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Anthony Click to filter

Hi there, I'm Court. It is May 1st, 2020. I'm here with Anthony, who also goes by Chicken Nugget in the Rodeo Circuit. It is 7:00am. And, Anthony, you are in the Dallas metropolitan area, that's what you said? Yes, ma'am. Perfect. So just going to get started. Where did you grow up? I grew up in a really small town northwest of Fort Worth of Spring Town, probably about an hour northwest of Downtown Fort Worth. And what year were born? I was born in 93. 93. You're a millennial, then? I am, according to most. But I don't consider myself a millennial. I don't have a mindset like most millennials. Yeah. What do you consider the millennial mindset? Oh, Lord. Dramatics. Dramatics. Like just one word for it, I guess. How was your childhood growing up over there? Within my family, it was really, really good. I had a really loving and caring family. Outside of that, though, especially living in a small town in Texas, being gay is like unheard of, especially back in the day when I was going through all that, going to school and stuff. So outside of my house, it was really rough or up until after high school, after high school, it kind of changed quite a bit. But yeah, it was really rough on like school life.(Subjects: childhood) When did you come out, then? I came out to a few friends in middle school in seventh grade. And then, of course, didn't really tell my parents and stuff until the summer going into my ninth grade year in high school and I was kind of outed, actually. I wasn't ready to tell my parents, but somebody had spread the news to them. So I ended up just coming up to them as well. And high school was where it really got rough.(Subjects: comingout) You said that you had a very loving and accepting childhood. Do you want to share any memories? Do you have any fond memories that you want to share? I don't really. I mean, everything really was a memory to me. We always did everything as a family. My dad was on the volunteer fire department. My mom was a nurse. And then outside of the fire department, my dad was U.P.S. driver. But everything we did, whether it was going to church, going to the movies, going out to dinner, like for their honeymoon - or no not their honeymoon - their, um, anniversary dinner, like we always did it all together as a family.(Subjects: childhood, family) So you guys were tightknit, you would say?. Extremely. How did they react when you came out? Well, my mom didn't really care. I mean, she didn't show hate towards it. She didn't really necessarily show acceptance. But I mean, she wasn't like not wanting it to be...not wanting me to be who I was. My dad took it really hard, actually, to the point where he tried to kick me out of the house and didn't want me as a son anymore. And it took a lot of heart to heart with my parents. My grandmother, of all people, who was the last person I wanted to know I was gay, she actually told my mom that we need to watch this movie called "Prayers for Bobby." I don't know if you've ever seen it, but it's oh, my God, you you need to watch it 'cause you'll cry at the end, but it's such a good movie. But we ended up watching it as a family. And at the end of the movie, all of us were crying. And my dad came up to me and he hugged me and said I would never want to see myself do that to you. Like it happened in the movie. And ever since then, he's gone to every pride with me here in Dallas and Fort Worth. He's marched in the parade with PFLAG in the Fort Worth parade with me multiple times. And now, I mean, they're like 100 percent supportive in all aspects. I think, I don't even have one family member in my entire family that doesn't support me and my LGBTQ lifestyle. So it's kind of nice. (Subjects: comingout, family, parents) Wow. Yeah. Did you come out to all of your family at the same time? Not really. I came out to like my immediate family all kind of after I obviously got outed. And then I kinda went in waves on who I told and who I didn't and who I finally got around to telling. But yeah, that was within about a year span. It took me to get the whole family on board.(Subjects: comingout, family) Looking back, do you think that you're glad that you came out so early in your life? Yeah. Yeah. I think that I probably would have drove myself insane if I would have waited. Especially into my adulthood. Like there's just no way I see friends today that are older than me and haven't came out yet. And they're having to live such a closeted lifestyle. And I don't think I could handle that lifestyle, being in the closet, as you would say.(Subjects: comingout) How would you describe your lifestyle now? It's crazy. I mean, I actually just got engaged.(Subjects: family) Congratulations. Yeah, last Friday. So never in my life did I think I was actually going to get married. So it's been pretty crazy. But I did meet my partner on the gay rodeo circuit and it's...I mean, my lifestyles pretty, pretty fun. I mean, it's I've made a lot of friends through these past couple years in the rodeo. And it's just that's all I do now is spend time with all my rodeo family and friends.(Subjects: family) Wow. Congratulations. How did that go? How did, did you propose or? No, he proposed to me. It was kind of funny. We were out at my mom and dad for dinner, and he always gets onto me because when I'm around friends and family, I'll get on my phone, but check on Facebook or whatnot. So it sounded like when he started talking, it sounds like he was getting on to me for being on my phone. And I looked at my mom and I go, here he goes again. And I look back over and he was on his knee and I about fainted. So it was a surprise for sure.(Subjects: family) Yeah. Have you guys picked a date or a time? Actually, I think we have. So we've actually talked about getting married for the past year. My family, my grandparents on my mom's side own a lake house up in Canada. It's like the most beautiful setting. And so we're thinking because we're planning on going up there on vacation at the end of summer this year, hoping if this COVID-19 stuff kind of clears up by then. If not, we'll push it back and do something different. But we're hoping to do it at the end of the summer.(Subjects: family) That's really amazing. Congratulations again. Thank you so much. Are you still pretty nervous about telling people? Not really. I mean, of course, as soon as that happened, because I always told them I was like, you can't just ask me when I was two alone. I have to have people around. I want them to witness, it's a special time. But he did it in front of my parents, which I'm totally, perfectly fine with. So, of course, one of my closest friends not being there, I had to call them all. I told - I told the closest people in my life. And here, like, slowly but surely, people are starting to find out and congratulating me and all that. But... Yeah, announcing things right now is difficult. Did you do you like... It is very difficult. Did you do like a mass phone call or a text? Yeah, I did a group text with, um, like we have a rodeo group chat we do. And I listed it on there. And then friends of mine from like high school that aren't involved in rodeo or whatnot, I would just call them personally and told them. Today would have been that the Palm Springs rodeo where you planning on going to that? I was I actually was kind of funny. I called in sick to work Monday 'cause I had stayed out a little too late at a friend's house Sunday. And my boss said, let me know that I had the week scheduled off for vacation. I'm like, well, why would I have the week off for vacation? And then I remembered it was the week of Palm Springs 'cause I was actually going to haul horses with my partner and our really good friend and her horses at the Palm Springs. So, yes, I was really hoping to go there. That's one of my favorite rodeos on the gay circuit.(Subjects: jobs, rodeo) Is it just the place or is it also the people in Palm Springs? Well, so that organization has always done very well. They have something going on at all times. Like you don't feel like you're just sitting kind of twiddling their thumbs or whatnot. There's always something going on like nightlife. They have like shows like pushed towards the rodeo team and the rodeo folks that are in town starting from Thursday all the way up until Monday morning. It's really cool. And it's, I just love and enjoy it. And Palm Springs is Palm Springs,'s beautiful there.(Subjects: rodeo) Oh, yeah. Do you do events? What do you compete in? I do. So when I first started on the gay rodeo, I was only doing goat dressing and then I very quickly got pulled into doing steer deco, wild drag, and then eventually calf roping. This year, I was actually going to start doing horse events because my partner and I bought a horse last year and I've been training on him and I was going to start doing barrels and polls with him. But obviously that kinda went down the tube. So, gives me a little bit extra time to train on him and look a little bit more professional on him, I guess you could say. And I was actually thinking about picking up chute dogging in the near future as well.(Subjects: rodeo) So you mainly did camp events to start, you said, and now you're moving in to like Gymkhana. Could you describe some gymkhana or chute dogging for me? So chute dogging, you're in the chutee with the steer. And when you come out, it's 10 feet from the chute. You have to get all four hooves of the steer passed that line and then you dog it, which pretty much you wrestle it to the ground and have to get all four hooves off the ground. And then that's when the time stops. So as soon as the nose hits the line, that's when your time starts. And then you have to drag it all the way across the line and then steer it down to the ground.(Subjects: rodeo) Wow. Yeah. It's intense. I did it at a rodeo school last year. And I about, I was like, I'm not doing this. I'm not doing this.(Subjects: rodeo) How was that last year when you tried it? It was fun. I mean, it's really exhilarating, but it's definitely something you have to do a couple times, like, not at a rodeo, but maybe at a rodeo school to get used to and know that you're doing it the right way. 'Cause the first time I did it, I was doing it so wrong and it didn't work out. But, yeah, I was exhilarating.(Subjects: rodeo) Yeah. So, you've been riding for about a year. Have you have had horse experience before that? I have. So my mom, when I was first born, my mom actually owned a horse. I didn't do any rodeo persay on that horse, but I always used to ride him. And then in high school, I took AG and was around horses all the time and friends that were in rodeo. And I actually helped out in rodeo in high school. I didn't compete, but I did help out. So I got to ride horses all through high school. Yeah, living out the country. I mean, all my friends had horses. So.(Subjects: childhood) [00:13:18]So, [0.0s] your country life, kind of, you're like stock, horse life, started really early on then. Oh, Yeah. Yeah. When did you know that you wanted to have like a country, rodeo lifestyle? I mean, kind of funny, but I was always attracted to like cowboys, like my uncle used to work at Billy Bob's, which is a country bar here in Fort Worth. And they also do rodeos there. They have like a bull riding rink and stuff. So he used to work security when I was like real little. I remember me and my sister used always like to look at that one. Look at that one. My sister is pretty much the one that knew the whole time. But always kept it hush hush until I was ready to tell people.(Subjects: childhood, comingout, highlight) That's really that's really nice of her to be honest. Right. It sounds like you guys have a pretty close bond, you know, going to these rodeos, talking about cowboys, has that continued into adulthood? Not necessarily. She has had children now and been married and kinda off doing her own thing. I mean, we're still really close. And she's gone to a couple rodeos that I've gone to and competed in. But she's got her hands full with a bunch of babies, now she's got four kids.(Subjects: family) Yeah. Do you have any stories from those early rodeos that you want to share? So there was a rodeo clown that was really good friends with my uncle and he used to always come after the rodeo and paint our faces and stuff. And I remember I had my uncle put me in wranglers and boots, and Jeans, or a hat all that stuff like a whole that cowboy get up. He came up to me and painted my face and he said, "you're going to make a cowboy one day." And here I am doing rodeos that I never really thought that I was actually going to compete in or whatnot, but it's always stuck with me. So.(Subjects: childhood, highlight) Do you compete in mainstream rodeos or like the jackpot circuit? I do not. When did you find out about the gay rodeo? So, when I first started going out to bars here in the Metroplex, the rodeo association, I'm now a part of Texas Gay Rodeo Association. They did a lot of drag shows and fundraisers and stuff at the bars. And I met a friend of mine who was a part of the association at the time, and he invited me out to this fundraiser, so I went out, really enjoyed it. So I started volunteering to help out like help setup stuff at the bars when they do fundraisers and run music back and forth to the DJ, just like small stuff like that. And then my ex-boyfriend, he actually was a member when I had got together with him and I decided to join. And that's when I started by going to rodeos and volunteering to help out with the rodeos. And then when we split up, I went to my first finals rodeo in Albuquerque, and, I believe it's 2017. And that's where I met my current partner and I got...he's been a rodeo director for finals for the past three years. And he's also the rodeo director for Texas Rodeo. [...](Subjects: community ) [...] [...] So that's that's when, um, that rodeo was my first real gay rodeo experience. And it actually was insane because being able to follow my partner around as a black shirt, as rodeo director, I got to go behind the scenes. I got to really see how everything was. And I I told him that weekend I was like, I really want to do this. And it wasn't two months later I was doing my first rodeo school. And a month after that I started competing.(Subjects: community) Your partner, was he involved with horses before the IGRA? Yeah. He actually competed in rodeo in high school. He was a bull rider and chute dogger and a couple other things. Does he still do like rough stock and horse events? Yeah, he does chute dogging still. He's too afraid he's gonna break something if he tries to do any bull riding or steer riding. We, um, a bunch of us and kinda got him talked into doing steer ridding, which is kind of the lesser of bull riding. So we'll see if that happens when these rodeos start back up.(Subjects: rodeo) Switching gears just a little bit. What do you what do you do for a living? So, I work for Coca-Cola.(Subjects: jobs) Oh, wow. And my partner actually is what got me the job at Coca-Cola. He's been there for 18 years. So yeah, we make sirup for the fountain machines.(Subjects: jobs) Wow, sounds like a very different job than your regular lifestyle. Right. It's crazy. Helps pay the bills, though. It helps pay for rodeos and stuff. That's what I like about it.(Subjects: jobs) Yeah. Are you out at work? I'm assuming, yes, because your partner also works there. Yeah. Yeah. Do you feel like your work environment and your, like, gay rodeo environment clash in any way? I personally don't think so. Good thing like with how I with my work ethic and stuff or not, my ethnic work period is: I worked during the week, rodeo's are normally on the weekends, so it's like a perfect handoff. I don't ever feel like I have to give up rodeo because of work or give up work because of rodeo. So it just kind of clicks well together.(Subjects: jobs) Thats good. I feel like it's hard to find. It is hard to find. There's so many people on the rodeo circuit that deal with that all the time, like "I'm be able to go to this rodeo because I can't get off." And I'm like, "oh that sucks. I can."