Interview with 'Paniolo' Joe Rodriguez

Duncans Mills, California on September 10, 2016 | Interviewer: Rebecca Scofield

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Rebecca Scofield: So, this is Rebecca Scofield and I am here with Joe Rodriguez on September 10th, 2016. And we are at the Rodeo on the River in Duncans Mills, California. So, could you tell me what year you were born?
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Joe Rodriguez: I was born in 1964.
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RS: Can you tell me where you grew up?
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JR: Grew up in the Bay Area in Fremont, Alameda County. Lived there most of my life until I was eighteen and then went off to San Francisco for college.
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RS: Was that a very rural upbringing?
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JR: As a matter of fact, at that time, it was very rural. It was cow pastures, 4-H's, and Ammon orchards. There was no such thing as Silicon Valley then. So, that all changed in 1980, 1982. So, I grew up around 4-H and people who had horses and some of the people who own the ranches and the orchards.
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RS: Did you do any sort of like 4-H or rodeo growing up?
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JR: You know, no I didn't. I hung out with the people who did the 4-H; for whatever reason, I wasn't expected to. And my parents probably didn't think it was something I should do, being--I don't know if I could say this--you know, being Filipino American. But I grew up many of my friends had horses so that's where I learned to ride and learned about 4-H. I went with them to 4H and followed them through their journeys. Yeah, I guess I was more of their I was more of their mascot.
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RS: And what did your parents do?
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JR: My parents they emigrated from the Philippines via Hawaii. They grew up in Hawaii and then after World War II, they married and move to California in Fremont. They worked on the plantations in Hawaii, they grew up on the plantations. And then they came to California worked in the Central Valley. In the Central Valley, they worked as farm laborers. After the Korean War, my father moved from the fields to aerospace and retired from Waukee Missile and Space Corporation. My mother went and retired from Coca-Cola. Yeah long history of an immigrant family, that made it.
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RS: Now can I ask how you identify [in terms of] gender and sexual orientation?
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JR: I am a gay man, yes. I came out when I was eighteen. My family was a mixed reaction. My father he didn't care, yeah...my mother...she felt a little guilty. But both have a live-and-let-live attitude. So talking about other gay people was “well, that's them, you know, you're not them.” But there was never any preaching the gospel or…and we are a Catholic family, but it was respect, it was one of respect for each other, and for them to understand that was that was part of my life. And this was 1982, so yeah.
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RS: And how was your experience in college in San Francisco was that a big change?
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JR: It was because I think that's like any college freshman it was my first experience to freedom and being able to get out and socialize with people who are different than me who weren't cowboys or ranchers or farmers, who weren't just Asian, they weren't just white Americans. It was especially, in San Francisco many people who might go to Idaho or the Midwest. They may not have that luxury and opportunity to meet diverse people with the diverse backgrounds so. And I never identified as Asian I never identified as a white American either. It was just me. I was just Joe. I was an American. I think that's what’s allowed me to continue with rodeo and to fit in with rodeo it's somebody can look at me and think a different way about me based on my color or the heritage of my last name but rodeo is rodeo. If you love rodeo then you know it's like Mom and apple pie so.
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RS: Can I ask how you first got involved with rodeo of any kind was it with IGRA or with other forms?
