Saraya Flaig: I'm here on November 22nd with Judy Munson. This is Saraya Flaig at the Denver rodeo convention on November 22nd, 2019, and it's about 10:45. So, Judy, can you tell me what year you were born?
Judy Munson: 1949
SF: And where did you grow up?
JM: Actually, I was born and raised in San Diego, California.
SF: Oh, wow. So not a very rural area.
JM: No, not at all.
SF: So, did you grow up there for your entire childhood then?
JM: Yep, my entire childhood and then I went away to university, to Utah, and then when I graduated with my Master of Science degree in Utah I moved to Canada and then to Calgary. Then I got a teaching job there and I’ve been there ever since.
SF: Did you grow up with any rodeo background or any agricultural experience?
JM: None, in fact, my first exposure to, well, my parents, we used to rent horses now and then do trail rides, you know, outside San Diego County. But that was kind of it. But my first exposure to large animals was basically in my 40s with my partner, who I'm still with. And yeah. So, she bought me my first horse and we live on a ranch now, we live in a quarter section, which is 160 acres and we board horses and have horses of our own. But I had no experience with rodeo or anything like that.
SF: So what was your first exposure to rodeo?
JM: Actually, the first time we ever went to a rodeo, well, we were in Calgary, so the Stampede, obviously to watch and do that. But the first rodeo we participated in was the gay rodeo outside of Calgary at Simons Valley. We were retailers. We were selling stuff; we had a company called Queerly Canadian. And we sold pride stuff and that kind of stuff. After that year, we went to a meeting to explain some ideas that we had about retail, well then they appointed us as any volunteer organization. They appointed us retail coordinators, so we got involved that way.
JM: Then my first year competing, I was at a Friday night function before the rodeo and we were drinking and having a good time. And this gal from Texas, who was one of the IGRA officials came up to me and said, “Hey, I got a couple of guys that want to do Wild Drag, but they need a girl.” Because wild drag is typically two guys and a girl. “And they're from Montana, would you be interested?” I went, “What do I have to do?” So she says, “Well, all you have to do to hold the rope on this itty-bitty calf. And when the calf comes out, you hand the rope to your cowboy and then you're done.” I went, I could do that. So, I signed up.
JM: Well, we continue to drink that night. And later I heard, well, it wasn't a calf. It was a cow. And I went, “Ehh, that's probably still okay.” Well, the next morning we're having breakfast and we met this guy from California, and he says, “Oh, are you girls competing?” And we’re all excited and say, “Yeah this is our first time doing it.” He says, “What are you doing?” And we go, “Wild drag.” He goes, “Well, just remember this. Get the hell out of the way of the steer when it comes out of the chute.” So, I was like, oh, my gosh. So, it was completely different, but it was like such an adrenaline rush. And it was just so much fun. So, yeah, I got hooked. We got hooked and we've competed ever since.
SF: How did that first wild drag race go for you then?
JM: Well, it was good, actually, we got times both days and nobody got hurt. So that's a good thing. Wild drag is typically, even though it's kind of an it's a camp event, but it's one of the events there are a number of injuries because there's two teams running at a time. And so it can get pretty wild, crazy, but it's fun.
SF: Had you ever been to a gay rodeo before that?
JM: Just the one the year before when we were just selling product. But we hadn't really ever, we never even really watched it that much. So, we had no idea what the event was about or anything.
SF: Going back a little bit, what was your childhood and high school experience like?
JM: I don't know, it's typical for any city kid, I guess. I grew up in San Diego and participated in sports and, you know, did that kind of thing, and by the time I was out of high school, I knew I wanted to be a Phys-ed teacher. So my degree is in physical education, education and an emphasis in sports medicine. So, yeah. You know, kind of average.
SF: How do you identify in terms of sexuality and gender?
JM: I'm a gay woman or a lesbian. My partner and I've been together many years, thirty-five years. And we used to kind of resent being called a lesbian. It was kind of like, almost like a derogatory term years ago until gay women took on that title. We used to go to our parties and mostly gay guys they go, “Hey, here comes our lesbians.” But it was. Yeah. And so I don't know. You know, I've dated guys growing up. I did the whole, “Am I gay? Am I straight? I'm not sure,” you know. And I came from a very religious background, so that was tough, and coming out and determining which path I was going to take.