(Subjects: jobs) Has gay rodeo changed since you've started? Yeah, it has. How would you say it's changed? It's gotten smaller, in my opinion. I think it's like nowadays, the LGBTQ community is starting to come together more and the acceptance is at a higher level nowadays. And then the Western lifestyle is kind of dying in a sense. Because back in the day when like especially when IGRA and TGRA and all these gay rodeo organizations started, it was pretty much to give gay cowboys and cowgirls a safe haven to do what they love to do. Now, you don't really need that because the majority of the world nowadays accepts it. But yeah, I think that's one of the biggest things that I've noticed is changing. The rodeos have just gotten smaller. People are doing other things or found new, newer and more exciting hobbies than rodeo. I know at our - my home association here in Texas, that's one of our biggest things is trying to pull in more members. Why do you think that the Western lifestyle is dying? It's a tough one. In my own personal opinion, I think it's because everything nowadays is so materialized. Like even like going to the bars, like the country bars nowadays, like you don't hear country music that much, like you'll hear it up until about 7 or 8 o'clock at night and then those bars. Change it to rap and pop music and stuff like that, which I'm OK with. Like you always want the diversity in music and stuff, but it doesn't have that country vibe like it did for, say, ten, fifteen years ago. How would you describe a country lifestyle? Like do you, how do you define that for yourself?(Subjects: cowperson) I would say it's a very exhilarating lifestyle full of always changing events. It's never the same, but it's always very exciting and rewarding.(Subjects: cowperson) You mentioned that there's like a whole nightlife aspect to country living. Are you involved in any dancing or like two stepping? Well, so there's a bar in Dallas that like we do shows at it's a country bar. And my partner and I will go up there and do country dances and stuff. But it's not anything persay that I'm like always dying to do because I cannot dance. I try, but I can't. [laughs](Subjects: dance) Dancing is hard. It is really hard, especially when you've had a drink or two and you're being yelled at to follow their lead. Like what? Follow what? [Laughs](Subjects: dance) Can you talk for a moment about your rodeo family? It sounds like you guys are very close. So I'm just wondering if you have any stories about the community and community in general or like family memories? Well, so I can say when my ex and I broke up, I was in a really, really bad place in my life. I started developing an eating disorder. I was told I was too fat and ugly and all this stuff. And by my own community, not the rodeo community, but just by the gay community in itself. And that put me in a really deep depression. And then my ex breaking up with me just kind of put it in deeper. And so when I joined this organization, it gave me a purpose again. And I can probably tell you 99.9% of my friends now are from the rodeo. I do everything with them like these past few weeks, weekends, when I'm not at work, I'm at my friend's house helping her finish setting up her barn and reinstalling new panels on her barn. I mean, it's just always, always, always doing stuff for my rodeo family. But it's really given me purpose to my life back. And there are just countless memories that I've made with every single one of them that I've been with in this organization. Yeah, we're definitely tightknit, of course, just like siblings as there's... a lot of members that butt heads and stuff, we always in the end come together for the right reasons. And do we love doing most and that's rodeo.(Subjects: community ) Yeah. Do you think that the gay rodeo community is different from the larger LGBTQ+ community? Say that again. Do you think that the gay rodeo community is different or how do you think it differs from the larger LGBTQ+ community? So I actually do think there is a big difference. But like I said, like how I was treated by the gay community, like you don't really find that in gay rodeo. And that's just one example. But like, I can go into a bar with a bunch of people that know me and they'll be like, oh hi, hey, whatever. And then like, I go in to a rodeo to these people that I haven't seen a couple weeks and we just pick up right where we left off. And I mean, it's like a family on the rodeo side of it. But I don't feel that much towards people that I know in just the gay community itself.(Subjects: community) Do you think that the gay community accepts the gay rodeo. To an extent, like I mentioned earlier, times have changed. Especially like...Oh, I don't want to call the gay community catty, but all the catty gays nowadays don't really care for the rodeo. They'd rather go to brunch on Sundays and spend their time at house parties and stuff like that. But I mean, when we do shows and stuff, we always have a pretty good turnout from the local community people and they always help fundraise and raise money. And that's one thing about all the gay rodeo associations, all the money that we raised are uh, goes to charity.(Subjects: community) You've mentioned shows a couple times. Do you perform? I do. So something I never thought in my lifetime I would ever do. I used to be such a very nervous wreck. being in front of a lot of people, like I mentioned earlier when I went to finals in Albuquerque for the first finals rodeo, I got to watch the IGRA royalty competition. And I told my now partner, I told him, I think you know what? I want to do that, too. I think I want to help because the royalty teams are the face of their organization. They're the ones that help the most by going out raising money for these organizations. And I was like I would feel like so warm inside if I was able to help raise money and for all these charities and stuff. So we came back to Texas and I ended up running last year for the royalty team for Texas. And I actually won. And then back in October, I ran for Mr. IGRA and won that as well. So I am now, Mr. IGRA, which is insane. Yes, I do perform as a boy. I do not do drag.(Subjects: events) Well, congratulations. Unless it's for extra money. Well, congratulations. That's really exciting. Yeah, it's really exciting for me, too. Yeah. This is your year: you're Mr. IGRA, you just got engaged. I know it. Yeah. Been on cloud nine since October. Would you describe the Mr. IGRA competition? What you do, how you perform? So as Mr. IGRA, the competition itself was very, very challenging, not really challenging, but a lot of work. There was four of us total competing and they, they take the winner and then two runner ups, and so unfortunately one of us did not make it on the team this year. But we all worked really, really hard. That's all that matters to me. But the competition was really hard and it involved an interview where you have a panel of judges that ask you questions regarding rodeo history, IGRA history and then some questions just to like figure out what kind of person you are and what you bring to the table as if you were to become Mr. IGRA. And then you also do a performance of some sort and you can either do a performance or horsemanship, which horsemanship is a...they provide a pattern that you have to ride the horse in a certain way and fashion. Trot, here. Lope, here. Like that. So you have the option between those two and then you do onstage stage. Q and A. And Western wear. Sorry, I forgot Western wear too. But in my performances I didn't want to do horsemanship because it's so easy to mess up on and make your score drop. So, I didn't want to even risk that, but in all my performances I always do country music. I can't get myself to do any other style of music. I mean, I love rap and all other kinds of music and stuff, but I don't know. It's a country organization and I've tried to do it once. I was like, I just don't feel comfortable. I have to do country. But yeah, now like as Mr. IGRA, it's kind of hard, the whole team has been having a hard time doing what we are supposed to be doing because of this COVID-19 thing. Thankfully, IGRA has actually pushed the whole season to combine it with the '21 season. So we will now be IGRA royalty this year and next year. And so thankfully if something goes on, we still have of all next year to be able to raise our funds and, uh excuse me, raise our funds and go to all these rodeos and represent. (Subjects: events) That's really exciting. I'm curious now that you're starting to ride and you're starting to work on your horsemanship, if like looking into the future, if you would do horsemanship in a competition like this later. You know, I think if I had a little bit more training and was able like felt really comfortable with it, I definitely would. And I've actually me and my, my TGRA royalty team. We actually all three went on to compete at IGRA. And we're all three of us are on the team for IGRA as well. But we decided that we're going to come back in a couple of years and we're all going to swap roles. So like my friend Phillip, he actually does drag and he competed as a drag queen and won at that, my friend Jessie, she competed as a drag king, which is a woman that dresses as a man. And so we're all going to swap roles and run under different categories here in a couple years. So I'm like, well, we'll see what I can pull out of my boot and do that time.(Subjects: events) That's amazing. Have you ever considered doing rough stock? I have. And I've been thinking about doing chute dogging. Like I said, I tried it and I want to do it a couple more times before I actually spend money at a rodeo to try to do it, because watching some of the guys that have been around for 20, 30 plus years doing it, they do it so fast, it's almost like embarrassing to even try 'cause you're like, why? Why do it? But it'll be the fun of it.(Subjects: events) Have you ever been injured at a rodeo? Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely. What types of injuries have you occured? So the the one rodeo that actually got to happen this year was in Arizona. Back in February. Me and my friend Philip were doing steer deco, which is putting a, you have to tie, a ribbon to the tail of a steer and I'm the ribbon tier. So, Philip had gotten on the head of the steer to kind of neutralize the steer and get him stopped. So I could get on the tail. And right when I got to the tail, he got a little rambunctious and got away from Philip and went straight into my crotch with his horns, hooked me in the leg. Thankfully, I haven't had any cuts, but I've had lots of bruises, no broken bones, thank goodness. Lots, lots of bruising and dizziness falling on my head. And...(Subjects: injuries) It's dangerous. Anything with animals. Have you been injured on your horse, yet? Yes, I have. And it was mainly my fault. When I first started riding him. I was giving him mixed signals as my horse trainer was telling me. And he put me right into the side of a fence and hurt my leg a little bit. But like I said, that was my fault.(Subjects: injuries) What kind of horse did you guys get? Oh, goodness. He's a, um... I always can't answer this question because I always forget the word. He's a, um... Well, no he's not a paint, he's a um... I'll have to get back to you on that one. I always forget what kind of that word that they call him? We just met, but I can see you on a palomino. Oh, I love Palominos. Yeah, he's not a palomino. I love palominos. My mom's horse that she had when I was first born was a palomino. Do you think that you'll have more horses in the future? Is this just the beginning of your horsemanship? I think so. We've been talking, my partner and I, about buying a ranch and potentially trying to host rodeos there like, um, we went out a couple of weeks ago and actually looked at property to buy. And we were going to put an arena out there and potentially start doing rodeos and small jackpots and stuff out there and get more horses. Wow. That's going to be... gonna be fun. It would be fun. Yeah. Outside of rodeo, do you wear Western wear? I do. Most of the time I'm in boots and jeans. Mainly a t-shirt, if I'm just out and about. If I'm going to show or anything to represent my organization or IGRA, I'm always in Western wear like you will not find me at a drag show or anything, not wearing western wear. Today, I've been having to run a bunch errands, so I'm not in Western wear. I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt. But it's hot and I don't want to wear jeans. But, yeah, a majority of the time I'm in boots and jeans and a hat. Do you consider yourself a cowboy? Yes and no. I mean, I definitely enjoy the Western lifestyle and I partake in a lot of Western lifestyle, Western lifestyle aspects. But at the same time, um, in my opinion, a real cowboy is somebody that's out there working on the ranch doing stuff like on a day to day basis like, that's their job, like that's how they make their income is out herding cattle and doing all those kinda things. But in a sense I, at the same time, I think that people that are involved in rodeo, but not necessarily do the working in the fields and all that kind of stuff at the ranch like that, they're still considered a cowboy or a cowgirl.(Subjects: cowperson) What do you think the future of the IGRA is? You know, I actually have really big dreams and I'm kind of excited for the future of it. I think that the royalty team, especially this year, has a lot of plans up our sleeves to try to get the general public more involved, not even just the gay community, but the general public more involved. And I think that's what we really need nowadays. So I'm actually really excited to see. I think it's going to grow a lot in the next couple of years. Hopefully, after all this COVID-19 stuff is gone.(Subjects: igra) When it does grow, what do you think that'll look like? What's your ideal İGRA rodeo space? My honest dream for IGRA. I want to see it how it was back in the 80's when it first started. When I was running for IGRA and TGRA, I learned so much history on all the old rodeo's and I'm constantly getting the pictures sent to me from rodeo's from before I was even born, like gay rodeos too and it's insane to me like thinking Holy crap, that they've gone back this long. But you see pictures from these rodeo's and like the stands are full of people and it's just breathtaking and like so, nowadays, like we go to a rodeo in the stands or maybe half full, maybe a quarter full just depending on location or whatnot. But like Arizona's rodeo this year was like so amazing because both days there was not an empty seat in the stands. I mean, it was just full of people. And that's what, that's what I want to see happen. And I do think it's going to happen in the next year or two once we start getting more people involved.(Subjects: igra) It's amazing. I just have one last question for you. Have you ever experienced homophobia at the rodeo or on your way to a rodeo? Um, at the gay rodeo's. I've never actually experienced that, thankfully. I don't think and I don't really recall ever seeing any protester or like you would see a gay pride. I haven't seen any of that. Yeah, I, it was actually funny, at finals last year, it was held in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the way the arena was, it was right next to a convention center that was having this RV show and this family came walking over, thinking it was like just a regular, like, straight rodeo. And it was really kind of funny. They came in and somebody had explained it to them and stuff and they're like, "well, we've been enjoying it. We're going to stay and I think we're gonna come back tomorrow and bring some of our friends too."(Subjects: community) Oh, wow, that's amazing. Yeah, it was actually, it was kind of nice because you wouldn't expect that from a straight family like how that was. But then that, that's just the sign of the times, I mean. [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] But, um, so, I pretty much was saying, um, it's just a sign of the times now that everything is more accepting. You don't really see that negativity and... hateful words and stuff being spread all like wildfire, like it used to. Well, thank you so much. Do you have anything else to add before I let you go? I don't think so. I really think it's awesome what you guys are doing. And I can't wait to hear where it goes. Yeah, I wish you guys the best of luck in this. Hopefully, I get more people to enter in to have an interview done and I'll definitely spread it around to some of my royalty team. There's quite a few that have been around for a little bit. So I know that you guys were at convention, right? We have, yeah? I think we're at convention and the Phoenix rodeo. Yeah. OK. Yeah. Yeah. I remember seeing y'all at the Phoenix rodeo as well. I'll definitely hit up some more people because I love this. It's just giving more history for the books for the future. So. Thank you so much.

