Interview with Lacey Edwards

Phoenix, Arizona on February 15, 2020 | Interviewer: Court Fund

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Court Fund: Hi, this is Court Fund, sitting here with Lacey Edwards at the Pheonix Rodeo. Hi, Lacey how are you today?
Lacey Edwards: Good. How are you?
CF: Pretty good. I'm just going to go ahead and start. What year were you born?
LE: 76.
CF: 76. And where did you grow up?
LE: All over. My dad was a regional manager for a company. So we moved every two and a half to three years.
CF: OK. Where all did you live?
LE: Oregon. California, Utah, Arizona and Washington.
CF: So, yeah. All over the place. Did you have any experience in those places with rodeos or did you grow up with stock around that time?
LE: In Oregon, we lived across the street from a cow farm. So, I mean, that's where I mean I kinda got my feeling for country living.
CF: Yeah. Think it just kind of struck something that you wanted to do?
LE: Yes.
CF: Awesome. What was your childhood like growing up - kind of on the road - sounds like you moved every two years.
LE: It was really great. My younger sister didn't do well with moving to new environments and meeting new people. And I loved it. My dad always says I'm a gypsy at heart.
CF: So what did your dad do for a living then?
LE: He worked for Oregon Pest Control.
CF: So kind of in ag. still.
LE: Yeah.
CF: If you don't mind me asking, how do you identify in terms of gender?
LE: Totally female and totally gay, even though I look straight, I'm probably the only straight looking gay woman you'll ever meet.
CF: Do you have a partner here with you today?
LE: No, she's not here. But yes, I do have a partner.
CF: And you said you have kids and they're at a volleyball tournament currently?
LE: I do. My ex partner and I, which we actually met through Arizona Gay Rodeo Association. We have a beautiful 18 year old son together and he is now in college in Kentucky.
CF: Wow. So pretty far away.
LE: Yeah.
CF: What is he doing there?
LE: He got a volleyball scholarship and an academic scholarship.
CF: Wow. So, it's pretty unusual for him to be here with you guys.
LE: No. He would love to be here now. He used to come to every rodeo. He was born in August of 2001. And the International Gay Finals Rodeo was in Palm Springs that year. And AGRA made him a onesie. And Bobby Minto, who has passed away, and Ron Trusley actually carried him through the parade because back in the day, the rodeo used to have Grand Entry and it was a full parade and my son was part of it.
LE: It's huge. And I still have that onesie and it's in his Shadowbox. And my son is very proud to have gay parents when he was a freshman in high school, he, actually, the yearbook committee asked him to do an article and he called it the Fuller House. And he wrote a whole two page thing for his yearbook about having two gay moms.
CF: That's amazing.
LE: It was awesome.
CF: So this really was a community for you guys.
LE: Oh, absolutely.
CF: That's really great. How - what was it like raising my son in this community?
LE: It was amazing. I always used to say, my son's name is [redacted], he had more aunts or uncles or uncles or aunts, depending on what they were wearing. He knew the drag queens as their drag queen name; as aunt Erika, as aunt Victoria. And then he also knew them as who they were in their males' figure. So it was it was beautiful.
CF: That's amazing. That's really fantastic. Switching gears a little bit, did you go to college and what are you doing now?
LE: I currently I know this sounds ridiculous. I fix hearts for a living. I work in the cath lab. I work with great nurses and physicians. And we put stints in, so if you're having a heart attack in the middle of the night, that's me that's fixing you.
CF: Wow. You're a lifesaver.
LE: Yes. I've always worked in the medical field and they absolutely love it.
CF: Lifesaver by day, rodeo contestant by night -
LE: Yes.
CF: And you're coming back to compete next year?
LE: I'm hoping so. I mean, I had to take a break for a while. And my ex-partner, she used to ride broncs and bulls and steers, which they don't have a lot of those events now. But we had to raise a kid, so we couldn't do these crazy things. But now he's 18 and living in Kentucky, so I'm willing and ready to come back.
CF: What events did you do?
LE: Well, of course, I'm a little princess, so I did goat dressing wild drag, steer deco, calf roping on foot. In fact, we actually had a rodeo in Utah, which I was very nervous to go to as a gay rodeo association having it there. And it was the first year there and I was pregnant as a house. And was wearing overalls and did calf roping on foot and back in the day, Wayne Taquito, who was the founder with John King and Ron Trusley, they were like the last rodeo you can do because I was pregnant and they didn't want me to get hurt.