JM: You don’t really choose who you are, but you choose whether or not you recognize who you are and embrace that. That was tough because, like I said I come from a religious background, so that was very difficult. But I guess I've kind of always known. When you look back, you look back and you go, oh, that's why in high school I felt like this or I felt like that or I was impacted by certain people in certain ways. But sometimes when you’re going through it, you’re not that aware of it.
SF: When did you officially come out?
JM: I don’t know, I didn’t have a great big coming out thing. My family kind of knew that I always had friends that you know…but I was also in university, I was dating men or guys and still had a girlfriend. So, it was kind of like that whole I don't know, you know. I don't know, I think my family just gradually accepted who I was and that kind of thing. So, it was never really a big “I’m gay,” kind of thing.
SF: So are you officially out to your parents and family?
JM: My parents are deceased. The rest of my family I’m out to. Interestingly enough, I have two nieces and they're both gay and they're both married to their partners down in the states. So, there's you know that whole thing. So, I went to actually my one niece's wedding about three years ago and she works at the Supreme Court. And she was married by her and her partner, were married by [Sonia] Sotomayor, the Justice. And that was amazing, yeah, it was really, really cool. And so, yes, so our family has a number of gay people in it.
SF: You said you were really religious, what was that experience like grappling with what isn’t usually aligned with the church?
JM: Well, yeah. You know, it's a religion that doesn't accept people who are gay, doesn't accept the gay lifestyle. I mean, they accept it, if you're not practicing or with someone, but it's tough because there're social norms. You know, you're supposed to get to a certain age and then you get married and then you have kids and those things are tough because that's the expectation and that's what you grow up with: here's what I'm supposed to be doing. So, to not be doing that, I kind of avoided that a little bit by going to university and going, “I'm studying and I'm, you know, working on this.” So, but eventually you have to come to grips with am I going to live this lifestyle that everyone expects you to live and not be who I am and not be happy or am I going to embrace who I am, and I think that that was for me, that was a tough thing and it wasn't really till I got out of university because I went to a religious university and so I couldn't really be out there, so, you know, it was a challenge.
SF: When did you meet your partner?
JM: I met her my fourth year in Calgary. I moved to Canada; I didn’t know anyone. I just got a teaching job and thought this will be fun. I wanted to teach in California, but there weren't really that many teaching jobs. At the time there was a lot of teaching jobs in Canada and in Alberta. And I went up to the Calgary Stampede and I thought, this is fun, I could live here. It was like ten days of the year and the rest of the time was very conservative. But yeah. So, we met and started hanging out together and stuff like that. So, we just kind of met through friends of friends.
SF: Are you officially married?
JM: We're not married, but we've been together thirty-four years. So, but we've never, I don't know at the time, like when we first got together marriage really wasn't an option. You know. And so, it wasn't a thing. It was something you pushed aside because you thought, well, I'm gay and I’m with a woman, so I'm just never going to be able to be married. Well, Canada passed same sex marriage laws way before the states did. We just thought, “Well, we don’t need to be married,” and a lot of the benefits up there for same sex, they call it on our tax forms common law, doesn’t say “same sex” but they recognize your investments and all that would roll over to your partner. So, we never really felt the need to have a big wedding, it wasn’t really on our radar when we first got together.
SF: Do you notice a difference between how accepting people are in Canada versus in the United States?
JM: Well, yeah, I do, the same sex marriage thing is huge. But there's still pockets of non-acceptance whether you’re in Canada or in the US. I notice a big difference between being out and being able to be out, I mean, I have friends that are considerably younger than me that have always been out. They go, “Oh, I've never had to hide it from work or anything like that.” When I was teaching, even in Canada, I mean, I was not out. When my partner and I were together for about ten years before we ever let anybody know we were really together. We lived together as “roommates,” you know.
JM: Because I could have lost my job, because they would not have been able to fire me because I was gay, but they would have found some other reason or whatever. You just didn’t set yourself up for that, because it wasn't accepted. Now there's teachers that are gay and open. You know, everybody knows, and that's not a big issue, but yeah. I think probably in Canada, Alberta is probably one of the more well, we used to call it redneck, but they’re not really redneck, they're more conservative than some of the other provinces, much like some of the states down here are much more conservative than other states. But Alberta is loosening up, too, and they're getting considerably more accepting.
