A history of sexual discrimination and rejection against competitors formed a tight-knit diverse community of rodeo athletes and supporters across the U.S. and Canada.
As a documentary photographer, I’m constantly studying to understand subcultures and communities that surround me. With the help of grants and self funding this will be an on going series. I look to present a unique look of this grassroots subculture that is the gay rodeo.
Gender and sexuality within the cowboy rodeo circuit has traditionally been seen as heteronormative. The International Gay Rodeo (AGRA) has been active for the past 31 years.
A history of sexual discrimination and rejection against competitors formed a tight-knit diverse community of rodeo athletes and supporters across the U.S. and Canada. In 1976 the first gay rodeo took place in Reno Nevada. It is now a complete circuit with rodeos held each year in states such as Texas, Colorado, Nevada, California, Arizona as well as in Canada. Rodeo events include rough stock, steer riding, bull riding, chute dogging, calf roping, goat dressing, and more.
As a documentary photographer, I’m constantly studying to understand subcultures and communities that surround me. As part of the larger LGBT community myself, I was still unaware of what a gay rodeo was. I was expecting what most people would at an event called a ‘gay rodeo’ - loud, flashy and flamboyant fun. What I found though was a more thoughtful tone to the event that was structured and run by it’s own community members. Bartenders, announcers, ranch hands and volunteers were all part of a larger gay community that was local to the region. Almost everyone that came out to the event knew one another. They were there to compete, support and operate the events. There was a strong sense of family that clearly went beyond the ranch. Competitors traveled from various states to attend the event where they only see one another at the annual gay rodeos. Some have been coming out to these events since they originated in the 70’s. Competitors travel in campers vans with their families and camp out at the ranch before, during and after the events.
As I continue this photo series I’d like to dive deeper into the struggles, the personalities and lives of LGBT rodeo competitors. I’d also like to focus on the interesting fashion choices such as DIY clothing pieces, prized belt buckles, various cowboy hat styles and more. These are the pieces to a larger picture of personal acceptance and the importance of a sub community. Going even further, I’d like to interview various people on camera to get their stories on how they got involved with gay rodeos and what their lives are like outside of the rodeo.
So far this project has been a self funded photo series. As I go forward I plan to attend as many gay rodeos as I can within the U.S. in the next two years. The gay rodeo’s that are slated for this year are as follows: ‘A Texas Tradition Rodeo’ in Dallas Texas in April. ‘Hot Rodeo’ in Palm Springs California in the begging of May. ‘Great Plains Rodeo’ in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at the end of May. In July, the ‘Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo’ in Denver Colorado and ‘North Star Regional Rodeo’ in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. ’Zia Regional Rodeo’ in Santa Fe New Mexico, ‘Rodeo on the River’ in San Francisco, California and ’Sierra Stampede in Sacramento, California in September. And in October the World Gay Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas Nevada.