Lauren McNamara is an atheist YouTuber mostly known as Zinnia Jones or ZJ for short. She has posted numerous videos critical of religion, especially in regards to its attitudes towards LGBT people. Zinnia is openly transgender and has been on hormone replacement therapy since September 2012. She also writes for Freethought Blogs.
Zinnia was assigned male at birth and given name Zachary Antolak in 1989 in Chicago. Her parents divorced at an early age and her mother was soon remarried to another man. While Zinnia has always retained a good relationship with her biological father, the same cannot be said of her stepfather. Her stepfather was very abusive to both Zinnia and her mother. While he spoiled his biological daughter to no end, he would berate his stepson for not having an active interest in masculine activities like sports. Her stepfather eventually divorced her mother after 8 years of suffering under his tyranny.
While she was raised Catholic, Zinnia was always skeptical of religion and the existence of god. She attended both a Catholic and a Lutheran Church, the latter of which strongly denounced evolution and gay people. She concluded there wasn't a God at age 6 when one day her stepfather starting abusing her mother and she prayed to God to make it stop, only for nothing to happen. She formally defected from the Church in 2010.
Zinnia became aware of her sexuality as a gay male at an early age. She remembers when a female friend of hers allowed the then-identifying male Zinnia to touch her breast. Zinnia didn't elicit a response expected of a young male and the friendship soon faded. When Zinnia came out to her family, they took it fine.
While Zinnia was ahead of her class in elementary school, she was soon taken to high school before hitting her teen years and she struggled to fit in. She then dropped out of school altogether.
YouTube Career and Identity
Zinnia started YouTube in 2008 on her channel originally named zjemptv where she mainly made videos arguing against religion, theism and homophobia. She was always open about her sexuality and quickly developed a snarky and sometimes aggressive demeanor. Zinnia's physical appearance was often made a point of mockery and blunt curiosity in the comments section where the status of her gender was often questioned. In response to this and other judgmental people, Zinnia let her hair grow out over the years and started applying feminine accessories such as lipstick, jewelry and feathery scarves.
For many years, Zinnia took on the moniker the Queen of Atheism, an obvious double entendre. She currently calls herself a Secular Trans Feminist.
After years identifying as a gay male, Zinnia finally came to the conclusion that she was actually a trans woman in 2011 and started a romantic relationship with her close friend and lesbian Heather McNamara, becoming an adoptive mother towards Heather's two children. Zinnia is currently in a polyamorous relationship with Heather and another trans woman named Penny.
Starting in 2014, Zinnia shifted the focus of her channel primarily onto trans issues. She started her own Patreon-funded video series by the name of Gender Analysis where she takes an in-depth look at issues facing trans people and common oppositions to them, from someone who's been there.
In 2013, Zinnia testified as a witness for Private Chelsea Manning in the trial regarding Manning leaking classified information as an intelligence analyst. Zinnia was called as a witness because she had been contacted by Manning in 2009 and the two subsequently shared several conversations about the topics discussed in Zinnia's videos and Manning's personal struggles.
Zinnia made a number of television appearances about the Manning case in 2013 when she was interviewed by CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Democracy Now and America Now.