SF: Are you still a teacher now?
JM: No, I’m retired. We board horses now on a ranch and we have a business, we do a little self-storage business. We’re kind of semi-retired, get to tootle around. We get to do things like this, go to gay rodeos and gay rodeo conventions and that kind of things.
SF: You say you had a business with your partner. What was that business again?
JM: Well, we board horses on our ranch and then we own a self-storage facility.
SF: The one that you first found the gay rodeo with.
JM: Oh, that one, Queerly Canadian. Oh, that was just a little side business. I was teaching at the time and she was working full time. Yeah. We just, I don't know, we've always been entrepreneurial, and we've always had something on the side that we were doing right. It was really interesting because when we just had this little business, we would go to the Pride parade and sell stuff and then go the gay rodeo and sell stuff.
SF: How long did you have that business for?
JM: I don't know, probably four or five years maybe. And then we started doing land development and then we’ve done a number of different kinds of businesses. We’ve always done different things.
SF: Does your partner do gay rodeo as well?
JM: Yeah, she does. She's actually, she's more of, she competes a lot. I mean, I compete now also, but she competes more than I do. She's not interested in the administrative part of it. She goes I’m glad there’s somebody like you, that there are other people that will put it together and make it happen so I can compete. But she doesn't you know; she doesn't come to convention very often or anything like that. That's not her thing.
SF: So what events do you compete in or have you competed in?
JM: Well, in our home rodeo I’ve done all the horse events, which is barrels, poles and flags. I’ve done wild drag, steer deco, calf roping on foot. I don’t do the roping events. I’ve done pretty much all the events except the roping events, steer riding, and rough stock. Although my partner has done steer riding and won some buckles in that.
SF: Do you ever wish you would have tried to steer riding or any of the rough stock events?
JM: I kind of am still intrigued with chute dogging. That kind of intrigues me, but that's tough. You know, like standing in a chute next to a steer and then coming out and doing that. But it's kind of on my bucket list, somewhere down the road, I'd like to do that and at least try it.
SF: What's kind of holding you back from that?
JM: Well, usually I'm kind of involved in administrating and being rodeo director and you can’t compete if you’re rodeo director. But when you do compete it’s kind of out there, kind of a scary thing. And there's lots of girls here that do that, that do chute dog, and they’re very good at it. Maybe I’ll try it one day.
SF: Did you find it hard to kind of join the rodeo community, not growing up in an area that had it?
JM: Not really, because I find that, you know, we all think that gay rodeo is a lot of the rural kids that come in and get to compete. And that's true, they get to compete in an environment that’s welcoming and comfortable and they can be with their partner or whatever. But there's a lot of city kids that come out too, people that have grown up in the city that come out and go, I'd really like to try this. You know, also in the community itself, this is very, very welcoming and very warm and people want to help you. But I think that mainstream rodeo or straight rodeo, as we call it, that whole philosophy is the same there.
JM: You see, guys hazing for each other and loaning each other horses and doing all those kinds of things, it’s kind of a culture. And so, in rodeo, whether it's straight or gay rodeo, everyone helps everyone. And I think that that's a thing. All the gay rodeo does is allows us to participate with our peers and not be discriminated against or not have to worry about what anybody is thinking. You know, if I kissed my girlfriend before I go and do whatever event. So, I think that culture of rodeo is very typically warm and very welcoming and very helpful. I think we find that everywhere.
SF: Have you ever won any rodeo events?
JM: Yeah, actually in our last rodeo, which was the first Canadian Rockies gay rodeo that we had. My partner and I won steer deco and that was really cool. But I've also, I've got more awards than I have competitor buckles, but they're like, rodeo director and Grand Marshall, Hall of Fame, and those kinds of things. But they're kind of like, I kid with my girlfriend and I go, “Yeah, you go out, you run your horse for 18 seconds and you get a buckle. I worked for two years to get a buckle you know, like nonstop.” [laughs] But it's you know, I compete because I love it. And when I ride my horse, I mean, I'm not I'm not up there with the speediest or anything like that. But I just get the chance to ride him at our rodeo, which was kind of fun. It’s just something I like to do.
