Just another giddyup

  • Jared Boyd
 

It’s a lot like any other rodeo, on an August weekend in a fairground arena as folks hide out from the monsoon rains. Friday-night cowboys with mustaches stroll past women wearing baggy-in-the-seat jeans and plaid flannel shirts. Tall men with big hats hug one another, catch up on circuit gossip, and check out newcomers. Pungent blasts of cigarette smoke interrupt the sweet smell of manure; the riders down Miller Lite in plastic cups. They’ve all come to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Posse Arena to watch or ride in the New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association’s Zia Rodeo, one of more than 20 gay rodeos across the country.

"You can’t be a cowboy if you’re gay. It’s not possible." Ty, who grew up in western Nebraska, used to believe that. She started riding horses when she was 2 and participated in her first rodeo at age 8. When she was in college, she realized she was gay and dropped out of the rodeo scene. Then she met someone from the gay rodeo, and found her way home again. "I was like, ‘Well, hee ha!’ I’ve been back into it 11 years and I love it."

She’s one of the 60 or so cowboys and cowgirls who this weekend will wrestle 600-pound steers out of the bucking chute, ride broncs bareback and weave half-ton horses gracefully through a series of poles. When the national anthem plays, the participants take off their hats, place them over their pearly buttoned shirts and gaze reverently at Old Glory.

Just another rodeo, in other words. But underneath the face paint and behind the bandanas, even the clowns have GQ skin and smiles. Between twangy country tunes that bellow over the loudspeakers, a contestant talks in detail about the outfit Christina Aguilera wore during a recent television appearance.

Punctuating traditional bronc-busting events are less common contests: In goat dressing, for example, teams work together to wrestle Jockey underwear onto a goat chained in the middle of the arena. Then there’s the wild drag race, where one cowboy and one cowgirl must hoist a drag queen atop a steer and guide them across the finish line.

Keenan’s one of the contestants. A flight attendant by trade, he is tall, fastidious, and terribly mischievous. When I ask if protesters ever crash gay rodeos, he replies, "Well, sometimes PETA will show up." He’s distracted by the goodies in the registration packet: a rodeo number, safety pins and a T-shirt, along with condoms and information about HIV testing. "But sometimes, like in Las Vegas, they’re just given their own area to protest in." I pursue the question: Do anti-gay protesters ever appear? Is there ever a threat of violence? "Oh, please," says Jeff from Tucson, listening in. He points around the tent: "Look at these boys. They know how to kick ass."


The author writes from Albuquerque, N.M., where she wrangles bantam chickens in her backyard.

High Country News Classifieds
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Utah's largest conservation organization, has an immediate opening in its Salt Lake City office for a staff attorney. SUWA's...
  • DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST
    Idaho Walk Bike Alliance seeks a lover of bicycling, walking, and all modes of active transportation who willingly puts the car in the garage and...
  • COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Friends of Inyo - the Communications Director is a full-time permanent position that reports to the Executive Director and utilizes communication strategies and production skills...
  • INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR
    High Country News seeks an editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk. This individual will lead a team of passionate journalists...
  • HIKING TO THE EDGE:
    Confronting Cancer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Poetry and photos on survival thinking. E-book and paperback available at Amazon.com.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • IPLC RIGHTS AND EQUITY PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FUTURE WEST
    Future West seeks an executive director to lead this dynamic organization into the future. Based in Bozeman, MT this well-respected nonprofit provides communities in the...
  • PART-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mitchell Museum of the American Indian Location: Evanston, IL Salary Range: $45,000 @ 24 hours per week. send resume: [email protected] www.mitchellmuseum.org
  • COMMUNICATIONS LEAD
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR
    Since 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has been doing work you can believe in protecting the lands and waters that all life depends on....
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
  • FOR SALE
    Yellowstone Llamas Successful Yellowstone NP concession Flexible packages
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is seeking a full-time Director of Development & Marketing. This is a senior position responsible for the development of all marketing...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR
    The Legal Director will work closely with the Executive Director in cultivating a renewed vision at NMELC that integrates diversity, equity, and justice. Black, Indigenous,...
  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR LEADERS!
    As we celebrate 50 years of great Western journalism, High Country News is looking for a few new board members to help set a course...
  • WIND RIVER WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT BY THE NATIONAL BIGHORN SHEEP CENTER
    Enhance your writing or photography skills with world-class instructors in the beautiful Wind River Mountains. All skill levels welcome. Continuing education credits available.
  • EARTH CRUISER FX FOR SALE
    Overland Vehicle for travel on or off road. Fully self contained. Less than 41,000 miles. Recently fully serviced Located in Redmond, OR $215'000.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    identifies suspect buried trash, tanks, drums &/or utilities and conducts custom-designed subsurface investigations that support post-damage litigation.