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JR: I started with Sacramento's Capital Crossroads Gay Rodeo Association. They had just started, this was in ’99, and they were just having their second rodeo or third rodeo. They used to be part of Golden State Gay Rodeo Association in the beginning and then split off and became their own chapter of the IGRA family. I loved horses and always wanted to ride. I never thought about riding bulls. It wasn't a big thing then not like it is today, not even in the straight world. Bull riding is where the action and money is the big bucks. But for me I love broncs. I love horses; I've ridden horses; and I've been bucked, so I know I can take it. But once you're doing it there's a certain technique a certain finesse and agility that you must have--balance and strength, core strength. So, bronc riding was different but the Gay Rodeo Association the Capital Crossroad Gay Rodeo Association was very kind in letting me sign up. And the persons working behind the chutes, Travis Gardner, was sort of my involuntary mentor. He said, “You want to ride broncs? Okay, let's get you suited up. Let’s get you strapped in. Let's get the rigs on. You don't have a rig? Okay, we'll borrow that guy's rig. You're going to wear a vest or you going to wear a helmet?” I said, “No. Maybe I'll wear a vest.” But I wasn't going to wear a helmet, I was going to wear my hat. So that was my first taste. He got me strapped in and I got my first ride. I made it maybe three seconds, maybe a second, out the gate before I went head over heels. But like the old saying you fall off a horse and you get back on it. I came back on Sunday and did it again. I didn't win anything. It probably took maybe five years before I won something, maybe eight years.
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RS: How did you hear about it?
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JR: Through the community. Through the gay and lesbian newspapers, they had flyers. They put flyers on my windshield. And I thought this is great because I do identify with and I have a big respect and admiration for the Western lifestyle and for cowboys and cowgirls and people who work with animals. They call broncs rough stock, the bulls, the steers. Because for obvious reasons they are rough. You are getting bucked and thrown or kicked or you're up close and personal. And I guess I live for that. Being ex-military I like challenges and so this was just another challenge in life.
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RS: So, after college were you able to interact with animals much, or did you…?
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JR: No no it was probably almost ten years. I graduated in ‘87 and 1990, no fault of my own, but Sprint was a company I worked for, and they laid off some people and I was one of them and they offered me transfer to Sacramento. So, that's how I ended up in Sacramento and for some reason that was a perfect fit because again it was that culture and it is--there’s a culture in Sacramento. The social economics are different and compared to the city like San Francisco which is very diverse. Sacramento to my knowledge, in my experience was not that diverse, but I saw the cowboy culture there. So in San Francisco when I was going to college, no, I think the only animal I saw was the seagulls you know that you know were sitting on the roofs of the building or flying around but nothing else.
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RS: When you were living there did you still feel like part of your identity was grounded in working with animals?
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JR: You know, it is…that is true because of where I grew up. It was a culture shock moving to San Francisco. The feeling to me was that I was not fitting in. I was lost in San Francisco. I didn't identify with the Asian community and I didn't identify with the gay community but more so the gay community than anything else and so I tried to fit in with the gay community but it still wasn't my crowd. When I got to Sacramento and I saw cowboys and country western night dancing, I mean it was elbow-to-elbow, you couldn't dance on the dance floor at Fences. And the music was grea.t I knew the tunes, I knew the music. I knew the singers. I just didn't know how to dance and to this day I still don't…well, okay, I know how to dance, do the two-step and waltz. I have to hand it to some other folks within the cowboy community they're good line dancers. But yeah, so then I thought: “Wow. Gay community, Western lifestyle.” I just fell into it. The fact that now I've heard that there’s a rodeo then even more so. So it was day and night. It was day and night coming from a rural community where I grew up, moving to the city, but still wasn't right, wasn't the right fit. And then it was a day and night moved to a big city in the Central Valley that had a Western community, so I felt good.
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RS: How long have you been involved, I mean…?
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JR: I joined, I had to be a member to rodeo and like I said that was back in ‘99 and so I've been a member of the Sacramento Capitol Crossroad Gay Rodeo Association since ‘99. Their Sierra Stampede has been going on since about ‘97.
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RS: And have you held positions in either the local association or with IGRA?
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JR: I have. Not with IGRA. I am a…right now the vice president of the rodeo operation for Capital Crossroads and I am assisting with the rodeo this year. Next weekend September 17th and 18th and I've been in that position for about two or three years. Our association is fairly small now and so we haven't put on a rodeo in three years. I'm really looking forward to this, making a big comeback this year. I haven't held any positions at IGRA. I have gone to convention as a representative for my association but that's what that's about the highest I’ve gotten.