SF: How did you get more involved with gay rodeo after that first time you competed?
JM: Well, I don't know. You just kind of get hooked and then you think, well, maybe I could do another event, maybe I could do calf roping on foot, maybe I could do steer deco, maybe I could ride my horse, and so you just gradually do that. And then I was in, years ago for the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association, which started in the 90s, I was rodeo director for three years for that and then I was on the board for a number of years.
JM: I wasn't on the board for quite a few years, but it stopped in 2015. They discontinued it and then a few of us were in Calgary, and were just going, you know, and a few people came up to me because they knew I was involved, and go, “You think gay rodeo will ever come back to Calgary?” And we go, “I don’t know.” So, one night some friends of ours were over and we were drinking and talking and go, “We need gay rodeo back in Calgary.” So that was last year, was our first year our inaugural year for the Canadian Rockies Gay Rodeo Association.
JM: We started from scratch, set up a brand-new association and had to get accepted provincially and then had to get accepted through IGRA to be seated, and IGRA again. And so last year we were at the Stampede Park event center, beautiful facility, and it was our first year ever, so it was exciting, but it was a little stressful because we didn’t know what we would have for competitors, we didn't know a lot of things. It was just like a shot in the dark, and going well, I hope people show up.
SF: Were you one of the head people organizing that association and getting them back?
JM: Yeah, yeah, I’m President of that association.
SF: What was that like kind of getting everything back together and reorganizing that?
JM: It was a lot. It was hard in a year's time, because it was like well, you’ll run the rodeo the next year, you know, no we're gonna do it this year. So last November, when we were in convention we applied, and they accepted us. And I mean, the delegates here were amazing and they gave us a standing ovation. They were so excited to have Canada back because like I was kind of kidding that we say we’re the I in International Gay Rodeo Association because we're the only one outside the states. But yeah, people were really supportive in IGRA of Canada and they love to come to Canada to rodeo. So, we're hoping to get more American competitors up this year.
SF: Do you have quite a few people in your association now?
JM: We have five executive members and then we have a rodeo committee of about, varies between ten and fifteen people. So, it's a pretty good group and we progressed this year, we need more people on the rodeo committee to fulfill other areas so that we can kind of expand and grow a little bit.
SF : What's it like being president of your association?
JM: It's just fun. It's like, it's fun to see it grow and bring new people in. And we're really lucky because we have a number of new committee members that have no idea about rodeo. And last year was our first full weekend at the rodeo and so it was kind of enlightening for them. But they bring a ton of enthusiasm and they’re excited to be involved and that kind of thing. And we have on the Friday before the rodeo, we have a rodeo school.
JM: And so people that want to try out some of the events, we have instructors that show them how to do things like chute dogging or steer deco or whatever, and they get to try to actually experience that and then they can register that night if they want to. And last year we had twenty-one in our rodeo school, and out of that twenty-one, we ended up with fourteen brand new competitors. So that was exciting, that was really exciting. And I think that was the largest number in IGRA for the rodeo schools because a lot of the rodeos now have a rodeo school and a dance.
JM: And the rodeo school is for new competitors, if somebody wants to try it, or people who have competed before, it's kind of a practice. You know, you go and throw a loop, or you go and try chute dogging practice. It's a way of expanding our contestant base, but, you know, we're trying to get new people and younger people in and guys and girls wanna try it and sit in the stands and go I think I could do that, but I don't know what to do. So, it gives them the experience of trying it in a really welcoming environment, in a supportive environment, and lots of people mentor them and want to help them.
SF: A lot of people have talked about the future of IGRA, do you have a lot of younger competitors in the Canadian association?
JM: We don't have a lot, some of us are aging out. But we're trying to expand into that. So our goal this year, for our association, is to expand into a number of the LGBTQ organizations and pull some of the young people that are in those organizations into rodeo and have them come and experience it and try it, because once you try it, you're standing down in the arena. Honestly, you're hooked, or you're scared to death and you never come back. One way or the other. But it's about that environment where there's people there to help you and having fun. You know, it's all about rodeo and having a good time and supporting each other's back.
