooks.

The stories of the Rainbow History Class (Hardie Grant) are equal parts inspirational and annoying, hilarious and heartbreaking. And now, with the release of their exclusive Audible audiobook, aptly titled Rainbow History Class, they’re taking their mission to the next level.

Narrated by Rainbow History Class co-founder Rudy Jean Rigg, the audiobook is a comprehensive and entertaining foray into queer and transgender history. From ancient civilizations to the internet, they cover everything and give us the inside scoop on secret queer codes, gender icons, and incredible activists.

But this is not a typical history lesson. Hannah’s style, in particular, is anything but dry and academic, and certainly not glitzy and reductive. Instead, her writing brings a fresh, unique perspective that makes you feel connected to the stories of our rich and vibrant community.

And if that’s not enough, the Audible Exclusive gives you even more insight into Hannah’s trial. Rudy will sit down with Hannah and delve deeper into her journey, including the parts of the story that didn’t make it into the final draft.

Rainbow History Class is a celebration for LGBTQ+ people, an invitation to new things and a crash course we all need. So join the club and let’s catch up together.

We sat down with Hannah for a rainbow history lesson.

Hannah McElhinney

Happy: What are you doing today?

Hannah: Today I’m packing for Sydney WorldPride. I’m leaving tomorrow morning for two weeks. We will be hosting our Rainbow History Class live show at the Darlinghurst Theater from March 2nd to 4th as well as a whole host of other IRL events. I’m not the most organized person in the world, but I try not to forget anything!

Happy: Tell us about your suburb, what do you love/don’t love about where you live?

Hannah: I live and work in Collingwood, on the lands of the Wurundjeri and Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation. I have lived in this neighborhood for about 6 years and intend to continue. It’s the queer area of ​​Naarm/Melbourne which means there are tons of people like me walking around. the food, bars, Cafes and community keep me there. If there’s one thing I don’t really love, it’s people who don’t chase their dogs!

Happy: Describe your average working day.

Hannah: Every day I wake up trying to adjust to a day that doesn’t end in chaos, and every day I fail. I wake up and check my phone (naughty) as well as our TikTok channel (also naughty before 9am) so I guess work is starting there somehow. I head to our Collingwood office/studio space around 10, where I work with our team and create content for our own channels, as well as collaborations with brands and other partners. I usually have to write and research a few

Scripted the Rainbow History Class and have a WIP meeting with my Rainbow History Class co-creator Rudy and our amazing producer Eliza.

Happy: What about your ultimate day?

Hannah: On my last day I would wake up, walk my dog, Sandrine, and my partner, who is also Hannah. We then went to the Carlton and saw a movie at the Cinema Nova with a Heart Attack and Vine hot chili chocolate before having a long lunch at an Italian restaurant and then spending the afternoon shopping for books. It’s autumn, 26 degrees and sunny.

Happy: Tell us about your creative community.

Hannah: I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a creative community, most of whom are both friends and collaborators. I work with a crew of content creators who bring their creativity to the web. My friends include writers, journalists, designers, artists, musicians, creative directors, climbers, child educators, architects, filmmakers and nutritionists, all of whom are wonderfully creative and constantly inspire me.

Happy: What TV show are you watching right now?

Hannah: The last of usalthough I’m still trying to recover from Episode 3.

Happy: What was the last thing you read or saw that opened your eyes and mind to a new perspective?

Hannah: I’ve been reading a lot of autobiographies lately, and Janette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died really opened my eyes to what it’s like to be a young girl in show business. As someone who grew up watching Nickelodeon and viewed it as after-school fun, discovering the extent of how corrupt and predatory reality was for its stars was darkly enlightening.

Happy: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it has influenced your writing?

Hannah: My background is writing and radio. After school I was lost, but I found myself by hosting a radio show on Melbourne’s queer radio station JOY 94.9. At that time I was working as a creative and copywriter in an advertising agency. Eventually, my radio gig on JOY became a regular late-night slot on Triple J, but a nasty bout of dengue fever and his crippling fatigue put an end to that. Then I became one again

advertising creatives and eventually ended up at VICE Media, where I worked as a creative but was able to learn as much as possible about documentary storytelling. I tend to think that my entire patchwork background directly shaped the writing of the Rainbow History Class Book. Both in advertising and on the radio, your job is to communicate often highly complex topics in such a way that they not only make sense to a wide audience, but also interest them. When writing Rainbow History Class I had to Take a bunch of rather closed science and translate that into a history book that is accessible and entertaining for young queer and trans people who may never have found themselves in the history section of a bookstore.

Happy: Can you discuss your writing process and any challenges you’ve encountered while writing? your latest book?

Hannah: It was a really interesting process to write Rainbow History Class because the concept of the book came out of our TikTok channel which is all about conveying information in 1 minute so it was a big challenge to turn it into something as long as to make a book. It also spans a time frame of more than 4000 years, so I did a lot of research into the history of the world and these big, sweeping changes that shaped us as a whole. Before I started writing, I made a really, really big timeline in a spreadsheet and started planning out important events so I could orient myself as I delved deeper into the stories of queer and trans people.

Hannah McElhinney

Happy: Can you talk about LGBTQ+ authors or works that have inspired or influenced you? your writing?

Hannah: On the side of queer history, Robert Beachy’s Gay Berlin, George Chauncey’s Gay New York, and the work of Michael Bronski are all seminal, rigorously researched works that inspired me in writing various chapters. This book is much less academic in nature, so I also reached out to fiction writers to get a sense of how they created the atmosphere of different time periods. One of My absolute favorite novel, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, is an example of a book that really captured the reality of life through the early days of HIV/AIDS.

Happy: How do you navigate as a member of LGBTQ+ community?

Hannah: Honestly, it’s hard because our community is so diverse and my experiences are just a fraction of our collective queer life. So I try to use empathy to see what feels useful or true from my own experiences when telling queer stories, but at the same time I try not to draw on my own experiences to be objective and queer life not involved a given paint lens. As I become more and more public, I am often asked to do so sharing my personal experiences, and there are parts I’d love to share, but other parts of my own queer life are wonderfully mundane, and I like that about them, but I don’t think anyone would care!

Happy: What themes or messages do you want to convey through your writing?

Hannah: In this particular book, the message I hope resonates best is that the story isn’t linear. As a community, we’ve had periods of relative freedom immediately followed by periods of brutal persecution, so I hope this serves as a reminder that we can’t get complacent and assume things will always get better. In fact, there are many signs around the world that we are entering the darknessagain. Second, I hope to help people discover their identities, to feel less alone, by showing them how many people have been just like them over time.

Happy: what makes you happy

Hannah: Laugh.

“The Rainbow History Class, narrated by Rudy Jean Rigg, is only available on Audible. an interview with Hannah McElhinney

Adam Bradshaw

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