Tennessee Voices: Brenda Navarro-Forte
While some paint the town red, Gary Elgin prefers to pull his paint from a purple palate- lavender to be exact. From past involvement with various LGBT organizations, including Knoxville Pride, to using his voice (and personality) on his web series The Lavender Table to spotlight Tennessee voices, Elgin hopes to "keep the conversation going" with a new monthly O&AN series designed to highlight Tennessee voices and personalities. Tennessee Voices celebrates Elgin's love and support for the Tennessee LGBT community and its allies and O&AN's continued goal to spotlight our state's stories.
Elgin just wrapped up season 3 of The Lavender Table where he had the chance to interview trans* activist Chaz Bono as well as Marcel Neergaard, the 11-year-old Tennessee student whose summer petition calling for StudentsFirst to recall 'Classroom Protection Act' House sponsor John Ragan as their Educational Reformer of the Year, successfully inspired students across the nation.
This month Elgin brings Brenda Navarro-Forte to the table for a discussion about where we've been as a community and where we are going. While Brenda currently calls Knoxville, TN home, the Miami-raised Cuban completed her Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and Foreign Languages at Middle Tennessee State University in 2012. Her activism stems from gender issues and human rights in Latin America. In the spirit of October's LGBT celebrations, LGBT History Month and National Coming Out Day, Elgin asks Brenda how important activism is and her response is a timely reflection:
Today, there are many who are making history by standing up against bigotry and intolerance; refusing to hide in the shadows out of fear and shame. We did not get to this point alone. There are those brave individuals that have paved the way and continue to light our path, leading to an open conversation about the rights and justice of the LGBTQ community. These pioneers should know that they are not forgotten. How often do we thank the trailblazers and organizations whose time and energy and resources have been and continue to be generously and selflessly donated to making our community a safe and visible one? Safe AND visible? Years ago, this would have been simply impossible!
As citizens of the wider LGBTQ community, we have many people who deserve our sincerest appreciation. Because of them, we have rights that are, in many ways, taken for granted on a daily basis. These rights that are still fragile in the hands of those who wish to push us back into the “dark ages” and blind the world to our existence. Our work is not done, but it continues.
As our community celebrates June’s Pride Month or October’s National Coming Out Day, it is very important that we not lose sight of the protest aspect of these celebrations. The first Gay Pride march was indeed a protest. Stonewall, was a protest. Coming out is a protest. It should not merely be an opportunity or excuse to dance, march, ride or drive down a thoroughfare holding hands, kissing each other or wearing scandalous attire. Although these actions can be a form of protest, it is important that we teach members of our community why we take to the streets. Our heritage is where we should draw our strength.
As much as our community owes a debt of gratitude to each of those who made the history that we celebrate, we also owe it to them to carry on the tradition. It takes an entire community working for a common cause to create lasting change. All of the individual activists and organizations that commit themselves to raising awareness and combating inequality continue to provide hope for future generations. Thank you and let’s keep the conversation going!