SF: How do you see the future of IGRA, do you see it growing more?
JM: I hope so, I hope that there's growth. Well, I mean, I just came out of Rodeo Rules, who were trying to change some things that make it easier for contestants to get involved and that kind of thing. And then I think part of it is PR, we have to really expand and explain IGRA to people. In 2014, we had the first ever gay rodeo affiliated with Gay Games and that was in Akron. The rodeo was actually held in Akron, Cleveland, Ohio and it was amazing. I mean, we didn't have any association there to help us do it. It was all my committee was, I was rodeo director and my committee was all across the United States and in Canada.
JM: So, we all just communicated and then we'd go check out the site and all that. And then it was really exciting. I mean, we had 100 contestants. I mean, people hauled all the way to Ohio from California and everywhere. And it was really neat because the opening ceremonies was in this huge, big arena in Cleveland. And so, we were all wearing our red IGRA shirts, long sleeve shirts and white cowboy hats. So, we all walked in because it was like the opening ceremonies of any Olympics or Gay Games or whatever. And so, we all walked in, all these cowboys and cowgirls and all our volunteers and 100 contestants.
JM: And it was just massive. It was just amazing. And it was a great PR for IGRA and that’s the kind of thing we need, is we need to let people know about IGRA. We need to let people know about gay rodeo, because you think people know. I mean, all the years the gay rodeo was in Calgary, I would still run into people and say, “You coming to the rodeo?” and they’d go, “what rodeo?” This is a gay community, and they didn’t know there's a gay rodeo. So it's like anything, it's like advertising and promoting it.
SF: So have you participated in the Gay Games since?
JM: No. Actually, I'd never even been to a Gay Games before we did that. But they had contacted our President at the time of IGRA, Brian Helander. And they said, “We want to do an exhibition of an event that we don’t normally have, would the gay rodeo be interested?” Yeah, for sure, and it was a huge challenge. It took us two years to put it together so that we were ready for it, but it was like the highlight. Even the guys that organized the Gay Games said that everybody's talking about the gay rodeo, like it was kind of a highlight of the whole thing. So, I’ve been affiliated with that, but I haven’t been to it since then.
SF: So what normally happens at the Gay Games? I'm not familiar with them.
JM: Well, there's like, oh, there's sixty some odd events and thirty something countries from all over the world. So there’s like, you know, gay competitors in swimming and there’s hockey and there's basketball and volleyball and individual sports and team sports and it just goes on and ballroom dance like everything, like everything that you see in an Olympic kind of thing you see in Gay Games. But they're just gay competitors, but they're from all over the world. It was really exciting. It's really neat.
SF: You said that you've been rodeo director before, what rodeos have you been rodeo director for?
JM: I was the director for the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association way back in the late 90s and I was rodeo director for three years for that, so that was fun.
SF: How did you become rodeo director? Did anyone encourage you or was it just something you wanted to do?
JM: It's just one of those things because at the time the rodeo director before me was resigning and you basically get nominated and elected into the position. And I just thought it was something that was intriguing that I thought I could grab a hold of and really liked. Because I had that experience, when Gay Games came up and I was contacted and they asked if I wanted to chair the rodeo and I said, yeah. Then they asked if I wanted to become rodeo director, so I moved into that position. We've got a new rodeo director for our association, and she kind of came in really late last year like right before the rodeo.
JM: So, everything was all done in advance and so she just kind of managed things over the weekend. She said, “I think I need to go to convention and figure out and learn a little more what I should be doing and getting a little more information about things.” So, she and her partner are here. I was kidding with them that they’re Convention virgins. But so, they're hitting all the different things that are going on today and learning more about things and figuring stuff out. It just gives them more background and the more you learn, the more effective you are in what you do.
SF: What is it like being a rodeo director? What do you do in that position?
JM: Well there’s a lot of preliminary stuff you do throughout the year. We deal with the stock contractor and the stock contractor contract and the rodeo committee to make sure that they're doing whatever they need to for marketing or social media or, you know, there's like 15 different, there's a million different things that you can do and communications, all those kinds of things that you just basically can oversee and manage your committee, if you're lucky enough to have a committee.