Greg Begay Click to filter

This is Renae Campbell and I am here with Greg Begay and we are at the Denver, Colorado, International Gay Rodeo Association Convention. It's November 22nd, 2019, and we're going to talk a little bit about your background first, if that’s okay. I'd like to start with asking where you were born. I was born on the Navajo Reservation in Fort Defiance, Arizona.(Subjects: childhood) Okay. And did you grow up there? Yeah. Not specifically in Fort Defiance, but in a small local town called Klagetoh. There's probably less than a thousand people that live there.(Subjects: childhood) So that would be—would you consider that a rural location, probably? Well, it's so rural that to this day there's not really cell phone service there. And it's kind of primitive because you have to haul water for some houses—they still don't have running water or plumbing. And some houses don't even have electricity. I love it. It's kind of what I've grown up with, so starting a fire or doing anything manual is not very hard.(Subjects: childhood) Do you live there still? My parents do. My dad works for a company that supplies natural gas to, basically, the U.S. They have a house that runs with electricity and then they have a house that doesn't have electricity. So, you do get both sides of it. I love being back—even though my phone doesn't work.(Subjects: family, parents) So, did you go to school there? I went to school there. And then in high school, we went out of town—out of our town—and we went to a private school, a Catholic school. Then ventured off to Tempe for college.(Subjects: childhood) You said “we.” Do you have brothers and sisters? Yeah, I have two sisters and one brother, one older and the other two are younger. So, kind of a big family, I guess. I would think its normal size for that day because nowadays people like to have one child or two children. Unless you're like, what is it, Kate Plus 8?(Subjects: family) It sounds like you and your siblings had a pretty fun time growing up? Well, there's a pretty big gap with the younger siblings. I believe my brother is seven or eight years younger and then my little sister’s another seven or eight between them. So, it's kind of like a fourteen-year gap between me and the youngest. We grew up near our cousins, so we always had kids to play with.(Subjects: family) And were you involved in, any sort of—were you around horses, or rodeo, or anything growing up? My dad learned rodeo from my uncles and just went with it. And then we were born, me and my older sister, and we kind of just grew up on the road—loaded up into a van in the middle of the night, and drive to a rodeo, and then hang out and play underneath the bleachers, and watch our dad rope. And then, as we got more comfortable with riding and he put us on or he, like, sat us up there, we were like, “We want to do this.” So, we did junior rodeos and little gymkhanas. And then my older sister was very good at sports, so she didn't really do it past like, going into middle school. But I ended up going into high school rodeo. And I did that.(Subjects: family, parents, childhood, highlight) So, you have a pretty strong background in it? Yeah. It's more of a love than just kinda something you picked up. I’m still having the passion to get better, to do better at rodeos. It’s kind of just what I love.(Subjects: highlight) Nice. So, did you graduate from college? I did not, unfortunately. I chose a subject that I’m passionate about but didn't have the focus to remain and do well. And so, I don’t have a college degree. What was the subject? I went in for pre-veterinarian. Which, there are some days where I think, “Oh, I totally could do that now.” But that’s more bills on top of bills that I have to pay for, right, being an adult. Before it was like, “Oh, I can just go to school, have my parents pay for it.” But it’s not the same now. Yeah. So, what do you do for work now? I am a blackjack dealer.(Subjects: jobs) Oh. Yeah. It’s fun. I mean, it's fun for me. […] It's fun…90 percent of the time. Ten percent it's, like, dealing with a disgruntled guest or a player that didn't win.(Subjects: jobs) And where do you work? I work in Scottsdale at Talking Stick Resort and Casino, Arizona. I've been there eleven years. I’ve also been doing this going on 14 years, since I turned 21, mostly.(Subjects: jobs) And you said you were born on the Navajo Reservation? Yeah. Are you Navajo? I am 100 percent Navajo, yes. And my parents, um, they were lucky enough to grow up with family that their first language was Navajo. And then they went to school and they learned English afterwards. Not the same as […] growing up we lived with quite a bit of, what is that, Caucasian families? And they spoke English. So, the difference between me speaking English because we lived with a bunch of families is different than having Navajo kids just normally. The English is a little different. That's kind of how they were. It wasn't like a normal thing to hear people speak English then. Them learning afterwards, it just kind of evolved.(Subjects: family, parents, race) In your household, then, did you speak primarily Navajo? When we were young, it was kinda just English. In high school, me and my older sister had to take Navajo language as an elective to meet the requirements for certain Navajo scholarships for college. We did that and we did pick up on most of it. Conversation-wise, we're not very good but we know certain words and we fill in the blanks, mostly.(Subjects: family) So, when your parents are talking, you can…? You’re like, “Oh, they're talking about us.” And then like, “Uh…no, it's not good, let's go.” But Rosetta Stone did make it as a language, so I plan to get that. Because my grandmother passed away two years ago, and I couldn’t really have a conversation with her because she never spoke English. She knew certain words like “pop” or “soda,” but having a conversation with her was, well, was never achieved. I missed out on that.(Subjects: family) So, you did rodeo in high school and then did you keep doing rodeo after that? I still compete in both rodeos. I mean, I’m a member of the Gay Rodeo Association, but I also compete in the World Series of team roping, and Indian rodeos, and, just everywhere where horses take me, really. I didn’t really stop. I did traditional rodeos all through high school ‘cause, at the time, I was competitive enough to stick with people that are older than me. And doing high school rodeo was, it was just fun. I didn't have a great partner then because I kind of got into it late. I started my senior year and so I kinda got the leftovers, I think. So, sometimes it clicked, most of the time it didn’t, but it was still fun.(Subjects: highlight) How did you discover the IGRA? I think I was like nineteen or twenty, and I was hearing all this gay stuff, like, “I think there's a gay rodeo.” And I searched it up on the internet. And then I forgot to delete the search history and my mom was like, “What is this?” I was like, “Oh, I was just wondering if they had an association for themselves.” Because I didn't come out until I was twenty-one, so it kinda led into something that I wasn't prepared for. So, when did I go? My first gay rodeo was—I think I was twenty-three.(Subjects: comingout, parents) You came out before you joined? Yeah, I joined in February of 2009. So, I’d already been twenty-one, or maybe it’s twenty-four. Yeah, twenty-four. And so, that’s when I joined them and went to my first rodeo. And I wasn't as involved then as I am now. At the time, I was living paycheck to paycheck and I was like, “I really have to watch my money.” And when I went to my first rodeo and I got paid I was like, “Man, this check isn't really what I'm used to winning.” Like, when I win, it’s not very big, so then I was like, “Okay….” So, did you participate in the first IGRA rodeo that you went to? Yes. I entered; I went…. I think I got there Friday during the day. And then I went and I kinda did some research on, like, entering, and reading the rulebook, and new contestants will have no late fee. I was like, “Okay.” So, I went, and I registered, and I competed. I did well. I think I won the breakaway and I might have placed in the team roping. But I was still new so I kind of—I competed and then right after I was done, I would go back to my truck and I would sit in my truck because I didn't know anybody and not a lot of people talked to me. So, I just kinda went back to the truck and then sat in there and waited ‘till my event came up again and then went back to the arena.(Subjects: events) And then, you decided relatively soon after that to go to another one? Or did you think about it for a while? Um, no. I think the next rodeo I went to was like August. That was in Las Vegas. And it, that rodeo, was only a one-round rodeo. So, I went to that and did well. I didn't take my own horse then. And I asked somebody, “Hey, can I borrow your horse for this event?” And, fortunately, she said “Yes.” And I did well on it. And then, um, I think I went to my first finals—that was in Albuquerque in 2009. And I didn't have enough points to go in the team roping myself, so I had to partner with somebody and then get invited through them. I made it in the breakaway also, so then I had two events. Did that, and it was fun for me.(Subjects: events) And is that when you kind of started meeting more people? I mean… yeah, but there wasn't a bunch of communication. Like, I was either too shy or I didn't know their phone number. Back then, I think it was like MySpace, and I just didn't get all that together yet. But, um, I went to—the next year, I think I went to three rodeos. But I didn't go to finals because I had just gotten this new job and I kinda was like, “Now I have to wait.” I was tempted to do the suicide missions of going to work, and then driving three hours to the rodeo, rodeoing, drive back, sleep for like 30 minutes, and then go to work again. I was like, “I think I can do that,” but I was like, “I can't, because when I am going to sleep? And I might run off the road with my horses.” So, I opted not to go to the finals. And it was sad because it was fairly close to me and I really like the facility because I've been there before. So, what are your main events that you compete in? Currently? Yeah—has it changed over time? Oh, yeah. Back then, I think I did the calf roping on foot, break-away, team roping, barrels, poles, and flags. And I tried wild drag then, but never really was successful so not a lot of people asked me or competed with me. But now I do break-away, calf roping on foot, team roping, barrels, poles, flags, steer decorating, goat dressing, and wild drag.(Subjects: events) You do a lot of them! Yeah. It's an all-day event. Things just go, and go, and go. Like, from the moment we wake up to feed the horses, to the night when cleaning stalls, and watering, and graining; having sometime to eat something, or get relaxed enough to have a drink and hang out with people. Sometimes, I'm just not feeling it. I'm just so run down, I’m like “I'm going to sleep.” And it does… make it look like I don't want to be around people, but I’m literally just thinking about myself like, “I want to be able to do well tomorrow.”(Subjects: events) Do you go to a lot more rodeos now? Right now, I think I went to seven. Arizona, Palm Springs, Santa Fe, Denver, San Francisco, Vegas, and finals. So, yeah, seven. When I first started, I only went to two a year and now I go to seven. And, I mean, I really wouldn’t to be able to go to that many without my sponsors because they do help financially and they're supportive enough to, like—I'm able to get to there without having trouble or being in a predicament where I wouldn't be able to enter as many rodeos. What's the process like for finding sponsors? I would think it’s—I think it's mostly about personality and what you bring to the table. I mean, anybody can be good but you’re essentially representing that association, or those people. So, the process, I mean, I went up and I talked to people. Face-to-face is always easier and you're gonna get a better response than writing a letter. And I've done that. I've written letters and I've gotten turned down. And some sponsors asked, “What can you do for us?” I'm like, “Well, this is what I plan to do. I don't know if it'll work.” So, who are your sponsors now? I’m sponsored by Charlie's of Phoenix and John King—he owns the bar there in Phoenix. And my friend owns his own horse—performance horse training— and providing horses, and he sponsors me as well. I do have another sponsor in California. She is an equine therapist, it's called “A Step Ahead Equine.” And she does Acuscope and Myoscope treatments, sort of like relaying micro-pulses of electricity through your body to help and heal. So, she's done treatment on my horses and myself—like when I tore my ACL, when I broke my leg, and when I fell off a horse. She treated me after the rodeo. It really did help with soreness.(Subjects: injuries) So, have you had many injuries throughout your career? I don't know. I wouldn't say… there's only been like one real injury where it did take me out, or—two actually—that really took me out from competing. One was a concussion where I tried to ride steer riding, and that didn't work out too good. And then, the second was when I broke my leg in the pole bending. I had a horse up front, unfortunately, slip and fall. And my ankle was the one that took everything, and it broke it. Stopped the rodeo. Ugh. That wasn't…. but it was fun.(Subjects: injuries) I mean, in the sense that when I fell and I was laying in the middle of the arena, and people were trying to hide me from the crowd because they didn’t want to see what would happen, or if I was gonna say something. But I guess I was like, “Why are you guys hiding me from my fans?” [laughs] In all honesty, my ankle really didn't hurt until I got to the hospital. I think the adrenaline had worn off by then.(Subjects: injuries) How long before you could compete again after that? So, I think I got on a horse… a month after. Way before I was allowed to, but that's just, that’s just me. I don't want to be away from that. And I watched this movie recently, it was sad. It was very sad. It's like, I think it's “One of Us” or something like that. Where it’s talking with people about getting injured and ending up in a wheelchair. One person was injured when they were a toddler, somebody was injured like two weeks ago and they’re quadriplegic.(Subjects: injuries) And it was sad because they're like, “I just want to get back.” Like one guy did stem cell and it didn't work, and he was like, “I’m fighting to get back to be able to walk.” And one guy kind of made improvements. But I guess that's what was in me. Like, I didn't want to get stuck away from that. I didn’t want to be that person that it got taken away from me. I think that's why I tried to get back as fast—trying not to lose what I love.(Subjects: injuries) And was that—where you injured yourself—at an IGRA event or rodeo? Yes. All the times that I've actually been injured has been in a gay rodeo. I got concussed doing gay rodeo that took me out of rodeo for the rest of the day. But apparently, I didn't know what was going on. Like, I would, I kept asking the same questions. Then, I got injured again when the horse broke its leg. And then, at finals in Albuquerque, I got kicked in the knee and tore my ACL. But I didn't know it. That was the second event of that first day, the first go, and I competed that whole weekend and ended up second in the all-around. But I won the team roping and the break-away. Not knowing that, I had a torn ACL for like eight months until I got it fixed. I competed that whole next year with the torn ACL. Can't stop me, I guess.(Subjects: injuries, events) I guess not, yeah. And it sounds like you've won a number of all-arounds and other things? Oh, that's, I mean… Do you have some titles you’re particularly proud of? I am particularly proud of the individual event that… I am very strong in the breakaway roping. It's fast; it can be difficult. The timing part and being together with your horse, it really does make it challenging for myself. And anytime I can be a two, I'm thrilled about it. But there are times where I have gone in no time and.... that's the one I really beat myself up on. If I make a mistake in that event, then I really am upset about that. As far as team events, I have been team roping basically my whole life and any time I can win the team roping with my partner—which is, I would say, ninety-nine percent of the time at the gay rodeos, is my best friend—and anytime we can win that together, it just it just makes everything that much better. (Subjects: events, highlight) I don't know. Winning the all-around for the year end, does make things that much better. If you win the all-around, then you’re there. You’re on fire because you can't win the all-around just by winning a little bit. […] This past finals, the finals was really in my home town—basically where I live now. And I, I did let the pressure get to me the first day. I really wanted to do good, I just…. And that doesn’t happen all too often. But, the second day, I kicked butt. It was fun. I guess, I just let everything go. I was like, “I can do the things I can control but that's about it. I can't really hang on to yesterday because that doesn't make any—that doesn't make me get points for today.”(Subjects: events, highlight) Did you have any family members or friends come and watch you? My little sister has recently been an amazing cheerleader and team supporter of me and my friends. So, she was there all day. I think she got there Friday-ish late and stayed the whole weekend. My older sister came Saturday, and she stayed pretty much the whole day. And that's a big thrill. I did hear her when I was running poles. I heard her, like, I know distinctly I can hear her voice. And she's like, “Go!” I was like, I heard it. I was like, “Wait, I’m doing something right now. I gotta focus!” [laughs] But, this rodeo association has kind of become a family to me. We look out for each other, we help each other when we need it, or if we can. So, it's never like I'm alone. That’s just kind of how it's been for me. I don't know about everybody else, but it kinda transformed into a rodeo family and makes everything a little bit better.(Subjects: family, community) That's actually something I hear over and over again. Yeah, well, growing up in traditional rodeo and going all these ropings, you do get that same camaraderie. Sometimes it’s, they're out to beat each other, to win. And some people can't, if they're winning, they can allow themselves to help out somebody who needs it. The competitiveness drives more than just being normal—just a normal person. But here, not always. I mean, there are some people that just compete for themselves. It happens. Can't really control that part of that. But, if I can help you in any way that you're going to do your best or that I can help you to do your best, I'm going to do it. If you need me to stand in the box with your horse right before I have to go, I’m gonna try to help you if nobody else can help you. I've helped several of my competitors do that this year because they, not only do they make me compete harder and with more heart, it just makes the rodeo better. When people are catching, and riding, and doing the best, then they're making a good showing. Why not try to help them?