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RS: Do you travel to many of the other rodeos?
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JR: Unfortunately, not. I have a good job. Especially during the financial crisis of 2008/2009, I didn't fair too well. So money was tight and I made it to Denver for the World gay rodeo finals. That was my first finals. I had qualified at San Francisco and Sacramento’s rodeos to have points that got me to participate and compete. So I went to Denver for that and did well. I've been to San Diego's rodeo but that’s about it. Did well at my first finals rodeo.
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RS: Will you be riding today?
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JR: No, I will not. I’m no longer riding because of recent surgery. I’m afraid I’m done.
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RS: Now how do you characterize IGRA in general or the local chapter in particular as far as race goes is there a lot of racial diversity that you find here?
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JR: I do. In San Francisco’s bay area chapter, the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association has a very diverse membership compared to Sacramento we have persons who are of mixed race but it’s not obvious by skin color or other traits that they represent another diverse community. We obviously promote it. The International Gay Rodeo Association is very inclusive and we are very open to, as Travis Gardner did for me back in ‘99, didn't matter who I was or what my name was it was you want a ride come on and we extend the same thing to all people in the community gay or straight and you know Caucasian, white, or Asian, or black you want to learn come on out and tell us, we will show you.
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RS: Did you attend many mainstream rodeos before getting into involved?
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JR: As a kid, I actually did and every once in a while, I wouldn't say I went to every bull riding or every rodeo that happened with in the state of California but yes, I had been to some local rodeos.
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RS: Did you ever have any experiences with homophobia or racism or anything like that at mainstream type events?
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JR: You know I have and there's no lie that I don't know necessarily look Hispanic or necessarily look Asian but probably more Asian to some people. But when they hear my last name it just doesn't compute. You know, Rodriguez? Filipino? What's that? So yes, it was a misunderstanding I guess you can call it racism but nobody was overly hostile or antagonistic. It was, “Okay, you're wearing a cowboy boots, cowboy hat, you're pretty cool. Okay.” I guess it's like any other social situation people have to get to know you and that's not just in the straight rodeo. You know, being a fan, a spectator because there are a lot of Hispanics within the community within the Mexican rodeo for an example. There's people of all colors there but I've also experienced the same attitude, that same experience in the gay rodeo. It's: “Who are you?” and “Where are you from?” and “You don't look Mexican. So, oh you're Asian.” Yeah.
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JR: Hey, embrace it. Yes, I am gay. Yeah. And I would probably never tell a straight cowboy that. I've never been in that situation to tell him about my sexual orientation, but I have over the last five years been more comfortable with saying, “Yes, I rodeo and this is who I rodeo for the Gay Rodeo Association and we do good things.” “So, oh you guys make millions of dollars?” No, we do it for charity we give back to the community and that's what a lot of people don't understand even within the gay community we don't make big money here. It's…we're doing what we love, it's a hobby, it's a passion, and a desire. And it's also our desire to help the community, to give back to the community whether it’s an AIDS crisis center, the Lavender Community Center that provides community services to gay and lesbian community. Sacramento Capitol Crossroads is—going off on tangents so stop me if I'm going too fast. In terms of being on the topic of being inclusive, Sacramento Capitol Crossroad Gay Rodeo Association’s beneficiary for a long time was United Ways’ Saddle Pals program which was matching… which was supporting a horse riding program that allowed children with disabilities or challenges to get on a horse and connect with horses and it was a good program.
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RS: Have you ever experienced any sort of outwardly hostile homophobia on your way to a gay rodeo or at the event itself?
