Longtime Knoxville LGBT activist Gary Elgin wears many hats: writer, artist, leader, troublemaker, promoter, and organizer. Yet, he might be best known for his trademark purple fedora when he hosts his web-based talk show The Lavender Table. Elgin says the show is “for and about the LGBT community.”
“Author James Baldwin, was a huge influence on my activism,” says Elgin. “The very concept of The Lavender Table itself, was directly inspired by Baldwin’s own “welcome table,” in the expatriate’s home outside Paris, where friends, family, fellow authors, artists, entertainers would often gather to talk over everything from artistic movements to world politics to strategies of the march toward freedom.”
Since The Lavender Table’s humble beginning in 2011, Elgin’s program has attracted numerous dedicated volunteers, including Ernest, the show’s video editor, and artist Tina Brunetti. Last season, Elgin was able to snag interviews with television actress and eco-activist Park Overall, and trans-gender activist Chaz Bono. Local musicians, politicians, and other activists have also been guests.
The Lavender Table’s 4th season will kick-off on April 9th with Jenny Moshak, author of Ice ‘n’ Go. Other upcoming guests include Tennessee State Representative Gloria Johnson and Jordan Cat Miller, coordinator of the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s OUTstanding Seminar.
The Lavender Table has also bloomed into several side projects.
“Cooking with Lavender” starring Chef Joseph Lowery will also be featured in the upcoming 4th season. A special Lavender Table fundraising dinner is scheduled for March 15, with special guest chef Terri Korom, the former owner of the Cresent Moon Cafe. (Location and time to be announced.)
Elgin is also writing a monthly column “Notes from the Lavender Table” for the online version of Out and About Nashville. “I’ll be writing about a variety of subjects – everything from activism to money management,” says Elgin.
Elgin has plans for a future web-radio program, too.
The effervescent Elgin recently spoke to KNOXzine about Gay Pride, the media, and local resources for the LGBT community.
Why Gay Pride?
Elgin explains, “Straight society is celebrated each and every minute of every day. Its mythology is recalled and proclaimed constantly.
“Gay Pride is…a celebration of individualism, and living each day openly and honestly. It is also a commemorative event, recognizing those who stood up and finally said: ‘enough!’- back at the Stonewall Inn, in June of 1969.”
Since arriving in Knoxville in 1992, Elgin has worked tirelessly in numerous local and state organizations advocating for LGBT equal rights. He acted as Director of Knoxville Pride from 1993-96, and again in 2004.
Former Knoxville Pride President, and Elgin’s predecessor, James Tallent says: “Gary took us from a small grass roots organization to a professional one.” M. Todd Cramer is the current Director of Knoxville Pridefest. According to the Knoxville Pridefest webpage, 2013’s Pridefest attracted 10,000 attendees. This year’s parade and festival is scheduled for June 21, 2014.
Ever the showman, the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) invited Elgin to provide the red carpet, and to present and accept an award for Knoxville News-Sentinel’s Ina Hughes, at TEP’s second annual Olympus awards held in Nashville, TN.
Media & Why it Matters
Elgin has greater concerns than the ugly opinions of a reality show star, but he admits media greatly influences people.
Elgin explains, “It matters because they [celebrities, politicians, etc.] have power! They have the power of the airwaves and the Internet.
“This can work two ways, of course. For example, in the case of the Salvation Army. What they have done or not done in the past just won’t go away…even though I believe they have taken steps to correct the misdeeds.
“I am finding it a little frustrating that the LGBT community does not seem to be utilizing the web to it’s fullest advantages yet.We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.
“I rant and rave about our willingness to be frivolous. Right now I would like us to be incensed by what is going on in Uganda and Jamaica. Instead, for example, we use the web to spread the word for Same Sex Kiss Day for Marriage Equality at Chick Fil-A.
“I believe what is happening in Uganda should take our focus. I understand marriage equality is important, but people are being murdered. Marriage equality has a good foothold. Now would be a great time to start diverting attention to what really is vital for homosexual Ugandans to stay alive.”
The Lavender Table with your host Gary Elgin
Gay Friendly AA at TVUCC
Family Justice Center OFFICE: (865) 521-6800 AFTER HOURS: (865) 521-6336
YWCA Knoxville OFFICE: (865) 523-6126
LGBTQ Helpline (865) 531-2539 (nightly from 7-11 pm)
CONTACT Care Line (865) 584-4424 (24/7 – any subject – gay friendly)
Family Justice Center (865) 521-6336 (24/7 – domestic violence)
Knox County Health Department (HIV & STD testing)
Knoxville Health Center (HIV testing – gay friendly)
Samaritan Ministry (Faith based HIV/AIDS support)
The Community of St. Ninian (Christian)
Integrity USA (Episcopalian outreach)
Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist (liberal)
Samaritan Ministry (Faith based HIV/AIDS support)
Tennessee Valley Universalist Unitarian Church (TVUUC) (liberal)
Westside Unitarian Universalist Church (liberal)
Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens (book, ages 13 & up)
Heather Small’s “Proud” (music, all ages)
Child & Family Tennessee Runaway Shelter/Safe Place (865) 523-2689
Spectrum Cafe at Westside UUC
The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC)
If you liked this article, you might enjoy Drag Pageants in Tennessee: A Long and Colorful History.
© Debra Dylan, 2014.