(Subjects: highlight) So, is that kind of one of the big differences you’ve seen? Since you've been involved in different rodeos, is there something that makes IGRA different than the other rodeos you've been involved with? Oh, man. It's not, there’s not a difference between night and day. It's like, little small things. It's an association that is including, like, down to the timers and volunteers. That in, that sense, what I see is different than traditional rodeos. I don't see a whole lot of the production side of traditional rodeos and what is involved. I go there, show up, rope, sometimes I leave immediately after. Sometimes I wait and watch some of the rodeo, or I get there early and watch part of the rodeo. But, since I'm in so many events in the gay rodeo, I see it a whole different side and things that are different from my point of view. But, it's a rodeo. I mean, I can't really say that it's that much different, other than the quality of contestants is different. And, you're going to get that from different associations and rodeo backgrounds—like there are people that learn how to ride at an older age, or people that rode a long time ago but their training technique has is behind the curve, coming up and learning new things. So, it's not something that is directly different. Okay. And, so are you involved in any of—sort of—the planning and behind the scenes type of stuff? I am not. I would like to think I'm a leader, but I'm really not. [laughs] I am a very good teammate. I’m “You asked me to do this. I'll do it.” If you have an idea, I can help out, structuring it and figuring out how exactly to do it but I am not a good planner. I… planning doesn’t work for my lifestyle. Anything that I plan goes to crap and so I don't plan. I am very spontaneous. I take off when I want to. Like, buying plane tickets is hard because I'm like, “I don't want to go now.” But I bet you have to do that for a lot of rodeos, right? Or, do you drive your horses? Um, I drive. I drive because I have horses. And so, there's no, I mean, if that were an option, it would be easier—but no. This trip was probably one of the few that I didn't have to worry about my horses. But I had to make reservations for a hotel, and make flight plans, and stuff like that. And then, the last minute I was like, “I'll just take my own truck to the airport and park it at the east parking lot instead of having to get dropped off. […] The plan was to get dropped off, and then somebody drive me home so I could get my truck, so I could go to work. But then, I ended up changing that like, literally, the last minute. So, yeah, planning doesn’t work for me. But you made it here! Oh, yeah. That was always the goal. I wouldn't say a plan, but it was always the goal. And, like, a couple of days before I was leaving, I was like, “I’ll just stay home. They don’t need me.” But, probably should—I need to do something. Is your local organization Arizona? Yeah. Yeah, I kind of ventured away for a couple of years and then I went back. But I’ve always been with Arizona. And did you—you said you did a couple camp events, is that right? Yeah. I do the steer decorating, the goat dressing, and the wild drag.(Subjects: events) So, you do a lot of them. Yeah, I do a lot of it. Are those events that you enjoy being part of the rodeo? Um, I… I don’t know. It’s just, sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's challenging. And I do almost all—I do all my team events with my best friend. So, we know when somebody’s slacking or if they can't do it. And if we can't get it done, then we just say, “That's it, we left it all out there.” But, I mean, some of the events are funny. It just cracks me up. So I can't really say that, I mean, there's no event like it other than in gay rodeo. Like, the wild drag is an easier way of doing wild horse racing, being that they use a wild horse, and they put a saddle on the horse, and they let it go. Basically, they let it go. They don't drive it like we do with a steer.(Subjects: events) So, is your best friend someone you met here? Or did they… So, I met my best friend, yeah, through gay rodeo. But that's not how you should meet her best friend. Why do you say that? I met my best friend David in Palm Springs, like, six years ago now. And I had roped in the break-away and I won the first round, like by a considerable amount. But David was second, and his time was pretty good. And, on average, the times aren’t always great. So, I was like, “Oh, well, this is somebody that's gonna rope.” And then, um, he had slaughtered everybody in the barrel racing. And I ran but it wasn't that great. And then, like, I guess the tradition after that rodeo was everybody was supposed to go to the same restaurant and eat there. And it was called Grandmas, or something like that. It was like a small diner. And so, you get this huge block of corn bread with almost every meal. And so, he's sitting there eating and then, he's like, “So are you gonna rope the same?” Or something came up with me roping and he wanted to barrel race I said, “Do you really need to be eating that cornbread?” And it was so bad! Like, it sounds really bad, but it was kind of like funny/shady. So, our best friends started with an insult. […] And then, I think we danced on Sunday night like normal, I guess. I don't know. We just danced. I was like, “No, I don’t want to dance.” And he’s like, “I'll show you. So, we just danced, and then like five, three—like three months later—the Bay Area Rodeo was happening and he had normally roped with this team roping partner. And she went another way and teamed up with somebody else. And so, he was kind of searching for a partner. And then, he, I guess he got my phone number from somebody, he's like, “Hey, this is David [...].” And I'm like, “Uh, hi?” And he’s like, “If you fly up here, I'll find you a horse to ride in the barrels and poles. Will you rope with me in the team roping?” And I was like, “Um, I’d have to check with work but, I mean, yeah. That sounds fun.” And so I went there. And then we kicked his old partners butt in the team roping. And we’ve kind of been friends since. I mean, it evolved into being best friends and treating him like family. So, that's kind of just what we have. Our relationship started with me being shady. So, do you country dance much? Or do other dance? I don't. I don't dance country very often. […] And even if, it looks very amateur. But dancing is fun. I don't go out, typically, a whole lot. I haven't really been into that scene. So, yeah, I’m kind of like the boring homebody. I like being home with family, it feels more comfortable. That’s just me.(Subjects: dance) Yeah. Do you have any favorite moments from rodeos? Oh, there—geeze—that's a big one. [pause] My favorite of, like, all time—well, one of them is when I, we went to Canada for the rodeo there in 2015. In order for […] me and David's rodeo to be somewhat financially profitable, we had to run the same course in one event. And I ran my, I ran, I won, the pole bending buckle that weekend. And, it was just, it wasn't easy because I had to run against David on the same horse. And that horse, he’s had that horse forever. And to get that, to be able to beat him, was a feat in itself.(Subjects: events) And then I ended up riding that horse at finals that year. And I ran my first twenty on the pole bending on him. And that, I mean running twenties, is hard unless you're really small, like a small girl or a small guy and just having a horse that works really good. But to be over 200 pounds, you’re resisting—like that resistance is heavier, so it's going to slow you down anyway. But to ride my first twenty was amazing. I cried. It was awesome. But then…there's so many highlights in my life as far as rodeo goes. Like almost winning a truck, or winning a roping in Vegas. It—there's too many—there's too many highlights to say that one is better than the other because it just fills up everything.(Subjects: events, highlight) Yeah. Do you sport your buckles that you’ve won very often? Um, some of them. There's quite a few, so the prettiest ones, I guess I wear. I guess the buckle company sometimes that they order from, they end up just selecting the same outline and so they kind of look—a quite a bit of them—a few look at the same. Most of the time I wear them. Like right now I'm wearing the all-around buckle from the 2015, from the finals. It’s one I’m proud of. And do you plan to kinda keep being involved in IGRA in the future? Um, so long as it's still around, I plan to be in it. There's nothing that stops me really from going. Probably unless I got, like, if I had gotten a partner that was mind controlling and beat me if I left the house, that probably would be the only way stop. But I'm not in to those kind of people… That’s good. I guess nothing would really stop me. And I do support the association, and being that it's a charity event, it does—it gives back. I'm proud of that. I'm the entertainment. I'm like, I wouldn’t say I'm Beyoncé. But, if she were to do a benefit concert, I’m that. I'm that singer. But I can't sing. I’m horrible.(Subjects: highlight) [laughs] You’re the Beyoncé that doesn't sing? Yes. I'm a mime. [laughs] Nice. Well, what do you think about IGRA in the future? Do you have any hopes or fears? Ah, […] Hope is tough, because people feed on hope, and it doesn't happen, and it hurts. Like, I'm one of the youngest competitors. And I’m 34. So our pool hasn't really grown lately. Being that there are associations that pay better and there are gay cowboys and gay cowgirls that see that. They see the dollar signs. But they don't realize what can happen when you compete here. They don't have, they don't realize that, to be—their success isn’t judged by how much you win. Like, you can be successful and be friends with everybody. When you compete in traditional barrel races, you know, there's winners. But it’s not all about the money. I mean, in some senses, where I do enter, it's about money. Yeah, for sure. I'm going for that. But, to be able to hang out with people and feel like I don't have to worry about anything.(Subjects: igra, community) Do you feel like you have to worry about stuff when you compete in non-IGRA rodeos? Oh, um, not anymore. Okay. I kind of give the, the notion that, nothing they do to me can hurt me. Unless they physically hurt me. I've crossed that mental barrier a long time ago. I put up with the, kind of the, hazing, as you could call it. I don’t, I mean, I don't care that I'm different in the sense that I like the same sex. But people do. And sometimes their view changes—and that's cool. But I won't make the decision to go or not because of some person. I'll do it foremost if my horse is healthy, or if I'm healthy, or financially I can make it.(Subjects: homophobia) That's what I plan on, or that’s what I go on. I don't go on the fact that somebody’s not going to like me. I’m real sure that not every person likes me. I'm not going to stop because some person doesn't think that I should be there. I've taken straight people's money just as much as I do the gay people's money. And being that competitor—like, I grew up doing high school sports and junior rodeos—I’ve always wanted to be. So, it doesn't matter where I’m at, I’m still going to try to win.(Subjects: homophobia) Nice. So, do you think that the money, maybe, is kind of the main thing that is holding back, maybe the younger generation from joining? I think some. I think some view the money more, yeah. But I think some see that it's “gay,” the word “gay” is in there. And that’s gonna make people look at them differently.(Subjects: igra, homophobia) Even if they are people that identify that way? Yeah. I mean, I know a couple that recently got married that they go to all these barrel races, and they post about it, and they posted their wedding pictures. And they don’t come to our rodeos. I mean, I wouldn't understand why, because they live in Arizona. But like, why? I mean, our entry fees aren’t more than the barrel races that they go to, so I can’t see why. And if they think they have such great horses, why wouldn’t you go and show off a little bit? If you're going for the money, try to take our money. But they're scared. In some sense, they’re scared. They don’t want to be known, I guess. I mean, that's my personal opinion. I don't know if that's truly how it is. But typically, when people get beat up or... something gets taken away from somebody is because part of them is scared. They’re scared of something.(Subjects: igra, homophobia) Yeah… I don't know. Can’t really help them. Yeah. Yeah, there's not much you can do then… No. I mean, I've reached out even to people that I know that are gay. And I try to keep—I tried to say, “Hey, just so you know, there's a rodeo coming up that's pretty close—if you can make it.” And then sometimes they're like, “I don't have a horse right now, or financially I can't go.” And that's understandable. But I do try to reach out. Some people have asked me for help on how to do things or coaching. But I can't force—I can't manipulate people into going. They have to ultimately choose to go. And it sucks because some of the competitors that are good now won't be good next year. Don’t know.(Subjects: igra) Yeah. I mean, I've gone so far as taking my little brother who is straight. And we competed in a few—like one year, we competed in the team roping. I hold the, our association's record in the team roping with him. That’s the fastest time. So, I’m proud of that.(Subjects: family, events) So, does your little brother also do rodeo? Yes. Everybody has done rodeo—even my mom, like, back in the day. She doesn't compete anymore, but she's a good videographer and she stresses for us more than we stress for ourselves. My older sister doesn't compete anymore. After our good horse when we were kids got hurt, and we had to retire him, that kinda fire left. So, she doesn't compete anymore. But I am roping with my brother in Vegas in a couple of weeks and excited about that. Really excited. So, I'm practicing a lot. And just getting ready for that. And we just had a rodeo this past weekend, just outside of Phoenix, with my dad and my brother.(Subjects: family, parents) Sounds like you stay very busy. Oh, yeah. This weekend there was a roping that I wanted to go to but then I was asked quite a bit ago to come to this—to the convention. And so, I was like, “Yeah, I’ll go.” Are you serving as a delegate here? Yes. For the Arizona Gay Rodeo. Nice. And have you been to convention before, or is this…? I have never been. It's kind of an eye-opener. Sitting in rodeo rules, it's interesting the logic behind some people’s thoughts and how some person views this and, like, trying to change some rules to make it easier or more better for the contestants. But we’ll see what happens. I mean, it's not…voted. It's not approved yet by the whole convention. So, we'll see. That's tomorrow? Yeah. We'll see how people like me then. They might not like me anymore. Do you feel like you’ve been outspoken on some issues since you've been here? Yes, yes. But...I always get the notion that people don't like me anyway. But, it's not like hatred, is just like “How many times are you gonna win?” Like, “You won, why don't you let us win.” I mean, I guess it's just the practice that I put in. I've been doing this a long time, so it's very…the muscle memory is there. And it might be a mental game with some people. I mean, I don't know. I mean, if you were to ask me, “What did I do wrong?” Well, this is what I saw but I don’t know how you feel like you were doing it. When I mess up or I do something wrong, I watched tons of videos. I go back and I watch it, and I break it down. I just pick myself apart to make myself a little bit better every time. So, do you—you don't have to share this—but, were there any rules that you suggested changes to? Um, yes. Two of them. One was with break away, just having a uniform string through all of it. Because some people use different densities or quality of string. And some is easier to break, and some is harder. Like, I rope with the hardest one to break. But it makes a pop and it makes the rope fly out faster. That’s just me. Nice. Okay, So, is there anything that I haven't asked you about that you would like to add? Um… I'm very single. [laughs] [laughs] You want me to put that on the website? Yes. Okay. No, I don’t know. I really don't know because there are tons of things to talk about, tons of things that don't get spoken on. But it doesn’t directly have to do with me. So, I don't—I don't stick my feet where I don't need to be. Um…I just wish there’d be more, I mean, I wish there were sponsors for our association that would allow us to probably grow as well as the PRCA, or even like some of the amateur rodeos that get kind of national sponsorships. I just kind of wish...I guess, I just wish we weren’t turned away as much as others. […] I reached out to one company, and they were like, “Well, we don’t support that.” So, wow, okay.(Subjects: igra, homophobia) Wow, that’s frustrating. Yes. Don't tell anybody this, but I eat Chick-fil-A. [laughs] They employ gay people, so who cares? Yeah… that’s a personal choice. I like Chick-fil-A, though. I have never actually eaten Chick-fil-A. Oh, my God! Just because, I never really have. [laughs] It's, like, right out here. I saw it over there. It’s so good. [laughs] Okay. Um, so the last question that I usually ask everyone is whether you consider yourself to be a cow person/a cowboy or cowgirl.(Subjects: cowperson) Ooh. That's a tough question. That’s why I save it for last. In a sense that I'm a performance rodeo athlete, yeah. But as far as the old historic term of being a cowboy, I don't work on a ranch. I don’t heard cattle. I mean, yes. I do when they get out and I have to chase them back to the house. But, I mean, I know how to castrate a horse. I’ve done it twice this year, so there’s that. [laughs] But…as far as being an athlete, I am a cowboy. As far as farming and taking care of animals—like, animal husbandry—yes. But herding animals, no. It’s just, it’s a big question. It’s like, do you consider yourself a professional interviewer?(Subjects: cowperson) Huh. Probably not. But you are an interviewer. Yeah. Yeah, well, I mean, it's however you want to answer it. It’s whatever nuance you want to bring to it, right? Just, I mean, I feel like I am a performance athlete. Because I trained my body, I trained my mind, I trained my horses. Perfect practice makes perfect, not practice makes perfect. Because you can practice whenever and do whatever but until you try to make. perfect in everything…I mean, essentially perfect is never going to be attainable, but if you can allow yourself to train as if you could be perfect, that is attainable. Yeah. I think, I don't know…That's how I see myself, as a performance athlete.(Subjects: cowperson) Okay, cool. Well, thank you very much for sharing some time with me today. No Problem I'm going to go ahead and stop this.

