Mamone is a bisexual genderqueer freelance writer focusing on social justice and secular humanism. Here we discuss their current work and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: To start, and to set a different tone in the discussions for the secular, the most authoritative sources of morality for most humanists, probably, comes from conscience, individually, and the United Nations and its norms, internationally. For the duration of this interview, I will use the initialism LGBTI (United Nations LGBTI Core Group). What are some positive developments for the LGBTI community in North America?
Tris Mamone: Well as you know, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising is coming up on June 28th, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’ve progressed since then. Hell, we’ve progressed a lot even since I was a child! Like I remember how controversial it was when Ellen DeGeneres came out as gay back in 1997. Now there are gay characters on TV shows, commercials, and movies; same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, and the US House of Representatives just passed the Equality Act, which will protect LGBTQ people from discrimination on a federal level. Things have certainly changed a lot since Stonewall.
Jacobsen: What have been some negative developments for the LGBTI community in North America?
Mamone: Despite all the progress we’ve made, we’ve still got a lot of work left to do. Poverty, lack of health care access, homelessness, addiction, and abuse are huge problems that affect the most vulnerable among us, particularly queer and trans people of color (QTPOC for short). Plus President Trump isn’t helping one bit. He says he’s for us, but if you remember when he said he would “protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” he meant specifically Islam. We’re on our own when it comes to everyone else that’s trying to kill us. Trump is hardly pious, but white evangelical Christians are his biggest supporters, so he’s more than happy to do away with our rights in order to keep the money coming in. The most recent examples are the HUD’s proposal to allow federally-funded homeless shelters to turn away trans people, and the HHS’s proposal to allow medical professionals to deny treatment for trans people due to religious beliefs. And this guy has the nerve to sell “LGBTQ For Trump” t-shirts for Pride Month, too!
Jacobsen: How can dominant secular culture help provide more of a space for LGBTI members of the community?
Mamone: Well more LGBTQ inclusion in conferences is a good start. And not just simply have, like, one trans speaker on just to talk about trans issues. Also, it would be great if secular activists stop treating trans rights as some abstract idea to be debated. I understand some folks don’t understand what it means to be trans, but after a while we get tired of explaining over and over again that being transgender is not the same as some loony who thinks he’s Jesus reincarnate.
Jacobsen: How have the secular communities been more accepting and nurturing of the professional development and organizational inclusion of the LGBTI members of the secular communities?
Mamone: It’s getting better. There’s a lot more recognition and acceptance of trans people in big name atheist organizations, like American Atheists and American Humanist Association (I serve on the AHA’s LGBTQ Humanist Alliance). Of course there’s still work to be done in this area as a well. For example, some conferences will invite only one trans speaker to just talk about trans issues. It feels a lot like tokenism, y’know? Plus, when conferences do invite secular LGBTQ speakers, they’re usually white.
That’s why we at the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance put on a one-day conference back in March called Centering the Margins, which focused exclusively on secular QTPOC. Even thought we only had a small audience, so many people came up to us afterwards like, “Thank you so much for creating this space!” We hope to do it again next year.
Jacobsen: What have been some new and popular topic discussions on The Biskeptical Podcast?
Mamone: I haven’t done any podcasting since October of last year because I got burned out. Trying to find a new topic week after week is hard. I will say with the Trump administration, there were plenty of things to talk about on the Biskeptical Podcast, which was a commentary show. My co-host Morgan Stringer was a law student (she graduated and passed the bar last summer), so whenever a legal issue was in the news, she would always explain what was going on. Plus, it was a great way for us to let off steam about the news and yell, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Jacobsen: What have been some new and popular topic discussions on Bi Any Means?
Mamone: That show, too, is on indefinite hiatus, but I had some wonderful conversations. Bi Any Means was an interview-based show where I would interview a different guest week after week about various topics. So of my favorite episodes are the ones that covered really controversial issues, like racism and sexual misconduct within the secular community.
Jacobsen: When will the Bi Any Means and the Biskeptical Podcast come back online? What would be some topics to discuss on the reboots?
Mamone: I’m not sure, to be honest. I’m thinking about starting a brand new interview-based podcast that won’t specifically be about either atheist or LGBTQ rights (although those subjects will come up from time to time). It will be just me having conversations with people I think are interesting. But it’s still just an idea right now.
Jacobsen: Who have been some up-and-coming LGBTI members of the secular community?
Mamone: When I was podcasting I made it a point to get a wide variety of guests on my show rather than just the same familiar faces. Two of them in particular are Diane Burkholder and Ashton P. Woods, with whom I’ve done workshops at the Creating Change conference both this past January and last. Even now whenever someone asks me about who to invite to speak at conferences, I always mention them. Like I said earlier, most secular conferences still tend to be white-centered, so I try to get people to pass the microphone, y’know?
Jacobsen: What are some new projects for you?
Mamone: I’m a freelance writer who specializes in LGBTQ news. I mainly write for Splice Today, but I’ve also contributed to Rewire News, The Daily Beast, HuffPost, INTO, and others.
Jacobsen: Who is an important author or speaker, or organizer, for secular work in your locale?
Mamone: Mark and Shannon Nebo of Be Secular live near Annapolis, which is an hour’s drive from my home in Easton, MD. Remember the #NormalizeAtheism t-shirt campaign from a few years ago? That was them. I also have a friend named Samantha McGuire who leads the Southern Maryland Area Secular Humanists group. They do great stuff down there.
Jacobsen: Any new good books that you have read?
Mamone: I don’t give myself time to read much these days. I should because I have a whole bunch of books on my Kindle that I’ve started but haven’t finished yet. Like I need to finish “So You Want to Talk about Race” by Ijeoma Oulo some day. I started it but then got distracted with starting another book.
Jacobsen: What are the important organizations in your area? How can people become involved in them?
Mamone: I know an AHA chapter recently started in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region, which is where I live, called Eastern Shore Humanists. I should give them a call to see if I can help.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Mamone: Nope, that’s all I can think of for now. Let me know if you have any further questions.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Tris.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.