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JR: Yes, I've been asked that question before and yes, I have. It was a rodeo in Sacramento years back that a couple people showed up at the gate. They were they definitely weren't there to welcome us they were there to show their protest signs, show off their sign, and never became violent but words hurt as much as violence does. So, seeing these people telling us that we shouldn't be rodeoing and that we were a disgrace to the sport, they just never saw what we did. If they saw that many of us were bull riders and many of us have horses, that we love horse lifestyle, they would understand it. We're just like them, if they are actually people of the sport. And so let me backtrack to some of the other rodeos that I've been to. My first rodeos was 1982 in San Francisco. While I was in San Francisco the San Francisco Rodeo came to town and was held at the Cow Palace and, yeah, that's where I fell in. But it was only once a year and I, for whatever reason, didn't know that that that the the Bay Area was the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association existed in San Francisco. It's only once a year that I knew this. So I went to three or four of consecutive rodeos there but it was there at their rodeo that I also met protesters. You know, just a handful and there wasn't like a hundred or a thousand protesters and they weren't loud, but they would stand there and, you know, shake their heads and with their signs. It was very overt. And you wouldn't expect that in San Francisco but I guess maybe you would. Because the Cow Palace, which where's the rodeos held, the Cow Palace is a big rodeo venue for the straight rodeo. The Grand Nationals have been held there in the past.
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RS: Have you seen any changes in that over you know the seventeen years you've been involved?
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JR: I have. In terms of acceptance in the community, it's really interesting. And I don't want to jinx it. But there was there are increasing numbers of of people from the straight community who embrace it, the gay rodeo, they embrace the gay rodeo and they want to actively come out and support it. Look where we're sitting right now. We are sitting in Duncan Mills, California. It is…To me, in forty-five years that I've been coming to to this to this area, as a child, as a kid, spending my summer vacations up here, my family having a couple properties here, I've always thought of it as this was a little conservative enclave surrounded by a very progressive or liberal county. Never in my life did I think that Duncans Mills would host the Gay Rodeo Association. And here we are three years later and the rodeo association is still here and the so-called, in-quotes, the straight rodeo association has welcomed us back and they've been, the local businesses and people, have been very accepting.
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RS: Now in your larger life how has being involved in the gay rodeo influenced anything from your job to your relationships? How you go about your everyday life?
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JR: I've been working for this company for five years and I've never been shy to explain that I was going to a rodeo and was never shy when somebody asked what rodeo is it. Is it, you know, the PRCA or is it the PBR? Oh no, no, no. This is the International Gay Rodeo Association. It's one of the chapters from Sacramento or San Francisco. And then people realize, oh. They stop and think: Well what do you do at the gay rodeo? Well, I'm a bareback bronc rider and I have ridden bulls. Wow. So my co-workers know now that when I say I'm going to a rodeo, they know it's a gay rodeo. They wonder where it's at. This weekend some of them will ask: “Is it in San Francisco or is it the Cow Palace?” “No, we can't afford it. It's going to be at Duncans Mills.” And, you know, I would much rather have it at Duncans Mills, personally. Rodeo has been like the military for me it's made me who I am. It's made me a better person and have a better respect for the people who ride bulls and handle steers, who rope. It's given me a bigger respect for my sport of bareback bronc riding. And also made me maybe a hard worker because it takes a lot to throw a charity event like this, like a rodeo, and I go back to work and sit behind a computer for eight hours for forty hours a week and I can't complain. Sitting behind a computer for forty hours a week is a lot easier than rounding up cattle or rounding up steers or cows and helping people get ready for their events and then, of course, rodeo is also about show, it's about putting on a good show for the audience. So we would not be successful if we didn't do our best to work hard at our events and put on a good show.
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RS: Well, obviously rodeo has a bit of a dress code with the western wear.
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JR: Yes.
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RS: Do you wear that at work or do you switch to your business suit?
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JR: I do. I don't wear...I'm pretty relaxed at work. It's a professional office setting. I do walk in with a cowboy hat and Wrangler jeans and a nice pressed shirt. Yes. It goes…is part of the lifestyle.
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RS: And how long were you in the military for and which branch?
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JR: I was in the Coast Guard's United States Coast Guard Reserve and I was in for 8 years.