Desirey Benavides Click to filter

Okay, so this is Rebecca Scofield and I am here with Desirey. It's May 13th 2017 and we're at the hot rodeo outside Palm Springs. So can you tell what year you were born?(Subjects: childhood) Yup, November 7th 1959.(Subjects: childhood) And where did you grow up?(Subjects: childhood) Predominantly in Lakewood. I actually started off in Long Beach, and then around my 4th grade year is when we moved to Lakewood. That's where I went to school and graduated from Lakewood High.(Subjects: childhood) Did you guys live sort of in town, did you own property?(Subjects: childhood, parents) My Dad, we had a house in Lakewood and was there with my Mom, my Dad and then I have a younger brother, we're a year and a half apart, my younger brother. (Subjects: childhood, parents, family) What did your parents do, for a living for most of your childhood?(Subjects: childhood, parents) My mom was a housewife and my dad worked for GTE, and then around my junior high years is when they got divorced after 20 years of marriage. Then my mom ended up having to, you know, go to work, so then she was a waitress.(Subjects: childhood, parents) Did you spend much time around animals when you were growing up?(Subjects: childhood, family) No, typically dogs, that type of stuff. My parents are from south Texas, which is in Kingsville which is is owned by the Kings ranch. I remember a couple times going out to King ranch because I think, my grandfather, on my mom's side, he used to work at the King ranch, so we used to go out there, but we didn't play with steers or any of that thing. Typically growing up was always like being a cowboy, dressing as Roy Rogers and Zorro or something like that.(Subjects: childhood, family) That's nice. So, can you tell me how you identify in terms of gender and sexuality?(Subjects: community) Well I mean, I had my surgeries so I am a female, but I mean I still am part of the transgender community. So people ask, yes, I am transgender. Though I don't, I don't try to label myself as being transgender because you spend 35,000 plus to became a female, it's what you wanted to do so why I wanna tell people. Sometimes it happens and people, you know, "Well, how come your voice is so deep" or "How come you dress as a guy when you're at work?" I work at the postal service, I'm an area maintenance specialist, and I'm doing kinda guy work. They're like you kinda act like a guy sometimes and I'm like okay whatever, it's my, my job. But, no I, somebody says I'm female. Course kids, they're really hard to trick, adults are not too... you know it's usually pretty easy for adults unless I'm on the phone or something and they're like "Yes sir", and I'm like, "No, it's ma'am", but kids are always like, "You're a guy". *jokingly* I'm like "Shut up; go away, Where's your parents? Get away from me." But no, I typically try to identify as a female but when people ask, yes I'm part of the transgender community and I try to support it and help out in any way I can.(Subjects: community, jobs) How did your relationship with your gender identity manifest as a child?(Subjects: childhood, family, parents) Growing up... I always was, I guess there was just something that was a little bit different. I remember stealing some of my cousin's cloths, I was always jealous of her. Her name's Else. Anyways I was always jealous of her and so one time I stole some of her clothes. And then in my 4th grade year is when I almost got found out, because I had hid her clothes underneath my mattress. My mom used to flip mattresses every spring, you know, the flipping of the mattress, and found them and confronted me with it. I was like, I don't know how they got there, talk to Else. Else got in trouble for it, I told her later on in the years, "Sorry," for about those spankings you got. But... it's interesting because... once my parents got divorced and I really started dressing because my mom was never home, she was like I said a waitress, during the day she was a waitress at night she was a cocktail waitress, she had to do two jobs. So, mom was gone, my brother was a jock, so he was out, so I'd dress up in my mom's clothes and was like, "Oh yeah, this is great." But, it was... it was interesting cause later on in the years after my mom had passed, my mom passed about a month after I had my surgery, I was talking to one of my, Comadre -- my Mom's best friend, and her names Yolanda; she lives in south Texas. And I was talking about her and she goes, "Yeah, you and your mom and I we used to talk about you we knew something was different with you", and I was like, "Why didn't you tell me, why did you wait till I was 40 some years old before I find out, I have this, this certain part of me that needed to be expressed. Not 40 even early, I mean I was, I was way into it before that. Even, even to realize that they saw it... the way that I sat, the way that I acted, the way that I, I'm like "Okay, I'll come," but of course when you're growing up in a Hispanic type family, even though my dad forbid any kind of Mexican type stuff, it was predominantly machismo type things. I did all the boy stuff growing up: play sports, was a boy scout and did all that kind of stuff. Up until the time when my parents finally got divorced, I wasn't a jock. I did the sports like in the park league, I never got into the school league. I played in the band. I was a trumpet player, so did that kind of stuff. My brother was the jock of the family and that kind of stuff.(Subjects: childhood, family, parents) And after you graduated high school what did you do?(Subjects: jobs, family, homophobia) Wow, after I graduated from high school I moved to Redding with my mom and the guy I call my step-Father, we opened up a Mexican restaurant, I played soccer in Redding. I met my first wife, knew we were getting serious, and had kept my dressing pretty well, under cover -- it was like closet type stuff. Went into the military, joined the Air Force in '79. Pretty much put my dressing on hold throughout that period of my life. Then shortly into my military career, she went somewhere, I don't know where she came and she came home early and caught me and oh god the shit hit the fan. And so anyways shortly thereafter we ended up getting a divorce ourselves.(Subjects: jobs, family, homophobia) Was your dressing the main reason for the divorce?(Subjects: transphobia) I really don't know the exact reason, I think there was a lot of different stuff going on. She had mentioned, she wanted someone who was more... a guy, assertive, I'm not the type of person, now a little bit I am, I don't know why. But when she would say, where do you want to go to eat, I'm like, "I don't care, wherever you want to go, as long as it's not this, this, or this, I'm fine." I don't do Sushi, I don't do Thai, I don't do, but anything else is game. I get in and she said, well I want a man that says "We're going here," and I'm like "This is not it, I'm not the type of person". So I don't know if that was, partly and then of course with the catching me dressing. I went TDY, to get retrained in another job. And found out that she had somebody else, or was seeing somebody else, who knows? (Subjects: transphobia) What was it like to be in that military culture with this side of yourself?(Subjects: jobs, highlight) It was interesting because once we started getting our separation, I started dressing a lot more, and I was going out, dressed as Desirey. And it was interesting cause I met a lot of military personnel that were, at these bars that I was going to. I guess you could call them gay bars, but there was transgender in there, drag queens. I remember one time I was in there and somebody kept buying me beers and I'm like, this is cool, I like this part of it. And finally I asked the waitress, "Whose buying me these beers?" and she is like, "Oh that guy over there", and I recognized him. So I went up and I said, "Hello Staff Sergeant Adams," and he was like, "H-how do you know my name?" I go, "Staff Sergeant Benivides." I was actually the swing supervisor for structural repair, he was the swing shift supervisor for jet propulsion which was right, our bays were kind of connected. I was like, "Oh I didn't know it was you", well I know, that's kinda the point isn't it. So it was kinda interesting, being in the military and dressing. And then I lost a child, my second child. Then I ended up losing it in the military and throwing away an 8 and a half year career. But it is what it is, so you do what you gotta do. I look back on it, would of, could of, should of, but it happens. (Subjects: jobs, highlight) So after you, left the military, what did you do next?(Subjects: jobs) Drank heavily. Then went to my dad and my brother and said I needed to get back into the workforce and so I ended up getting a job at the McDonald-Douglas. Still dressing pretty much on the side, just... back then though, I got out of the military in '87 and I remember contacting a few of the gay bars, and "Do you guys allow transgender?", and a lot of them were like "No, we don't want that kind in here." So it was kinda different trying to find a place to go that you could be comfortable and not worry about getting the shit beat out of you.(Subjects: jobs, transphobia) Did you ever sleep with men?(Subjects: jobs) No, I didn't want to have anything to do with guys, I like girls but I like to dress as a girl. I had girlfriends after I got out of the military, and for the most part it was like fun and games. A lot of them that I met were like, "This is fun", and then after 2 or 3 months, "Okay, I want you to stop" and it was like "Yeah, no". It ain't stopping, this is who I am and I'm gonna go all the way. But, I got out of the military went to went at Douglas, and just, did that until I got laid off from Douglas. That's what I did.(Subjects: jobs) You mentioned that you had children? (Subjects: family) I had three children with my first wife, and lost two. First one was stillborn, and then had Rey the third -- he is my namesake, my old name. Then I had another son, and he died when he was three years old.(Subjects: family) And then I married a second time. This is when I was still working at Douglas, I think it was around '90. I had decided that I was gonna throw Desirey away. Got rid of all my female stuff everything, became a fat Mexican guy. Mustache, short hair, the whole shot. Met this girl at "The Hop," it's a 50's dance bar, and like 2 months later we ended up getting married. Stayed with her, she caught me dressing. She told my dad. That didn't go over too well, and we ended up getting an annulment 9 months later. The interesting part of that was, when I worked at Douglas, when I first started working at Douglas when I was still dressing, I had long hair, I had earrings, then I threw it all away and I became Rey. I got rid of all that, like I said mustache the whole shot. Then when I went back, I remember this one black supervisor -- I really liked her, she was a nice supervisor and she had come up to me and said, "I'm glad to see you're back". I never left, what the fuck you're talking about? She's like "No, that other person was a real asshole, I'm glad to see you're back." And that is when I came to the realization, you know what? I need to be who I'm meant to be. Trying to be something else is not who I am. Even when I started, I met Janet and, in '92, met Janet, and we were starting to get serous and finally figured, I gotta let her know. So we went to our usual place to walk, we would walk on the Seal Beach pier, and I said, "We need to talk." I asked her, where do you see this relationship going? She goes I'd like to see it go further, I said I need to be upfront with you I need to show you something. She thought I was gonna show her I was into bondage, S&M or something, and it was pictures of me dressed as a female. And she's was like "Okay", and I go no, this is not okay, I mean per say. I mean, I'm saying this is who I'm gonna be; I'm gonna go full time, so if you're not alright with this, let me know upfront, and we'll just be good friends. Because, I've dated too many women, and this is all just fun and games, and then after a few months, "I want you to stop, go back to being who your body tolds you to be." That's not happening, I'm gonna take my hormones, I'm gonna do all the stuff. She was alright with it, course she wanted to get married right away, and it was like, no, I'm gonna wait. So I moved in with her shortly thereafter but we didn't get married until '94. I think 2 years in, finally I said "Okay, I think you're in for the long haul". Not that it hasn't been easy, she has 2 older kids. I remember when we told, in '94, is when I told her kids. I was giving my son, the visitations I has for my namesake, I would get 30 days in the summer. I only thought it was fair that if I tell her kids I'd tell my son, and my son told his mom. And that was the last I saw of Rey the third until 2000 when he finally came back into my life. Now I think it was only so he could get his degree as a chef because, I haven't heard from him. I had my surgery February 2010. He left, well he's always been a mama's type of boy, but I haven't seen him since then he really hasn't been in contact with me. I'm like "Okay, it is what it is, you'll have to deal with it in your own way." As far as I'm concerned I'm still his father, can't change that.(Subjects: family) What did you do for work after Douglas? (Subjects: jobs, transphobia ) I bounced around in jobs, was an office manager for a psych department for some psychologists, worked in geriatric psych, used to work in the adult daycares. Got tired of that cause, I get attached to people. I had these blonde moments where it's like, I'd go to pick up somebody and it's like, "They're no longer with us," and I'm like "Where did they go?" and they're like "They're no longer with us," and I'm like, "Okay so what facility are they at, I'll go pick them up there?" and they're like "Hello *knocks*, they're no longer with us." I'm like "Oh, they're no longer with us. Okay, now I get it. Lightbulb. Ding, ding, ding! It got too much so after that, I ended up being a, kind of a housewife. Went back to school. I got a degree as a recording engineer. I thought well that'll be a good degree because there's a lot of crazy people in the recording industry, you see all kinds. And when I told... the boss, this guy Wes Dooley, pretty well known in the audio industry. He was owner of audio engineering associates. I used to, refurbish ribbon microphones and build specialty audio equipment. When I told him I wanted to go full time he goes, "I don't understand why you want to be a second class citizen". And, I was like okay, I never thought of women as a second class citizen, but to each his own. And then when I had these done, my breasts done in, like 2001 I think. I told him I was getting my breasts done, well you know I only hire small breasted women, because big breasted women distract me from my work. Okay, I can see where this is going. So I ended up quitting that job, which I really did like. I ended up quitting and becoming a office manager, escrow officer, loan officer, notary for a loan company at hard money loans. This guy that I knew, he hired me and I ended up working there for a few years, something like 2002, somewhere around 2002, 2003 to like 2006 when the loans started crashing. Then after that, I tried to do some loans on the side. I told Janet that if I don't get anything that I'll look for other work. The post office was hiring and I never thought I'd get a job at the post office but they're really into diversity, which I didn't know. So I got hired on, but my driver's license had already been changed to Desirey, had it already set to where it said female, so I wouldn't get that clash about using the wrong bathroom, you know, back then, but my social security card still said M, because I hadn't had my full surgery yet. I remember going to work at the post office, and of course my supervisors had access to my records. So, in my records showed M, but I was working as a female. I remember a couple, well when I went to my orientation this one, ex-marine -- not that I had anything against marines, my father-in-law is a marine and my brother is a marine. But anyways we were in orientation and I kept on raising my hand cause I had questions, and he was like "Yes, sir?", and I said, "its ma'am", and he answer "Yes, sir." So I said, "Call me sir one more time, and we're going to take a walk over to HR, and we're going to explain to them why you want out me. How do you like that private?" Cause I could tell by his marine plaque, that he was a gunny, a gunny sergeant, and he looked at me and I go "Yeah." Some people, back then of course when I started at Douglas it was like '06, so you know the whole transgender thing hadn't progressed yet so there was still people that, liked to flex their power and show that they could try to out me or whatever. But, I didn't put up with it. So I ended up getting a job at the post office, which I enjoyed, quite a bit. (Subjects: jobs, transphobia) I'm a past empress for the imperial court system. Once for Long Beach, I'm the "Bouncy Tigger Transgender Emerald Empress of the 29th Reign," I'm also past empress of orange county. I'm the "Country Western Yellow Rose (Don't Mess With Her), Transgender Emerald Empress of the 29th Reign." So, like when you were asking what do I identify with. Okay in my titles I have transgender and I think that with that I knew when I would walk, as an empress, and they would read off my title, other people would say, "Oh you're transgender, can I talk to you? I've got questions. How did you do this?" or "How did you do that? Can you help me with work?" That type of stuff, and so I ended up becoming like, the spokesperson for transgender. I mean I even spoke. I spoke twice at Cal State Long Beach for the human sexuality class. I spoke once over at the Santa Ana college at the human sexuality class, trying to educate the students of what it means to be transgender. Back at that time I hadn't had my surgery, and wasn't planning on getting my surgery. Didn't really have a desire to get it, until Janet's oldest, Kathleen had, Johnny our first grandson, and back then Janet was the night-night grandma and I was the play grandma. And Johnny and I would wrestle and that type of stuff, and of course he wanted to take a shower with me and so most of the time I would wear swimsuits, swimming trunks, and he was like, "Why do you wear swim trunks in the shower grandma?" Because we have to, let's put it like that. But we would wrestle, even in the pool, my inlaws had a pool. I was always afraid something would fall out. What happens if, and how would I explain it to him? Janet and I talked about it, and we're not really using it, per say, so we ended up taking, we have property out