Tommy Channel was born and raised in Nacogdoches County, Texas, and grew up attending rodeos. After graduating from business college, he attended his first gay rodeo in Houston, Texas. According to Tommy, he immediately felt “at home.” Shortly after, he bought a horse, moved to Denver, and began competing in IGRA events. He has served as president of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association (CGRA) and a rodeo director for CGRA and the International Finals Rodeo; Tommy has also earned a Mr. IGRA title and is currently the Administrative Assistant for the organization.
Interview Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: November 11, 2019 | Interviewer: Renae Campbell
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What was your experience coming out?
How did you find gay rodeo?
My first IGRA event was in Houston, Texas. And I didn't know anybody at the event. [...] I didn't know a soul. But I was so intrigued, watching these events that were so—some of them—foreign. Some of them were just rodeo events like, you know, bronc riding, bull riding, and roping—those kind of things. But they did something so unusual that I had never seen before, like a drag race, and the goat dressing, and wild drag. [...] They were really fun! And guess what? [...] I wanted to be a part of it.
What does it mean to be a cowboy or cowgirl and are you one?
What is special about gay rodeo?
For one thing, the interaction from association to association, state to state, becomes a family affair—a huge social event. And it's exciting to see friends and people that you consider family at this point, you know, a few times a year. [...] Just like I go home to see my blood family. These people are my family. I love them dearly and appreciate their contributions to our society.
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