JM: Last year, it was like we were starting from scratch, there was like three of us and that was kind of it, and we were doing everything. And then you're trying to draw people in, would you like to do this or help out with membership or would you like to help with grand entry or, you know, those kinds of things. So basically, it's like a managerial position where you oversee things and people don't do jobs and you have to pick it up and do it. And just making sure things happen and then on the weekend of the rodeo, making sure things run smoothly.
JM: An IGRA official comes in because you have your official judges and your timers and your scorers and your auditor and your secretarial and they come in and kind of take over and then kind of take charge of that whole thing and then you're kind of their little gopher and you're running, get this and get that. I remember my first year as rodeo director for the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association I remember, one of the officials came in and I said, “Michael, I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do this weekend.” And he goes, “You just hang around and if we need something, we'll let you know, otherwise, we got it covered.” But, you know, I mean, IGRA is really good at what they do, and all the officials are certified, and all of your support staff are certified.
JM: But the interesting thing is everyone there, with exception of stock contract, is a volunteer. No one gets paid. So, this whole thing you see all these people here for delegates and association presidents and all that, it's all on their own dime. They travel on their own dime. They pay for their own way. You might pay for the judges’ rooms for three nights and help them out a little bit with airfare as an association, but basically, it's all volunteer with their time as a volunteer. That's how that's how passionate they are about rodeo and about gay rodeo.
SF: Have you held any other positions within IGRA besides rodeo director and president?
JM: Well, that was a local association president. Well, the local association, I've been in practically every position except treasurer or secretary and I’ve done fundraisers, sponsorship, president, vice president, rodeo director. IGRA, I’ve been a delegate and I was rodeo director for Gay Games, chairperson for that and that’s basically it.
SF: So what do you think is one of the big differences between gay rodeo and other rodeos or equestrian events?
JM: Well, if you look at straight or a mainstream rodeo versus gay rodeos, I always say one of the biggest differences is that in gay rodeo men and women compete with in everything. So, women can steer ride, they can bull ride, they can do everything. They can do whatever rough stock, chute dog and men can do all horse events. You don't see that in straight rodeo. Typically, girls do barrel racing and now in Alberta, they've changed it so women can do breakaway roping. But in gay rodeo, everybody does anything. And that's part of it. And then the other part is of gay rodeo, we have, I don't know if you’ve seen the videos, but we have camp events. So we have wild drag, which is a really fun event. We do goat dressing, which is really funny, but it's the introductory event. We get people involved, and then calf roping on foot. So, we have what we call camp events and so we have just kind of fun events, but they are pretty challenging. But it's a way to get people involved in, so you don't have to have a horse. You don't have to ride a steer, but you can still be involved in gay rodeo, and compete and get involved in it.
SF: Have you ever competed outside of gay rodeo?
JM: I've done jackpots, and barrel races, and that kind of thing. But I haven’t really ever done any other kind of rodeo events.
SF: You said earlier you are in the IGRA Hall of Fame, what year were you inducted?
JM: I believe it was 2017, so like three years ago, it wasn't that long ago in Little Rock at convention. So that's the one convention my partner came to because she knew I was going to be inducted, so it's fairly recent. And let me tell you the people in the IGRA Hall of Fame I read their bios, I was just blown away by what they've accomplished and what they've done and how long they've participated in things. I mean, a lot of them have grown up on farms and been on horses since they were two, you know. But then there's others that have it that are just, you know that just committed a lot of time and energy.
SF: What was that experience like for you being inducted?
JM: It was really an honor. It was just a huge honor, as I said before, before I went down to the convention I went on the website and started reading the bios, the people that were on the Hall of Fame, and it was just a huge honor.
SF: Have you ever experienced any forms of homophobia at the rodeo?
JM: At our rodeo? No, not really. Not really. It's interesting because this year, last year we were at Stampede Park, which is a stampede grounds for the Calgary Stampede where The Calgary Stampede is held. We weren’t in that arena, but we were in an indoor arena on that facility. And typically, stereotypically, the Calgary Stampede is like the redneck cowboys. You know, that kind of thing.