CF: So, your son really was raised in this community, from the time you were pregnant. You were still competing.
LE: Absolutely. AGRA threw a baby shower for me.
CF: Oh, that's amazing.
LE: It was amazing.
CF: You also mentioned that you did some royalty stuff.
LE: I did. I was Miss AGRA 1999 and first runner up in IGRA in 2000.
CF: And so you stopped competing in 2001, is that right?
LE: Well, I stopped competing, yes. Because we had a baby. My ex, she stopped competing in 2002 because we did have a child and she rode rough stock. So, yeah.
CF: So it's been a while. I'm sure they're glad you're back.
LE: And we would still come to rodeos and do everything. And my son has a great community here and his godparents were actually part of New Mexico's association. So we used to go there and watch rodeo for weekends on end.
CF: So you traveled with the rodeo circuit?
LE: Absolutely.
CF: Yeah. Sounds like you went to Utah, Palm Springs...
LE: Oklahoma, California. Yes. It was a great experience.
CF: Were there any differences between the rodeos?
LE: Not really. I mean, I will say that when you're in the confined space, it's beautiful. When I competed for International in 2000, the rodeo was in Arkansas. And I was kind of afraid to go there. Being gay in Arkansas, my mother traveled with me the whole time. I mean, my mom is a huge support. Arkansas was a little scary for me because in 2000, being gay was not okay. It was - and like how you have the functions here - we were stuck in this little tiny industrial warehouse. But the community itself, we felt so safe and so loved.
CF: Did you ever feel any adversity on the road? It sounds like you were a little nervous in Arkansas and Utah. Did you ever feel any pushback from the communities there?
LE: Yes and no. And fortunately for me, my mother was always traveling with us and my partner, who was extremely butch. People always thought it was kind of strange. I was also very thankful that I had this great group of royalty with me. We would fly together, go together. Never like left each other's sides. So it was okay.
CF: That's good to hear.
LE: And like I say, you like when you're in this community and you have the advantage. You go together, you come together and you're safe in your own zone.
CF: You have each other's backs. It sounds like your mom traveled with you quite a bit, were any of your other family members, besides your ex, also involved with the rodeo?
LE: No, but my sister, my nieces and nephews, they came to every event.
CF: Just very supportive?
LE: It's a whole family affair. Like I was saying, it was telling one of my friends. So my dad, I'm the oldest daughter, who was not okay with me being gay in 1999. And, everybody was here.
LE: My dad actually, and it makes me want to have tears, came to this rodeo grounds, which used to be totally different and walked through the doors, where the stage is now and brought me this bouquet of roses because he was like, this is you and this is where you're going to do so. Like, this, please has a really special place in my heart.
CF: That's amazing. So, this was like a big moment for you.
LE: A huge moment. 'Cause I was daddy's little girl and I was supposed to have the big white wedding...I'm gay. And he was like, okay. But he showed up here. My mom said, you know what? She's your one and only oldest daughter and you need to be there. And he walked through with two dozen roses and gave them to me on stage and sat and talked with some of the most amazing people. He was like, okay, it's okay because there was this stigmatism about being gay. And he was like, it's okay.
CF: When did you come out to your parents?
LE: 1997
CF: It was just a couple of years before then. How did they take that? It sounds like your dad and your mom had different reactions.
LE: They struggled with it because again, I was the oldest daughter and I don't fit your stereotypical lesbian and, um, they struggled with it, but they were very supportive. It's just like - when my - of course, they went through the huge gamut of, oh, my God, we'll never have a wedding, you'll never have children. Blah, blah, blah. And so when I came to them and I was like, "I'm gonna have a baby and I've picked a donor and I actually sat in the living room with my ex-partner and we went through all the donors and picked it" and my parents actually said, we are going to buy your first round of sperm so that you can have a baby. And was like, "that's your Christmas present." I was like, OK. [laughs]
CF: That's so nice of them, it's very supportive.
LE: Very supportive. And they think it was. It's the unknown. When you don't know what the opportunities are, it makes be people close minded. But once you show them all the opportunities, then they're like, oh, okay.