in the desert, we ended up taking a loan out on that property and had my surgery. When was that? 2010. February 16th 2010, is when I had my surgery. My final surgery, the big one. I had that done, and I had my Adam's apple shaved. (Subjects: family, community) I think we should pause and check on steer decorating. So I'm back here with Desirey, so you were just talking about going through the final surgery. What was that process like, emotionally, physically? Well the thing about it is, it was really. When I finally decided to do it, Doctor Bowers who was the one that did it, you have to have all these papers, you have to have this paper from the psychologist, you have to have this paper from the psychologist, the psychiatrist, or therapist and the psychiatrist. All this stuff, plus you had to have been taking the testosterone blockers. And the thing about it was, when I, when I first started my transition I was getting my pills from Mexico, because back then they weren't prescribing it. I have went to, I had Kaiser with Janet, cause Janet worked for the city, and so Kaiser wasn't doing it. I remember asking one of the doctors I said I need to go on hormones, and he said we don't believe in giving something to enhance one person's body. And I'm like, you're not enhancing my body, you're putting it where it's supposed to be. So, when I finally, this was in, finally I think in 2001, I had an appointment for an endocrinologist and Kaiser finally paid for my hormones, and also put me on testosterone blockers and that type of stuff. And so when I had to get these papers filled out from Kaiser, I went into the psych department I had to see the first person, the therapist they had to ask me a bunch of questions. I was like look, let's cut to the fucking chase, basic bottom line, I'm going to get my surgery, all I need you to do, that paper that's there in front of you, just sign it, that's it -- that's all I need you to do. They're like, well how come you never seen, I said cause I don't want to see you guys, I'm tired of talking to you guys, I don't like talking to you guys, just sign my paper, this is easy, I'll be gone, we're done. So they're like no, we need to talk, and I'm like, no we don't need to talk. And the same thing with the psychologist, the psychiatrist, they wanted to ask, I'm just here to sign the paper, that's all I need you to do is sign the paper. Basic bottom line I got the paper signed from them, and got my surgery date and everything. But because I didn't do it the way, that you're supposed to do it, I went around the system. So my surgery was a little bit... different I guess you could say, when I finally got Kaiser to get on board with everything. Like I was saying out there, because I had three kids it's like, they don't give you a manual on how this thing is supposed to work. I'm like, okay, after the surgery, you have to do the dilation, you have to do this, and you have to do that. I didn't know that, typically when you go to the bathroom you don't rub it clean, you pad it. I was like, how come this thing, is bleeding all over the place, well you're rubbing the stitches. Well nobody told me, you pat dry the darn thing. It was an experience for me. Dr. Bowers is cool, she was nice, it was done over in Trinidad, Colorado. Now I understand she moved to Santa Rosa, California or something, but I had it done in Trinidad Colorado, which is a really nice place, snowed, cause I had it done in February so it snowed. Janet does not drive very well in the snow, she doesn't drive very well period. She has a tendency of falling asleep. I remember when we were coming back, I wasn't supposed to drive for a couple weeks. So I'm sitting in the passenger seat and Janet's driving and I'm hearing *brbrbrbrbr* *brbrbrbrbr* I'm like, "Honey are you alright?", "I'm trying, I'm trying," I'm like okay, sitting there *brbrbrbr*, I'm like "Okay, at the next rest stop pull over," "Well you're not supposed to drive," "Just pull over, I'll figure something out." We had borrowed our daughter's forerunner, she had let us use her forerunner instead of taking our car. And it had cruise control so I told Janet, I says, I tell you what I do, once we get going, I'll just set the thing on cruise control, that way I won't put any pressure, I won't put any pressure down there, set the cruise control and I'll be fine. The thing about it was, I was supposed to dilate it, at that time it was 3 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes, so I'm pulling to rest areas, come on get a towel, trying to get some privacy so I can stick this thing inside of me for 15 minutes so I can get to driving again. So, we made it, we made it back. Then I was off from work. Like I said in the post office a lot, when I first started I was an automation clerk, and then I became a mechanic and... A female doing a guy's work, but some of the guys I had already known. There was another girl who had transistioned, she actually was a guy, become a girl in the post office, but I came in as a girl. But, this other person put, put a lot of them through hell, from what I understand, made them take diversity training, this training, that. So when I got into mechanics, everyone thought I was gonna be almost like Sara, I finally had to tell them, look I'm not fucking Sara, don't treat me like fucking Sara, all I want to do is be treated like a human being, and be treated like the person I was meant to be, period. If you can't do that, then don't work with me, I have no problem working by myself; I can get the job done. So, when I went for my surgery, I guess there was a lot of the guys in the mechanics who took up a collection, and they were gonna buy me flowers. Well, Sara caught wind of it, and was gonna file a grievance, she was gonna file an EOO, blah, blah, blah, because they didn't do shit for her when she went in for her surgery. So, the guys ended up not buying me flowers but when I came back, I finally came back to work, the guys presented me with this pink hard hat. I thought that was really cool that that was their way of accepting me into the group. And it got to the point where I had built up a good enough rapport, with my coworkers, that it got to the point where they would come up to me and ask me, "How did you fix this?" or "How did you do this?", "How did you get this done?", because I ended up knowing, cause I knew about working on equipment, or working on buildings. I'm a building mechanic so I have some experience behind doing that. So it got to the point where it was really good, they knew that, I just wasn't some... person that didn't know nothing, I actually do have a head on my shoulders when it comes to that kind of work, so that was kind of neat.(Subjects: homophobia, jobs) And, where were you in the adoption process with your children at this point?(Subjects: family) They were still part of the, part of the foster care system, they were still wards of DCFS. Like I said we had gotten Robert, and he has another sister, and Emariah, a black girl, we got them first, and then Ciara was on her way. So we got him in March, end of March. Ciara was due in June. We picked up Ciara, right out of a hospital, and then, Ciara's grandma, the father of her, who, he was in NORCO state prison. They wanted, Sierra, I mean and Emariah, I mean their side of the family, and I was like, I can understand their point, but I was kind of glad myself, because I did not know how to care for a little black girl. Her hair, I mean trying to figure out how to comb that, and they're whole, I remember the case worker well you know, we don't wash our hair every night. Excuse me? They're out playing, and you don't wash their hair? What kind of shit is that? So I was kind of glad when her side of the family wanted her, cause whenever she would go over and visit, her hair would come back all braided with the beads, the ribbons or whatever in her hair, and I thought, that's what she needs, she needs to be on that side of the family. And Emariah, shortly thereafter they took Emariah to her side of the family and they adopted her. And then we has Robert and Ciara, which Robert and Ciara are only 11 months apart, so I mean they're real real close, and then Christopher the baby was born in January in 2012. And like I said, at first I just did not want three kids, two's enough, there's no way I'm gonna. One of my supervisors at work was like, god's not gonna give you any more you can handle. So i'm like next time you talk to god, tell him that I'm done. This is too much. But I ended up spending the first 3 weeks of his life, with him. I remember, like I said, the case worker calling and saying, well I'm still trying to find someone to take him. I'm like "Yeah, fuck you," you knew what you were doing, my motherly instincts kicked in, and I said he's not going anywhere he's staying here. And he's actually, he's my baby, he's my little cuddlier, if I want someone to cuddle with, he's the one, though he can be a handful, he's a handful. But at night when he's telling you, mama, arm, so I put out my arm, and he puts his head there and then he takes my arm and moves it to where it wraps around him, I'm like, okay, Im done, I'm done.(Subjects: family) So what motivated you to take on these three?(Subjects: family) Janet, Janet, I didn't want any. I did not want to raise, at 50 years old I wasn't anywhere near wanting to raise, raise babies again. I'm 57 now, I'll be 58 in November, and it's funny because some of the guys, when I came into the post office, I mean when I finally came back full time regular. You can buy back your military years, so I bought back my military years, I have 8 years, 2 months, 13 days I bought back through the post office which means I have that towards my retirement. So I think, 12, I'm done, we're hitting the road Janet, we're gonna see the sights. Now, some of the guys mess with me like, yeah Desirey, so how long you got in the postal service? I'm like "F you, I've got a 5 year old, I've got 13 at least, 13 more years until he gets out of high school before I can get out of the postal service." So I'm like fuck you, shut up, just shut up. There's, there's good days and there's bad days, I mean there's days when it's like, why do we even bother doing this, cause we do have some issues with the 2 boys. They got the brunt of the drugs in their system from their parents. Christopher had tested positive for opium and meth in his system. And Christopher was on AZT for about the first 4 months of his life, both parents were HIV positive and hep c, they took Christopher C-section so that none of the blood would be on him, but just to be on the safe side they put him on AZT. So I mean they've got some stuff, sometimes it manifests itself and you're just like, why did I do this, but then there's those moment where it's like okay, okay, it's good. Like going to the rodeo, they really love, we've been bringing them to the rodeo since they were babies. A lot of the people that's out there, they know my kids, and it's like a family reunion for them. So they get to come out here and see their uncle Red, or this other cowboy they know, or some of the cowboys that have horses when they're practicing will sometimes throw the kids on the horse and give them a ride. So they just love it, they love being a part of that, and it's fun for them.(Subjects: family) And when did you first get involved with gay rodeo?(Subjects: family, injuries) In '99 is when I became a member. I didn't compete back then, I was still in the court system, pretty heavily in the court system. But I did volunteer, they'd look at me, and I'm kinda stout, to say the least, and I'm a kinda a... butch looking girl sometimes. So they used to put me as far security they would put me in these gates, and they'd say, we're gonna put you in security cause no one's gonna mess with you. I'm like I'm not that kind of girl, I'm not a fighter, my brother is the fighter of the family. I mean, I remember getting into fights and, I didn't back down from a fight, but people would be like, there was one time I was at a skating rink, this was junior high, and this guy wanted to fight me. We were going around the corner, and so he says, "Before I fight you, who are you?" And I said "I'm Rey Benivedes." He said "Stop, what did you say your name was?". And I said "Rey Benivedes." "Do you have a brother?" And I go "Ya." And he goes "What's your brother's name?" and I'm like "Rick Benivedes." "Oh, never mind," and I'm like, "What are we gonna do this or what?" "No never mind." So I remember going home that night, and like I said my brother and I are a year and a half apart so he's younger than me. So I'm getting ready to go to bed, my brother and I stay in the same room, and I said, "I was gonna get in a fight with this guy and, I tell him your name and he didn't want to fight me," and he goes, "I'll take care of it". And I'm like, "Don't take care of it, Rick, it's already done." So then I remember the next day at school, I heard my brother had got suspended, and I'm like "What did you do?", he goes, "Well remember that guy, well I took care of it he won't mess with you again." And I'm like, "Rick, he wasn't gonna mess with me in the first place once I mentioned your name." And he's like, "Well he won't mess with you now, and I'm only suspended for a day" So, yeah I'm not too much of a fighter. So anyways I would do security and stuff and then, when did I start competing? I don't know people say it was almost 2011, 2012. When I got the bug, somebody had asked me they needed a girl for wild drag. They said all you have to do is this, I could do that, I could do that, and after that I got the bug, and then I did that most of the time. And then some girls, in San Francisco's rodeo said, "Hey a friend of ours needs a person for Steer deco, you've got some guns on you." Well ya my arms are kind of big, but I've never done this, and they're like, "Aww you'll be fine." Got into steer deco, so yeah it kinda progressed. I've been laid out in the area, at Santa Fey Springs I was laid out for a few minutes, had the wind knocked out of me, from a steer stepping on me. My wife, my kids ran out, ohh mom are you alright, Ama, Ama, cause I go by Ama, I took on my mom's name when she passed, cause that's what I used to call my mother, Ama. So I took on Ama and Janet's mom. So Janet will ask me, "So how much longer are you gonna be doing this?" I'm like, "I don't know man, maybe when I hit 60 I'll stop." But, the guys that's my partner, he's 62 and he's still competing, so I don't know, I don't know. I know, I'm not getting any younger, things start breaking down, a lot easier, when you start hitting those ages.(Subjects: family, injuries) And both in the court system and in rodeo did you do a lot of entertaining? Yes, oh ya. What is your specialty? Well country western, cause I'm a country western girl at heart. So a lot of the music that I do is, country western. People say, "You'd be great doing this one". Well ya I've done Britney Spears and worn a school girl outfit, I've done all kinds. My first emperor, when I was in Long Beach cause I'm Benevides, and he says, "You ought to do something from your culture." Like, I didn't wanna do nothing, so I ended up doing, Linda Ronstadt when she did the music for her father, the mariachi music. I've done Paulina Rubio, so I've done some Hispanic stuff. I've done, but most of the time when I perform, even when I became royalty for the LA rodeo, before they folded. And then I was asked to be royalty in 2015, for Palm Springs, I do country western, thats just the kind of music I usually like to listen to. And did you hear about the rodeo through the court system? I think so, I think in '99 I heard about it, and I went to my first rodeo and I liked it and I joined. Janet and I joined, and it was just Janet and I. Janet would work the ticket booth, or where they'd ban you for making sure you're old enough to drink, she's not much into... manual type labor, and I don't mind it, so, that's how we got into it. And then, one year, at the LA rodeo, they were honoring the royalty. I remember walking, me from Long Beach, the empress from LA, the Empress from Santa Monica, the empress from Ventura we all kind of, was on the grand entry. I think I heard from it, through the court system cause I mean, I was pretty, I stayed in the court system a pretty long time, I mean '99 till, 2003, cause after I got out of being empress I ended up being president of board of directors for both organizations. Then finally I got tired of sitting around looking pretty with a gown and a crown and I wanted to do something, I'm very hyper active. And so I thought, "Where can I go to, where I can still be a girl, still have fun, still move around? I'll go in the rodeo, start competing, I mean now I compete as a girl." So that's what I ended up doing. Have you ever experienced any of that, you talked a little bit about the transphobia that you has seen in the gay bars, have you ever experienced that at the rodeo at all?(Subjects: homophobia) No, no, not at all. Everyone's been, and even... even when I started competing as a female nobody really questioned, I mean I did carry the letter around, and I think I sent it in, one time, just so that they'll know, yeah I am official. They never really, questioned are you, you know, actually a female can you compete as a female instead of competing as a male they never really questioned that? So it was... it was never, an issue, as far as the rodeo, they just always treated me as a female. So yeah, it's been, my rodeo experience has always been really good, everybody has been really friendly. Even to my kids, I mean they get rambunctious and they have to scold them every now and then, you know climbing the fence or whatever, but for the most part my rodeo experience has always been good.(Subjects: homophobia) What do you think it is about country western that draws you to it, that you love to perform it?(Subjects: childhood, family, parents) I don't know, like I said growing up as a kid I remember, for Halloween dressing up as Roy Rogers. Didn't get to be Dale Evans but hey whatever. I dressed up as Zorro... and I don't know why I had this thing for, I remember watching Sheriff John, which was a, kinda like the Hobo Kelly, the romper room back in the day, captain kangaroo, back in the day, watching that. But I don't know, I've always had an infatuation for western, my dad wasn't, my dad was not western, my mom was not western. My grandparents on my dad's side, my grandfather on my mom's side like I said I think he worked in the Kings Ranch for a while, he was a jack of all trades, he was a really smart man, too bad I couldn't speak Spanish so I can understand what he knew, because he knew a lot of stuff. But my dad forbid Spanish speaking in the house, so my brother and I didn't get to learn it, my parents are bilingual.