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RS: Do you feel like any use of that was a very key part of your sort of identity formation? Do you think there's a lot of overlap between between sort of military experience and your experiences in the rodeo? The type of people who are really drawn to it?
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JR: Yes. And some people could could say otherwise but I take away a couple traits: the hard work, the the responsibility that goes with taking care of animals could be equated to taking care of your crewmen or your fellow soldiers-in-arms. It's about following rules because there are a lot of rules in rodeo and you just don't get away with winning by breaking rules, and that's the same thing the military. If you don't follow the rules if you don't follow guidelines, things things can break then somebody can get hurt. And accountability. In the military you are accountable for your actions and in the rodeo the same way. You're accountable for your actions in the arena and outside the arena. When you're wearing your rodeo gear, your cowboy hat and your association's shirt, you represent the Western lifestyle and so being accountable for what we do inside the rodeo, in the arena, how you act is equally important outside of the rodeo. And so, it's the same thing with the military. When you're in the military and you represent an agency or an organization an institution of the military is you're held to a higher standard. Being accountable is very important and taking care of your animals and not mistreating your animals. Same thing. Taking care of your comrades and not mistreating them.
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RS: Now have you had any larger LGBTQ Community push back on rodeo of just “that's just too conservative?”?
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JR: No. No, the community has always been supportive and maybe that's because we are the International Gay Rodeo Association of Sacramento, Capitol Crossroads Gay Rodeo Association, or the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association we are contributing to the community. Some of the organizations are beneficiary and they benefit from the proceeds that we take in from the rodeo. Many of them have helped us to produce the rodeo. And they should because we are all part of the same family in the same fabric. We, the Sacramento Capitol Crossroad Gay Rodeo Association, did get some pushback because as I mentioned earlier for many years United Way Saddle Pals program was our beneficiary. Many of the community felt it was not gay enough but that's not what we're about. That program unfortunately no longer exists in Sacramento. There are other programs that I think, I don't know much about them, and I have, you know, our organization, Capital Crossroads, now benefits the gay lesbian community.
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RS: How would you talk about having the opportunity to bring together, you know, your Western lifestyle that you've talked about loving and also being out and open with your sexuality?
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JR: I still don't understand your question but maybe I can answer it this way. I'm one person. I happen to be a gay man that's my sexual orientation and I'm part of a community; that community happens to be gay also. I don't know how better to answer that. I can't change that. It's like I can't change the color of my skin I can't change the slant in my eyes you know it's just going on it's just where I fit. And it may not be for everybody, like your previous question there is some pushback because there are some people who believe that the rodeo is too conservative and it doesn't represent the the gay lesbian community but I tell them that's wrong because we come from the gay and lesbian community and we also happen to be cowboys and cowgirls.
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RS: Well it so is there any part of your personal story you would like to share that you haven't had an opportunity to?
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JR: Accomplishment, you know, no I think that I've rambled on I've told you what quite a bit, you know, I won my first World Gay Rodeo Finals buckle. I think doing that had garnered a lot of respect for me, personally as a person and not just with in the gay community and within the gay rodeo, but also my family. Because my mother, one year I came back from the Capital Crossroads Sierra Stampede rodeo, and I'd won the buckle and I showed it to my mom, who was 80 years old at the time. And she was just like, “This is pretty…you know, your father would be very proud of you.” Cool.
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RS: Was she ever able to come see you?