CF: So, how did you learn of the gay rodeo?
LE: I was - actually, the first time I came here, I had a fake I.D. [Laughs] No, true story. I heard about it, and I will tell you, when I was in California going to school for my profession, I had gone to a couple of gay bars and they were very scary because I had long hair and boobs and all these things and women with mullets and chains and they were like, "what are you doing?" So, I randomly said I saw this when I moved back and I was like, oh, I'm going to go. And, so, I met some friends. So I kind of just came out here on a wing and a prayer, and I've never left it.
CF: So you just fell in love with it.
LE: Mhm.
CF: I was going to ask how has being involved in gay rodeo affected other aspects of your life? But it sounds like you just really meshed with this community.
LE: It is huge. I will tell you this much, through this community, especially when I was running for royalty. We did all kinds of fundraisers for THON, which is I don't even know if it's still around, but, there was a very special person who was gay. He was a drag queen and his mom was 100 percent supportive, and when he passed away, we took his ashes, each one of us, and spread them around. It has given me a sense of community. And life, like everybody that walks through the doors - whether you're a cocktail whore, or a regular whore, or you drink too much or whatever, you mean something.
CF: I've really noticed being here that there's people from all different backgrounds and walks of life, It seem very accepting...
LE: It's very accepting. And well, like for me. I'm not out at work because if I was out at work, I would not have a job. So everybody thinks I'm this cute little thing with long hair and bat my eyelashes and I'm not out at work because they won't accept it. And I don't care if they don't accept it because where I get my grounding and my sanity is a community like this.
CF: Do you feel like not being out at work puts up some boundaries between you and your co-workers?
LE: Oh, absolutely.
CF: Do you feel like you have to be kind of secretive about it?
LE: Oh, I'm really good at the pronoun game.
CF: How does that affect your work environment?
LE: You know, I'm there to do a job. I think that... I really don't want to have contact with them outside of work, so I will play the pronoun game all day long and that's fine with me. Because I watch people say bad things about other people. So to me, I don't need your negativity in my life and I won't take it. It's my story to tell. And I don't want to share it with them. It's my little bubble. It's my safe space.
CF: Do you mind if I ask, what you mean by the pronoun game?
LE: I don't call my person a 'she.' I call them a 'he'. It's the 'they' they, 'we,' 'we do this.' There's never a 'she.' Nobody knows. So I play the pronoun game.
CF: Do you think the larger LGBTQ+ community supports the rodeo? Or how do you feel the gay rodeo fits into the larger LGBTQ community?
LE: So I'm an old school lesbian.[Laughs] I wish more of the LGBTQ would come to events like this versus gay pride. I love gay pride, but I don't think you should have to pay to be gay. And I think that sometimes people are more eccentric and lose who they are and what the community is really about. When you come here, it's super small. It's super whatever, whether you go to a rodeo here - back in the day, they have a rodeo and Tuson so you could do Phoenix and Tucson. You meet an amazing community.
CF: Have you ever found any frustration with the ─░GRA in terms of, like, it [not] being racially diverse or being a woman in the community?
LE: No.
CF: Have you ever experienced blatant or subtle forms of homophobia at the rodeo or on your way to the rodeo? I know we touched on this little bit earlier.
LE: Um, not really like I say, it was crazy back in the day. I was actually just telling the story - so the day I got crowned Miss AGRA and back in the day Charlie's didn't let women in. And the only reason why I got in was because I was royalty and I actually got a drink at the bar. But I will tell you, the scariest stripe was from here to Charlie's got a flat tire and it's me and a drag queen on the side of the road out here in podunk country. But I knew it was safe because we had each other. So to me it was totally different. My favorite story is, is when Tucson used to have a chapter. Me, my drag queen, and some friends, we went down to Tucson and we were staying at , who knows, we were cheap bitches, back then we were staying at a Motel 6 and we walked in as two girls and two guys. And everybody's in the pool and our room just happened to be by the pool. And as we walked out, we were two girls and two really, really tall girls because the drag queens got all dressed up and you watched everybody in the pool doing this - but it was a blast.
LE: No, you're fine [Brief interuption from community member]
CF: Have you ever been injured in the rodeo?
LE: No, my partner was. We have done to multiple hospitals multiple times.