(Subjects: childhood, family, parents) Can I ask why your dad did that? (Subjects: childhood, family, parents) My dad grew up in a small town, Kingsville, at that time it was a small town. And my dad wanted to be like a white man, he wanted to have the two cars, two houses, a wife and a mistress, so he forbid any Spanish speaking in the house. The only Spanish speaking my brother and I heard was when my parents were arguing and they didn't want us to know what they were arguing about. All Mexican food was forbidden, except for the American type, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, cause my mom, knew how to cook all that, she knew how to make homemade tortillas, you know the whole shot. So, he didn't want to have, nothing to do with them, I mean, even to do this day people kid around with me, some of the people that know you know I'm Hispanic, they'll say, you aren't Hispanic you're a coconut, and I'm like that's right, I'm brown on the outside white on the inside. I didn't grow up in a predominantly Hispanic, type culture. I grew up in Lakewood, Lakewood High, right around the corner was Lakewood country club, all my friends that I knew were, white. That's all I knew, didn't speak any Spanish, none of that stuff. I could understand some Spanish because, my grandma on my dad’s side didn't speak any English, and my grandfather on my mom's side didn't speak any English, so my grandma Alaniz even though she spoke some English, she would speak in Spanish. And of course, when grandma speaks you better know that she's saying, so if she says, "ben para ka" you better come cause you know, something's up. I knew enough to get me, to keep me out of trouble but that was about it, I didn't speak. And I remember taking Spanish in junior high and ended up getting kicked out of the class, because my mom helped me with my homework, and my mom speaks tex-mex, which is kind of a slang Spanish, and the Spanish teacher had said something about my mom. And I went off on her, and I got called to my principal's office, and then when my mom came by to pick me up and I told her my mom what this lady done, and then my mom went off on this Spanish lady, and I didn't have to go Spanish class anymore so ended up only had 6 periods instead of 7 so I got to take off early every day. I didn't get to, sometimes people say, "Don't you ever want to learn Spanish?" No, I have no desire, when I had my surgery, my step daughter said, "That would be a good time for you to learn a second language, you get one of those Rosetta Stone, I'm not gonna learn any damn language." If I'm gonna learn anything its sign language, so I bought some books, I knew how to do A B C, so I started learning that type of stuff, how to spell my name in sign, that type of stuff. And I, because I work with, Handicapable Adults, these are adults with Down syndrome or mental disability. I'm a Square Dance Caller, I learned how to be a square dance caller back in '93. I started working with these kids, they're adults a lot of them, but mentally their kids. And some of them, they communicate with sign because their vocabulary is not very good. They can understand me, and I have one girl that, she's not dancing as much anymore, they get to the point to where sometimes they don't. She's deaf, but she knows what I'm saying by watching the other dancers, so I thought that would be kind of cool if I could learn sign language, but I just never did. It's one of those things where if you don't use it all the time you can't communicate, you have to be able to sign, to do it enough, and I just don't do it enough to be able to do that.(Subjects: childhood, family, parents) And do you square dance and 2-step?(Subjects: homophobia, dance) I do square dancing, I don't 2-step. I do western themed parties where I'll teach some easy line dancing. People are like I want to learn slap and leather, no I won't teach you that. Something that's easy that everyone can get up and do, that's the stuff I do for western parties. And I teach square dancing, and of course when I did do my transition I lost a lot of my bookings, when I finally became Desirey. So I don't call anymore for the... normal, if you wanna call it that, the normal group, I don't call anymore for that, I typically just call for my Handicapable dancers. There was an article done by a writer, KCET... on how, because of who I am and cause who my kids, I call them my kids, who they are, how we kinda connect and they are misunderstood for who they are and sometimes they get ridiculed, how I was misunderstood how I get, used to get ridiculed. Some of these kids, they still do know me as Rey, and they'll still say he, and sometimes some of them will call me Rey, but I don't, I don't get mad at them, cause I know who they are. But there are other callers, other people that still remember me and they call me Rey, they'll call me he, and I'm like, "Hello?", and they're like, "Well I just remember you from back then," and I'm like, "Been a female for, since, hello, you know, 2000, when I started my transition, come on, get with the program."(Subjects: homophobia, dance) Do you think, you said you lost some bookings, was that simply because you were recovering-(Subjects: homophobia, dance) No, I think it was a lot of from my transition, a lot of, a lot of people couldn't quite. But it's weird because I called one dance as Desirey, and I remember there was this one older couple, I knew them from this club that Janet and I went to, and... oh first call... ... and I remember them dancing that night and they came up later on and they said "Wow," and I'd go, "What?" And they go, "Your calling has gotten 10 times better, you're happier, your voice," and I'm like thank you, so, I guess for me to be me, it showed even in my square dance calling.(Subjects: homophobia, dance) So I was just wondering, over the, time that you've been here, what almost 20 years, in gay rodeo, what are the biggest changes you've seen?(Subjects: igra, family) More families, more kids, I have noticed that, first coming out to the rodeos it wasn't as many kids, and one of the things that, as royalty, that I was bringing up as the fact that we are getting more gay couples that are having kids, and they're coming to the rodeo, and we need to start doing more, family oriented stuff. San Francisco did some really neat thing, they had a play area, but it was filled with corn kernels, and my kids had a blast in there. I mean they were just digging in there and coming out of all of these corn kernels they had in there, kind of like a big sandbox but out of corn kernels. But I think with more gay couples getting children, adopting or however, however we have them, or get them, I think we should start doing more family oriented stuff. And I mean I understand that, where the rodeo came from, and a lot of it is still the drag queens, and there is still a lot of drinking, but we need to start gearing, looking our focus, we have that, that's good, it keeps our major, the majority of people who come to the gay rodeo, keep them happy, but at the same time, for the parents, the couples that do bring out their kids, I think we ought to do something for them. And that's one thing that Red, the guy I compete with, and my kids, they end up calling him uncle Red, and he does things with the kids: teaches them how to rope, or plays bulls with them, or whatever. He's just a big kid at heart, he'll get the squirt guns out or whatever. So I think that's kind of neat, there's someone like him, to keep the kids busy.(Subjects: igra, family) And as someone who does, camp events, what do you think the sort of value of having those types of events at the gay rodeo is?(Subjects: events) Well, I mean, I think mostly our camp events is geared for us, and it does, I think a lot of the spectators get a lot out of it. It's something they chuckle about, they have fun watching, weather its putting underwear on a goat or watching a guy in drag trying to get up on a steer and cross the 70 foot line. But that's our draw, that's our draw, that's why everybody comes. I mean I'm not saying everyone comes just to see the camp events, but they do have a tendency to stay in for that. That's why you notice the wild drag is at the end, because they're trying to keep the people in the seats, that’s what makes us unique, I think. When I talk about rodeo and I talk about it to people that might do the straight rodeo... they just don't understand. It was funny talking about straight rodeo, I took the kids, because my kids have gone to gay rodeos all the time, and as you can see they're running up and down the bleachers, they're running around with Red, just all over the place. So I took them to a straight rodeo, and Janet and I were sitting there, and the events, not all the same but there's a few, but my kids were running up and down the bleachers, and a lot of the people there -- not giving me the evil eye, but like why aren't you controlling your kids? And I was like, "Sorry, my kids are used to a different rodeo," a rodeo that's more like a big family reunion than it is a rodeo for them, because I've been competing for so many years that, for them, they get to see all these. Just like today, half a dozen people coming up to me saying, "I haven't seen your kids in so long, they've grown, they've gotten bigger." A lot of them have seen them when I first brought them out and they were babies, Ciara was in a baby thing. Christopher, all of them, so, not only for this rodeo, they watch the kids, grow, in the rodeo. Like, when they have the community goat dressing, my kids usually compete in it, and they help them out. There's always some cowboy that's gonna help them out, and they get a kick out of it. So then when I talk about putting them into a junior rodeo, and they say, I want to do what you do, I want to do goat dressing and steer deco, I'm like, "They don't do that in those rodeo's, I'm sorry you're gonna have to do the stuff they do in their rodeo." That's kinda where it’s at, the camp events, that's what makes us a gay rodeo, that's what makes us fun. And you know, girls get to compete at some of the same stuff guys get to compete in, steer riding... bull riding, chute dogging, you don't ever see a girl competing in throwing down a steer, you don't see it. But, in our rodeo, whatever the guys do, the girls can do it. Have at it, if you want, if you're game to do it then do it. So that's one thing that's nice about our rodeo is that we don't have that gender thing of saying, "No, I'm sorry you're a girl, all you can do, like in those other rodeos, is barrel racing, you can't do bronc riding you can't do, some of these other events, all you got is barrel racing, that's it." Whereas in our rodeo, and even for our guys, the guys do barrel racing, the guys do pole bending, the guys do some of the events that, in a straight rodeo would be predominantly a female type sport.(Subjects: events) So, a couple of other people have mentioned to me that, rough stock events aren't as popular as they once were in the association, that bronc riding for instance, isn't offered today, why do you think that would be?(Subjects: events, injuries) I think for us, a lot of us still have jobs, we still have to get up and go to work. We still have to get up on Monday morning and be able to do our job. We're not, a lot of us are not 100% rodeo that's all we do, where as you see in some of these other rodeos, that's their job, they go from rodeo to rodeo. Ours is, the basic bottom line is ours is for fun, you're coming out you're having fun. So there's not many people that are... probably fluent in that event to provide it. if you only got maybe one person, what's the use in having the event, that person is gonna win, but at the same time you only got one person. If there was enough people that were interested in it, then maybe it would be something that was beneficial, but there isn't, and at the same time, even though we do provide bull riding, I think everybody associates rodeo with bull riding. The first thing people say about rodeo is, even for me, they're like so you ride a steer, or bull, no, I just wrestle them around a couple times, and they find that, kinda hard to believe, ya I don't do chute dogging, I'm not gonna throw them on its back, there's no way my body strength can do it, I don't think, because I had back surgery, I have 2 screws holding my right foot together, there's just, I mean I would love to try it, just to say I did it, just the same thing with steer riding. I wouldn't mind trying it once, although Janet would probably shoot me, if I did. When I was with my first wife, I was stationed at Edwards Air Force base, they had a rodeo team, I wanted to join, because prior to going into the military, me and this guy I knew, in Redding, we were gonna go into team roping, and I was training to do heeling, get into heels. But I ended up going into the air force so we didn't get to compete. But they were actually looking for someone to ride bulls, "Well we're gonna train you on a baby bull," and I'm like "yeeaaahhhh, I've got 2 kids, I don't know if I should be -- ." And that's the thing a lot of us, we have to think about that. Hey, I've gotta get up on Monday morning and go back to work, and my job, I don't sit behind a desk or something like that, so I have to be able to do what I have to do, the next day. But for rough stock, the ones that we have are the ones that people want to watch: throwing a steer on its back, steer deco is somewhat rough stock cause the fact that you're wrestling that. But it's also somewhat camp because who ties a ribbon on a steers tail, not that we're tying it. But in a roundabout way, that's what we're doing. So I think what we do as far as rough stock, it's enough, it brings in the people and they get to stay and they get to watch, it's just like in Nascar, people say you don't go to Nascar to watch the cars go around the track, you actually watch it so you can see if there's gonna be an accident, a crash, I think it's the same thing. It's good to watch, but after a while you wanna see that F-ing train wreck, it's not funny but we do play with 1,000 pound animals and anything can happen. Like I said, I've been laid out on the arena, it's not fun, I've had my foot stepped on, that's not fun, butted heads with a steer on wild drag. It's part of the adrenaline rush that we get, even my boss, when I was leaving today, leaving yesterday, he was like, "You better be careful, you better come back to work," I'm like, "I'll be careful, don't worry."(Subjects: events, injuries) And as someone who has really brought up your kids around this, what would you hope for the future of the association?(Subjects: igra, family) For me... I don't really have a whole lot as far as where do I see myself, as far as the association. I just continue to support it, whatever way I can. In 2015 when they asked me to be royalty and I was like "Ahhh, been there done that, it's a lot of work." You try to, as... you know even as empress you try to travel, cause that's the way you promote your organization you gotta travel, you spend money because you don't get a travel fund, it comes out of your pocket. And then representing, looking nice, your outfits, whatever. So I try to support the rodeo, and I just want to see it continue to thrive. What I wouldn't mind seeing is, a little on down the line, if my kids were able to compete, not that they had to be gay, or even Ciara be a lesbian, but just that if they get to that point that they would like to, to compete, that would be kinda neat. I don't, I haven't really looked at the bylaws, I would think they would have to be at least 18 to compete. But that would be neat. if they were to follow someone in their footsteps, and compete in some of these events that I do, but if they find interest in it that's fine, if they decide no, they just wanna keep continue go with momma just to watch it that's fine too.(Subjects: igra, family) Well they are trying to put underwear on dogs, so(Subjects: igra, family) Yes, they are putting underwear on dogs or trying to ride Lance in the backyard which is kinda funny, but who knows? For me I just try to give them every opportunity to try everything that's out there, I'm not gonna sit there and say no you can't do that it's too dangerous. There's danger in everything. We have property out in the desert, and they ride motorcycles, they ride quads, I have BB guns, I have a bow and arrows. So, I just try to teach them to be safe, and teach them to be, got to know your equipment, whether it’s a motorcycle, a quad, or a thousand pound animal, that you're trying to put a ribbon on its frickin tail, so it's one of those things.(Subjects: igra, family) As a cowgirl, what does it mean to you to be able to compete as a cowgirl in these rodeos?(Subjects: cowperson) Oh, it's the ultimate -- I mean for me, I had put on Facebook prior to coming out here that I was real nervous, because I had started my recovery last year. Spent a few years in Kaiser, addiction medicine. Last year's rodeo, I was only like 14 days sober, which was still new, and this year, I'm over a 100 and some odd days, or over a year sober. So for me, it's the adrenaline rush. I mean, it's knowing that I get to do something that I've always dreamed about doing is competing in a rodeo, I may not be doing team roping, I mean I don't own a horse. First thing everyone asks me, "So you own a horse?" "No." I keep on joking with my wife I want a horse, but they're expensive and I think my RV costs us enough. But, for me it's just fun and it's the comradery , I get to see a lot of people that I've seen in the circuit since I've started. And then to just, some of the I look up as being the pros, the ones that really, always seem to get the buckles, always seem to get the number one ribbon tell me, "Good luck, you'll do good." Like when I posted on Facebook, that I was nervous about coming out here, how many responses I got saying "Girl you got this, it’s like riding a bike don't worry, you'll get it done." So that was nice, people encouraging me and saying, "You can do this, you got this, don't worry about it." Getting out there for the first time, in steer deco, I was a little nervous, and a little apprehensive about getting behind the steer and putting a ribbon on them, but once I did it felt good, felt good. Same thing with goat dressing, I'm sure I'll have the same jitters for wild drag, but once I've got that thousand pound animal coming at me, it'll all go out the window.(Subjects: cowperson) Well is there anything else you wanted to say? No, this has been real interesting. Glad I could help out, if there's anything else you need to ask, you got my email. Thank you so much. Just give me a call, or send me an email, I'll answer whatever questions you felt didn't get answered. Amazing, thank you. You're welcome.