JM: So, when we met with them, they actually contacted us and said, “you know, we understand that you're bringing an association back for gay rodeo. Would you like sit down with us and talk about maybe holding it here?” And let me tell you, ten years ago or even five years ago, we never thought that would happen. We always thought, you know, when people said, “Really at the Stampede Park? “And we said yeah.
JM: They sat down with us and they worked with us and they kind of shaved down costs and helped us get through things and worked things out. And we were treated so well, so well. And at the end of it, we did the wrap up with the event managers and not only the staff and everybody just so positive toward us. They said that their staff loved working with all of our competitors and our officials, and everybody was so welcoming and warm. That's such a good weekend, it's a whole weekend given it starts on Friday night at Rodeo School and goes until Monday morning.
JM: I guess, you know, we can camp there in the hope we have a host hotel in downtown Calgary. You know, so but yeah, and I would think if we were going to experience it in gay rodeo, that might have been where we would have experienced it, but it did not happen. Everybody was just so supportive. I know and people go, Stampede Park, really? They're going to let a gay rodeo in Stampede park. Yeah. And actually, the girls that we work with, the event managers were fairly young, and they were going this is so long overdue. There's no reason we shouldn't have had gay rodeo here forever.
SF: You said the association in Canada went away for a while, were you still involved with IGRA during that time period?
JM: No…Well, let me think. Did I go to convention then? Because what happens is when the association stops existing, then they're taken off of IGRA records. And so, the new association that we started had to reapply and be reseated.
SF: And how long did the association not exist before you brought it back?
JM: They canceled it in, I think the last year they had it was 2015 and we brought back the new association 2019. So, four years, so it wasn't that long, but it was long enough that people were used to the rodeo in Calgary. And were going, “We’re missing the rodeo.” So, it was just four years.
SF: And what does it mean to be a cowboy or cowgirl to you?
JM: I don't know. Well, I guess I consider myself a cowgirl. I don't know. It's just being able to enjoy horses and livestock and rodeo and, you know, like we talk about our rodeo family. It really is it's like, I'm just talking to a guy last night who lost his partner earlier this year and he was saying what everybody was like around him. He said, you know, rodeo family was like, they just lifted me up. So I think that's it. I think that and being, you know, now that I live out the country, if you had told me ten years ago, maybe twenty years ago that I was going to be living in the country, on a ranch, I’d go, “Yeah, right, not going to happen.”
JM: But, you know, it's just a lifestyle. It's taking care of your neighbors and helping them. We have elderly neighbors down the road, and we’ve fed his cows through the winter sometimes and his wife just fell and broke her hip and so we've been helping them out and helping her out. And it is it's a lifestyle, it's just part of who you are.
SF: Have you ever experienced the rodeo family yourself or found that community?
JM: Oh, yeah, from the minute you get involved, you do. Just the minute you get involved and you see people you haven’t seen in a while, you know, like I didn't do any rodeos last year except ours because we're so busy planning it and booking it. And so, when I came back to the convention here and saw everybody, it was just like home and seeing everybody again, you pick up where you left off.
SF: Is there anything else you would like to add specifically about your experience in gay rodeo?
JM: No, just that I hope that the promotion of it increases. Because I think there's a real need for it even now when people are saying they don’t need gay stuff anymore because everything is so accepting. There's really still some areas where the gay lifestyle is not that accepted and not that welcome. And so, for people to be able to participate at this level and be accepted and come in and try something new and get excited and experience that whole thing it would be a shame for it to ever disappear.
JM: I think there's always going to be a need for it. I think that the people are what make it, the people you see around here are the ones that make it. And like I said, they're the ones that are getting here on their own dime. They’re spending their own money and their own time and their days off from work or whatever they have to do to get here. That’s the commitment and that’s the commitment that will keep it going. That makes it really important for people just wanting to hang out and be together.
SF: Do you see yourself continuing participating in gay rodeo for the foreseeable future?
JM: Oh, yeah. I don't know at what level or doing what, but yeah, I've got another year of my tenure for president of CRGRA, so I've got at least another year. You know, in some capacity, I think there's always room. I mean, if people want to be involved and don't really want to participate in competing, they could be secretarial or they could get certification for judging or all those kinds of things, there’s always people needed to run a rodeo.
SF: Well, thank you very much.