CF: [Brief interruption from rodeo participant] No, go ahead - if you're okay with speaking with [the participate smoking behind us]?
LE: Oh, yeah.
CF: And that was because you said your partner did a lot of rough stock events. Yeah. Do you have any stories about that, that you want to share?
LE: Well, since I work in the medical field, my partner actually broke her arm in Oklahoma. We taped it together along with Chuck Browning and Brian, and I don't know if I can use their names, but they've been in radio forever. We taped it together with a Pepsi box. I called the orthopedic surgeon. I was like, this is what's happening. And he's like, all right, when do you fly in? And we took care of it. Yeah.
CF: Wow. So she went on the plane with the broken arm.
LE: Oh, yeah. She still rodeoed and in tied in other people with a broken arm. It's just what you do. [Laughs]
CF: Do you consider yourself a cowgirl?
LE: Yes.
CF: What's your definition of a cowgirl? How do you fit into that?
LE: I would want to see I'm classy with a 'K.' I love the finer things, I love to have champagne. I do all this, but I actually own acreage and muck shit all day long and have animals and I love going out at night and just having my own space. So, yes, am I a country girl at heart? Absolutely.
CF: And you own property here in Phoenix?
LE: I'm actually in Surprise.
CF: OK. And that's in the outside [Phoenix] area?
LE: Mhm.
CF: Nice. What kind of animals do you have?
LE: Currently, I have just four miniature donkies because of all my horses have passed and my cows have passed. So I have four miniature donkeys in their yard ornaments and they're like dogs and they're final.
CF: Has gay rodeo changed in the time that you've been a member.
LE: Yes.
CF: How do you think it's changed?
LE: You want my honest opinion?
CF: Yes.
LE: I'm really happy to see the crowd and all of those things, but..once it was okay to be gay. I think, people come out for the party and they don't come out to support what it's all about.
CF: What do you think it's all about?
LE: I think it's about camaraderie, family, being close with somebody. It's okay that everybody wants to come and party and have a good time. But I think the personal connections have kind of been lost.
CF: How was it when you first started? How would you describe the rodeo besides community?
LE: It was a family.
CF: It was a family.
LE: It was a huge family.
CF: What do you see for the future of rodeo, of gay rodeo?
LE: I want it to be bigger, like I was actually talking to a gentleman in the stands, who's straight. He was like, this is weird. And I was like, you know, this is so small to only have 44 contestants here. When I joined rodeo in 1998, it went from like 7:00 a.m. till 8 o'clock at night and, you know, you were changing in each other's horse trailers and you were doing all of these things and I think it's great for the party scene. But it is missing that, um...people traveled from all over the world to come to rodeos.
CF: Why do you think that changed?
LE: It's really expensive to rodeo. It's really expensive to rodeo. Mind you, we're all old and a lot of the younger people don't want to buy horses. They don't want to do those things, which is fine. So if you still have all the people and they want to come out here and support it. It's beautiful. It's a beautiful experience.
CF: How do think that the gay rodeo fits in to the rodeo scene in gerneral and the local ranch rodeos or professional rodeo?
LE: So I'm a rodeo girl at heart and I go to other rodeos and do things. I don't think gay rodeo will necessarily become mainstream. Because the difference is, is that not everybody's here just to make money. They're here for the experience and in mainstream rodeo, they're there to make money. Nine times out of ten, I can tell you, you actually lose money being a contestant.
CF: Do you participate in any of the dances?
LE: I admit I've been absent for quite a few years because I was raising a child and now I will be more so. Yes.
CF: Would you ever consider giving rough stock a chance, do you think? Or are you going to go back to the-
LE: No, I'm too pretty.[Laughs] No, actually, I would love to do rough stock. I always did. My ex used to tell me, 'uh, no.' My job wouldn't let me do it. If I got hurt, I couldn't do my job, so I can't support my family. But I would love to do rough stock.
CF: There's something kind of romantic about, isn't there?
LE: Oh, my gosh, yes.
CF: Is there anything else you'd like to add? Anything that I am missing about your experience?
LE: I think it's really great that you guys are doing this because, you know, I'm thankful to have this group of people and some of us are 40, some of us are 90. I would like through your support and what you're doing to bring back how important the family is. I think it's beautiful.
CF: I hope so, too. Well, thank you for sitting and talking with me. I'm going to end [it here].