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JR: No, and I don't mind that she hasn’t seen me. As a matter of fact, I did get hurt pretty seriously in 2010, at the Gay Golden State Gay Rodeo Association’s rodeo at Lahanda. My bareback bronc ride went wrong. I got stuck in the rig and ended up underneath the horse and getting trampled. They had to life flight me out of the rodeo and flew me to Stanford hospital where I spent the night. So my mom, she knew I was at rodeo, she didn't know what I was doing. But somebody at the rodeo posted pictures on Facebook and said, “Joe, we are praying for you. I hope you do well and come through this.” And while I was in Stanford, I didn't have any cell service up there. And so my mom she wouldn't have been able to contact me and I wouldn’t have been able to contact her. But I called her from Stanford and she goes: “Hey, your cousins just called me. Your cousins are wondering where you're at and if you were in the hospital.” And it’s like, “Oops, okay, yes. That's where I'm calling you from, Mom. I'm in Stanford general or Stanford hospital or whatever. It is like that I'm fine. I have a busted nose. I got kicked in the face. I had a cut scalp. But I'm doing just fine.” And she said, “Okay, you going to be okay to come home on the drive home? I'll be home tomorrow. You're not riding tomorrow.” And I said, “I might.” [laughter] Most of the cattle folks back at the arena said, “No, you're not riding tomorrow.” So that's the, I guess that's, the one personal tragedy, you know. [Laughter] Suffice to say I did not win the buckle that weekend.
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RS: Have you experienced other injuries or just minor?
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JR: No, just minor. Maybe…for some reason I've been breaking my nose. At the Gay Games in Cleveland again I got kicked in the face, in the nose. There's pictures of me walking through the arena with a bloody nose but I covered the ride and I got the buckle and it's a once-in-a-lifetime buckle and Brian Rogers sponsored the buckle, so he always bugs me about that he wants it back. That's what that whole—when I walked in here—why the little push and shove that we have going on there.
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RS: And did you say you had that on your wall back at home?
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JR: Yes, I did.
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RS: Do you keep all your buckles up on the wall?
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JR: Not all of them, no. Most of them I wear but that one is special, so it has a special place along next to the Gay Games gold medal that we got, that I got.
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RS: Now were you ever able or inclined to participate in other events other than rough stock or did you mainly be roughstock?
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JR: Mainly roughstock, but I did try to do calf roping on foot and yeah, I haven't got the timing down with the roping. But chute dogging I’ve done and I found that I don't have much of an upper body strength a lot of people have. And bull riding. And bronc riders and bull riders, I know some of them are listening to this, and we have our rivalries, which one's the roughest sport. And they see bronc riding as a rougher sport than bulls and I look at the horns and go, “No, bull riding—it's too dangerous for me.” So, we go back and forth, there’s a rivalry of who can do better and who can ride longer, which sport is just absolutely asinine, crazy, idiotic. We have our banter. And those who listening know who they are.
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RS: What about drag events? Do you like their inclusion in gay rodeo?
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JR: Yeah, it appeals to the gay lesbian community the LGBTQ community because it means that it involves them. It's also among straight audiences who have never seen it before, it's a hilarious. So, yes. Camp evens, drag events have a big place. And they the drag events can be very dangerous cause you're wearing a guy wearing a dress he's never worn a dress before never worn heels before is trying to wrestle on steer. A steer who's very violent and very you know aggressive and jumping while.
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RS: So, moving forward, do you think is gay rodeo going to revive and get some new people in it or you sort of looking to mainstream rodeos to expand their inclusivity?
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JR: That's a good question. That's a good question for IGRA. It is a challenge that all our association are facing right now. What is the direction of International Gay Rodeo? And how do we bring in more contestants? And I think that it's going to be it's going to come down to IGRA and the individual associations to come up with a plan. Whether it be hiring publicity marketing company who can help with that strategy. Again, advertising for the local rodeos and getting the word out to just the gay community is not always been the most efficient and successful marketing decision. Because it is only as seen by a particular by you know a particular community. And as long as we have the rodeos, having those rodeos, especially like in the community like Duncan Mills which is small, the straight community does see it. Will we be become one with a straight rodeo? I don't know but it's going to become…it's going to take some some very strategic planning from a public and marketing standpoint to figure out how to attract gay and straight. And I think most gay rodeo contestants, most straight rodeo contestants know that we exist, it's whether or not they want to participate. And do they want to do it for charity benefit verses the big money. So there are a lot of challenges there.
