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IGRA member associations have raised over two million dollars over the past twenty years, benefiting a wide variety of causes, including AIDS charities, camps for children with life-threatening diseases, food banks, youth groups, and gay history projects.

IGRA contestants perform at a high level. Some members also compete on the mainstream rodeo circuit. In a 2006 interview in the San Antonio Express-News a gay cowboy identified as George stated that heterosexual participants generally are not bothered by the knowledge that some of their competitors are gay, "as long as you don't flaunt it." He went on to cite several gay champions whose names were not revealed by the reporter. "It's an open secret," George declared.

But it is still a secret. Some participants in gay rodeos, like George, use only first names or choose pseudonyms. IGRA member Jamie Lodzinski, who proudly competes under his own name, stated that some others "are open when they are among us, with their friends, but when they're competing, they can't take that chance of their names getting out."

Lodzinski's partner, identified only as K. W., commented, "We have competitors and attendees that are schoolteachers and military. They just can't afford to expose who they really are, in fear of losing their jobs."

The threat is sometimes of physical danger as well. In 2005 an IGRA member from Oklahoma was battered by a gun-wielding assailant after participating in a gay rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas.

Rodeo directors report that despite good attendance at their competitions, they have sometimes failed to receive sponsorship from businesses "because it's a gay event."

For IGRA participants, however, the rodeos are deeply meaningful. Brian Helander, the president of IGRA, called "gay rodeo . . . a big, wonderful family of people. For participants, it's about being outdoors and around animals. It takes a lot of persistence to perfect your skill, and it's a great lesson in not giving up."

For gay men and lesbians who moved from rural areas to larger cities in order to find a more tolerant atmosphere, gay rodeo presents an opportunity to celebrate both their cultural heritage and their glbtq identity.

"I used to go to rodeo as a child. It was one of my favorite things," said Duane Evans in a 2005 interview. For Evans, then 79, attending an IGRA event was a chance to enjoy a part of Western life that he has always loved and also to chat comfortably with a friend about "Hollywood's cutest cowboys."

IGRA member Bailey Kier first competed as a woman but subsequently began the process of gender-reassignment. Kier, who grew up in the state of Washington, "definitely ran away" to Washington, D. C., where he still found "a lot of tensions" despite its larger glbtq population. He credits the support of his rodeo companions for giving him strength in his decision to become a man.

Former IGRA champion Sonny Koerner was at first put off by the idea of a gay rodeo, fearing that it would be an excessively campy show, but, upon investigation, discovered that it was not so different from his activities on his grandparents' farm and the rodeos in which he had competed since childhood. Koerner, a Washington-based security consultant, summed up what it meant to him to be able to participate in gay rodeo: "I would not say that the rodeo is any more important than anything else, but it's important for the gay community to show that it's as varied as any other community. We are just as diverse as the straight community."

Linda Rapp

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Buncombe, Andrew. "Wild, Wild West." The Independent (London) (November 26, 2005): 27-29, 31-32.

Greenfield, Beth. "Tightly Knit and Western-Loving." New York Times (February 24, 2006): F2.

Hamilton, Tracy Idell. "Gays at Home on the Range." San Antonio Express-News (February 17, 2006): 1A.

International Gay Rodeo Association.

"Real Brokeback Cowboys Still Deal with Discrimination." (May 28, 2006).


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Rodeos  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated June 3, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  


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