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RS: Do you think that maybe plays into why maybe young gay kids might not be, if they are talented at rodeo why wouldn't they do the mainstream and potentially make big money versus investing in?
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JR: Yeah. Exactly. It is. It's a two-pronged, two-edged sword. Do you go to, if you’re a young gay person cowgirl or cowboy who does rodeo currently in high school or in the straight circuit, do you come out as gay? Do you go to a gay rodeo and help compete and help raise money for charity and take the risk of being outed? Because yeah, it's still difficult for gay cowboys to be open in the straight rodeo area. Now there are a lot of straight rodeo contestants out there who say, “We don't care. Come out and ride our bulls, come out and ride our bare broncs.” But, you know, you gotta think about it because sometimes you meet them on the road or on the street and they're not as accepting. So it may take some time and may take somebody who is openly gay and to come out like football players, like national football players and national soccer players and national basketball players that come out and say: “Yeah, I'm gay and guess what? I'm going to make millions of dollars playing football and playing basketball and playing baseball or soccer.” Now maybe a really good gay rodeo cowboy or cowgirl comes out and says: “Yeah, I'm making of millions of dollars, I’m a professional, and I'm gay or lesbian and there's nothing wrong with it. And if you can do better than me, I'll see you at the World Championships or the National Finals and put your money where your mouth is.” And that's what we would say.
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RS: It strikes me that this might be true as well as Asian-American Cowboys, there's not a lot of racial diversity either on the mainstream rodeo circuit.
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JR: Yeah. So, that's a good that's a very good question, and I know where you're going. And lady just walked up to the gate here this morning and she saw my shirt. You’re looking at my shirt: it's a white shirt and it says paniolo and she says, “I like it. Paniolo.” And I said, “You know what paniolo means?” And she said, “Yeah.” And she was wearing a gray sweatshirt with the Hawaiian turtle, they call it a honu, on it and I said, “Yes, so you know the honu, so you know paniolo.” She goes, “Yeah, Hawaiian cowboy.” And I said, “Yeah, you from Hawaii?” She says, “Yeah, I'm from Maui.” And I said, “Great, so is my family.” My family is from Lahaina, that's where my family when they migrated they went to the sugar and pineapple plantations in Maui. I took the name of Paniolo Joe because a couple people asked me if I was from Hawaii. A Hawaiian cowboy and you’re rodeoing and yeah.
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JR: Ten years later, about ten years after I stared in 2009, I met a bull rider down in Sacramento and he saw my buckle and he saw my shirt, and he says, “Oh, you rodeo?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he goes, “Hey that's cool. What do you do?” I said, “I’m bareback bronc rider.” He says, “Oh cool. Yeah, well I'm a bull rider. And yeah you should come down and bull ride with us down in south Sacramento.” There's a rodeo school down there and I said, “Okay, cool, thanks. I'll think about it.” He goes, “But you're not Mexican are you?” And I said, “No, I'm Filipino.” “Filipino? You know we got a Filipino bronc rider down in south Sacramento.” You know we're out there. We may not be Hawaiian, we may not be from Hawaii or born and raised, we may be Filipino, we maybe Chinese or Japanese but we're out there rodeoing, and I guess maybe we haven't gotten much spotlight. Myself, being being humble and modest, I don't look for the spotlight but I'm more than willing to share my story if someone's willing to listen. And you know we’re in America so it's a great opportunity to do what you love to do. Right? So if a person loves to rodeo, come on out, get involved, maybe you're not a bull rider, maybe you're not a bronc rider, but there's many other events. Whether straight or gay. We have the throw off the labels, “Oh, I’m Asian and therefore I cannot be this or I cannot do that.” I don't live for labels, I don't like labels but I recognize the heritage of my name and the color of my skin and my heritage, my ethnic background, and I acknowledge that. I just also happen to be a rodeo cowboy.
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