Roger Bergmann Click to filter

This is Rebecca Scofield, I'm here with Roger Bergmann, past IGRA president. It's November 19th and we are at the International Gay Rodeo Association Annual Convention 2016. And yeah, could you tell me a little about where you grew up?(Subjects: ) I grew up in Northwest Montana, in Kalispell, Montana, near Glacier National Park. And, as a youth, my parents never went to the annual county fair, but I would ride my bicycle to the fair in August every year and leave it leaning against the fence and stay there all day for the four days. And there would be a rodeo on the weekends and I'd go in and watch the rodeos.(Subjects: childhood, parents) What did your parents do for a living?(Subjects: parents ) My dad was a full time meat cutter, had his own meat shop inside of a small grocery store. And my mom worked as a secretary at various small businesses around town after I was about 6 years old.(Subjects: parents, jobs) Did you guys live in town? We lived in town, only like a half a block from the downtown area of Kalispell, which when I was growing up it was about a town of 15,000 people. Now it's probably about 45,000.(Subjects: childhood) Wow, did you stay in the area after high school or? I was there until I was 21 and I had gone to the University of Montana, I graduated from college in 1971. The Vietnam War was still going on but I had applied for a conscientious objector’s status with the selective service and was granted that. I thought I would be drafted because at that time they were doing a lottery system for people being drafted and the ping pong balls…it's just like lotto, they had numbers on ping pong balls and my April 18th birthday came up as number ninety—so I knew I would likely be drafted. So instead of waiting for the draft to happen, there was a period where—it was very confusing, but the selective service law had lapsed but I knew it was going to be re-instituted by congress so I went ahead and volunteered for my alternate service, and ended up going to California for the alternate service for something called the California Ecology Core, which is now the California Conservation Corps.(Subjects: jobs) Wow, so you were really coming up in the thick of it there. Yeah, at the time I did not realize or accept the fact that I was gay or I could have gotten that for a deferment for the selective service. But, I did get deferred as a conscientious objector. And were you involved in any relationships at the time? Uh no, I didn't actually come out, even going into a gay bar until I was almost 31. And I ended up in a long distance relationship with someone when I was probably close to 40.(Subjects: comingout) And where did you move to when you left Montana? Well, I was yeah, when I left Montana for this alternate service it was in Bishop, California. Bishop was a small town of about 8,000 people and outside of it was this California Division of Forestry Center and it had previously been a minimum security prison camp for people to fight fire but in the early 70s, California courts were realizing minimum security prisons back onto the street so they had four of these camps that hold 80 people were empty so Governor Ronald Reagan and the state of California created the California Ecology Corps so they could fill up these centers to have bodies to fight wildfires and do public works projects when there weren't fires.(Subjects: jobs) ... ... So during this career you're doing, were you starting to grapple with your sexuality at all? What was the sort of culture like? Well, the Forest Service is a fairly conservative organization, especially when I first started. It was about 1977 that I became full time with the Forest Service rather than seasonal jobs. And at this point I still had not accepted my own sexuality, it was about 1981 that I finally went into my first gay bar. And I was nervous as could be when I was going in. It was a bar called the Eye Beam in San Francisco and I loved to dance, so I would always go out there, I wanted to be ready to dance at nine o’clock nobody goes out ‘til 10:30 but I'm there early. But as soon as I got into the bar and walked around there were a few pool tables and people playing pool and I felt totally comfortable and at ease and, felt that yes, it's not just a curiosity. I am gay.(Subjects: comingout, community, highlight) And did being in that look, that community make that better for you? Make it…?(Subjects: community ) It made it better for me in my mind, but I was still closeted with my friends and family. But I quickly told my best friend who lived in Bishop and my sister about a year later and my parents about three years after I first went into the bar, I was about thirty four I guess when I told my parents.(Subjects: family, comingout) And how did your family take the news?(Subjects: family ) My sister, no problem. My parents, really no problem. It stunned them, but there was no rejection. My father thought and verbalized, “Oh this is just a phase, a curiosity, it'll pass you'll get married someday.” And I said, “No, that's not going to happen.” But there were no problems. My mother discussed things about my relationships throughout the years, my father never really talked about it. I didn't push the subject with him but we had a very good relationship. I know he loved me, I was with him the last three months of his life, helping take care of him every day, and it was, I feel really fortunate with the family that I have.(Subjects: family, comingout, parents) So how did you first hear of a gay rodeo? Well, after I had gone into my first bar in 1981, in San Francisco I saw a flyer on the wall for the National Reno Gay Rodeo which was the first gay rodeos that were held. They started in 1976, I believe it was, by a man named, Phil Ragsdale, in Reno, Nevada. And I went to the rodeo in August of 1981 shortly after I had gone into my first bar, because of the flyer that I had seen. So there were about 8,000 people in the stands. There was only one gay rodeo a year at that time and that was in Reno. A lot of people from San Francisco and Los Angeles would get up there for the rodeo. And I went, from 1981, I went every year until they closed. They had their last rodeo which I think was 1985, I believe. They started in ‘76 and they had nine rodeos before they ended up going into bankruptcy and not having another rodeo. But by that time, it was probably about 1983, I was at a parking lot country western dance there during the rodeo weekend and I heard a couple of people talking next to me and I didn't know who they were, and I didn't approach them but, one man had a very melodic voice, I mean it was a voice you could not mistake. And I found out later that it was Wayne Jakino who was a co-owner of Charlie's in Denver, Colorado, and he became one of the first rodeo announcers for the International Gay Rodeo Association. And he was also the founding president of the IGRA. And he had had a voice that was unmistakable and just really pleasant announcing voice. But I heard him talking about the group from Colorado and how they had to get more people to come out to Reno for the rodeo. That's amazing. What would an average weekend at the Reno rodeo look like? What were you doing? That I'm not going to talk about. [Laughter]. Those weekends were pretty wild. That was a just at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. I came out to my first bar in 1981, and it was shortly after that I picked up a San Francisco…I can't remember what the…The Bay Guardian, Baysomething…the gay newspaper up there, and they still didn't call it AIDS it was just this, “the gay disease” and some other kind of non-specific name. Nobody knew what was causing it or anything. But there were the dances, I would go to the country western dances at the local bars, they didn't have anything really at the rodeo grounds the first year. But then Joan Rivers was the grand marshal for one of the events, and they did have a big night time party at the Washoe County Fairgrounds after the rodeo with Joan Rivers there. And that was where the first concept for the Mister and Miss and Ms IGRA came from, but they only did a Miss competition at the National Reno Gay Rodeo. And they would raise money starting in 1976, they were raising it for muscular dystrophy mainly. And then later on they also raised money for the local senior community and the seniors would come out and help at the rodeo.(Subjects: community, highlight) Now as it started to grow and become more of an association were you involved with that? As I said, the Reno rodeo ended in about 1985 or probably ‘84 at that last rodeo I, the Sands Hotelin Reno was the host hotel and a gay group called Great Outdoors was hosting a dinner for just anybody that wanted to go on Friday night. So I went to the dinner and ended up at a table of eight sitting next to Al Bell and his partner Pat McGrath who were just getting ready to open up a country western dance bar in Long Beach, California and so I was visiting with them throughout this period of this dinner and I told them I was an avid country western dancer so I got to know them and started going to their bar shortly after it opened. And Al Bell was the founding president of the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association, GSGRA, and even though I lived about five hours from Long Beach, I didn't really go to their meetings but I got involved I became a founding member of the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association. And went to their first gay rodeo in March of 1985 and in September of 1985 was the first IGRA convention that was held in Denver, Colorado and the four founding groups, Colorado, Golden State—California—Arizona Gay Rodeo Association and New Mexico and also Oklahoma was there to be seated as the 5th group in September of 1985. I went to that convention only knowing Al Bell, really and I sat in the back of the room and wasn't even sure if I was allowed to be there. But nobody said anything about I couldn't be there and I met John King who was the president of Arizona Gay Rodeo Association at the time. And a number of people and kind of was brought into the fold. John King has been a good friend ever since. Al Bell has passed away a number of years ago. But so I was at that first convention and had a good time meeting people and seeing the organization of the International Gay Rodeo Association.(Subjects: highlight) So how many people total were probably at that first convention? Oh that first convention there were probably less than thirty maybe and most of them were probably from Denver. I mean there were a few people from each of the four founding associations and and Oklahoma which was the fifth that came in that same year. Now do you like all forms of dance or country western most particularly? I like all forms of dance but I mean when I was in the 6th or 7th grade, a lot of people went to our church and learned how to do the Fox Trot and the Waltz and the two step and then we all went to the school dance and did none of that. Yep and so as the rodeo got underway with the association did they usually have dances along with them? There were only four rodeos that first year, really. And dance was very popular, country western dance was extremely popular in the mid-80s to about 1997 there was a lot of country western dance, a lot of country western gay bars, and that's where we drew most of our spectators from so—and that was before there were a gay cruises and gay travel companies and a lot of other options, so the fact that the gay rodeo association had had come out and we were having four rodeos and then five rodeos and then six rodeos a year a lot of these dancers would plan on going to those rodeo events because each of them would have a good country western dance usually at the host hotel.(Subjects: events) And why do you think country western was so popular at that time? I honestly don't know how it happened. I mean, I grew up in Montana and I hated country western music. When I was living in Bishop, California, it was a five hour drive to get to Los Angeles but I went down there in…you know I came out in the spring of ‘81, Valentine's Day weekend was my first time in a gay bar. In June, I went to the gay pride event in Los Angeles, and I heard some people talking about this place that they'd gone to the night before and they talked for thirty minutes about how much fun it was and everything and before they told the name of the bar and that it was a country western bar and so I went there that night. It was called the New Town Saloon on Santa Monica Boulevard. And it had swinging doors just like a saloon, but I stood outside for a minute looking in at everybody dancing and then I went in after I had saw how much everybody is smiling and having a great time, so I went in and a I saw this guy I'm 6 foot 2 and this guy was about 6 foot 5. And he was leading people in a good dance and so I asked if he would teach me how to dance. First I complimented him on how good he was so that he would feel obligated to dance with me. But he took me around and showed me how to do the two step and I fell in love with it right away it was everybody was having so much fun. And probably just a few weeks after that weekend I had to go back to Pasadena for a week of training for the Forest Service and every night I drove over to West Hollywood and learned more about how to dance, learned how to lead instead of just follow.(Subjects: community) And you said you started to have a long distance relationship? Yes, that was with somebody from Seattle. At that time we had a Northwest Gay Rodeo Association, it doesn't exist any longer but I had actually gone I had an older friend who traveled a lot he had an extra discount ticket to fly up to anywhere, so we flew up to Seattle for the weekend. We had heard about this great country western bar in Seattle called the Timberland, which had been they were in an old lodge building of some sort that had this beautiful wooden floor and all four sides of it were these chairs for the officers of this moose lodge or whatever, elks club, or whatever it had been it was it was a beautiful old building with this huge dance floor and we went up there for the weekend and my first night there I saw this blonde, blue-eyed boy dancing the line dance and beautiful smile and having a great time. So I asked him to dance and we danced the rest of the night and the rest of the weekend and every rodeo I would go to by this time I was a rodeo judge, but so I would be going to all the rodeos and he would travel to the rodeos and meet me and then I would fly up to Seattle for a weekend or he would fly to Los Angeles for a weekend. But he had a good job with Boeing, and didn't want to quit and leave and I had a good job a with Forest Service and didn't want to quit that or transfer so it was a long distance relationship for a few years until he passed away from AIDS. And what year did you meet him in? Uh, that was probably about 1992. And so, you were getting more and more involved? Yes, we skipped the part where ‘85 I went to my first Los Angles rodeo and I did travel to all of the rodeos as a dancer and spectator that year of 1985. In 1986, I went to the rodeo and there was a sign on the door as I walked in saying that they were looking for people that wanted to judge the gay rodeos, well when I was growing up in Montana, and even in to high school, I would go to the local rodeo and I would try to guess what the scores were going to be. You know, I didn't know anything about how the judging took place but I would see what the judges were doing and then I would watch the ride and see how close I could get to how they were scoring. So I kind of enjoyed the watching rodeo and thought I could become a good judge, so I volunteered and spent that weekend in Los Angeles with Casey Jackson from Colorado, who had experience in rodeo long before IGRA started. And she had been a bull rider and a rodeo competitor and she was the training coordinator for the rodeo judges. So I sat with her through that weekend and also then went to the Denver rodeo and the Oklahoma rodeo that year and after three rodeos with my prior experience as well, they felt that I was ready to judge rodeo so I got certified as a judge—the second person to be certified as a judge for the gay rodeo association after the Oklahoma rodeo and I judged my first rodeo in November of 1986 in Dallas. The first year that we had the wild drag race. Which was a disaster, we thought it was going to be a great easy event and as soon as the gates opened, we all started blowing our whistles and stopped the event. And everybody got together to talk about how we could fix this and make it work. (Subjects: events) Do you know what the inspiration for the event was? John Beck from Colorado who has been competing since the very first gay rodeo in in Colorado, in fact I believe he also competed at one of the Reno National Gay Rodeos before this formation of the IGRA. And the first Colorado rodeo was before the formation of IGRA as well. He, he can say it better and hopefully you'll have a chance to interview with John too, but he just says I had a dream. And it was more like a nightmare. The wild drag event is usually just a steer with a twenty-five foot rope on a halter. A woman is holding onto the rope ten feet from the gate, as the gate opens she holds that rope and the other two people—a man or a woman in a in a drag outfit wearing a wig and some type of a dress—and a man are standing about forty feet away, they run up to help move this animal across a line seventy feet from the gate I believe it is, and then the drag has to get on and ride the steer back across the line. The way the rule was first written was as soon as the gate opened they were supposed to go out towards this line but stop the steer and get on it and ride it across the line away from the cutes but when that first gates opened those steers took off and were all at the other end of the arena before anybody had a chance to get on it. So that's when we revised the rule that it instead of having to get on before they cross the line they had to take the animal across the line and then bring it back.(Subjects: events, highlight) It's good trial and error. So did you ever compete yourself in any events? I did actually. That first year that I was getting trained as a judge I had not competed yet in in Los Angeles or Denver, but when I went to the Oklahoma rodeo which was the 3rd rodeo where I was getting trained as a judge, I also competed in chute-dogging for the first time. And I had never really seen it so I thought well I'll just watch people go out and then I'll learn it. Well, the first day I was the first person to go out, so I didn't get to see anybody else do it. I dogged the steer in about nine and a half seconds the first day. And then I watched people and the second day I got it in about four and a half seconds. I never did win any buckles, I won a few ribbons. I did some other events, I did—our first we did wild cow riding at first for a few years before we changed it to wild steer riding. The wild cows were more difficult to ride because at that time we also had wild cow milking. So we were using the same cows and they would jump around in the chutes because they weren't with their calf, that's because they still had milk—so they were pretty wild in the chutes. And so we didn't keep that event very long before we went to steer riding. But I never made a successful steer riding. I just…I rode horizontal a lot. I always hit the ground.(Subjects: events) Did you ever get injured?(Subjects: injuries) I spent a night in the hospital after a hard fall in Los Angeles. I collapsed my lung.(Subjects: injuries) Yeah, that's scary. That's scary. But no real interest in in sort of being a bronc rider or roper? I love to dance and I didn't want to screw up my dancing. My grandfather danced until he was in his late eighties. And how did you get involved with the leadership after becoming a judge? Well, I started judging in 1986 and in the spring of 1993 I got a phone call from Wayne Jakino, the founding president of IGRA, and said that he had been talking with some of the other people: Les Campbell was the 2nd president, some of the vice presidents, trustees, etc. And they had…as a judge I had been going to all of the rodeos and at that time, with only four and five and then six rodeos a year, they were having a board of directors meeting before on Friday before each of the rodeos. And I would get in on Friday so I would go and attend the meetings so I was aware of what was happening already and I knew all of the people that were on the board. But they called and thought that I should run for president and I said, “Well, you caught me totally off guard. But I'll think about it.” So I thought about it for a couple of weeks and called back and said that I would. And when the word got out that I was going to run for president nobody else did. And I was voted in by acclamation since nobody else was running against me. And I ran a second year and then the man that I was dating in the long distance relationship passed away in 1994, and I had planned on not running so that I could spend time with him. But when he passed away I decided I would run for a third term. So that I would keep busy over the next year, and so I ran. I was president from 1993 through 1995.(Subjects: highlight) Did it help to stay busy? It did. It kept me busy. It kept me involved with people so that helped get through the grieving period.(Subjects: community) Was the community helpful?(Subjects: community ) Yes, yes. What were some of the challenges you had when you were president? Well, rodeo was growing rapidly. I became president at a time when country music was still on the rise and in 1993 interest in rodeo had grown tremendously. Every year that I was president we brought in two or three member associations. I can't remember now what all they were but every year we were seating new groups and I think our total, the total membership, nobody is a member for the International Gay Rodeo Association you are a member for the association the state association that are affiliated with IGRA, but through all of those associations there were somewhere between 6,500 and 7,000 members across the United States and Canada. The ARGRA, Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association was one of the groups that came in while I was president. So there was always, there was a lot of growth happening and we still didn't really have cell phones and email was not very popular at that time in ‘93, ‘94, ‘95. I was getting written letters, I was making a lot of telephone calls, but it had to be on a hard line, not a cell phone. So I guess those were the challenges.(Subjects: highlight) And so, as you said this was a time of rapid growth, were you as president going to a lot of these events yourself? Well, as I, as a rodeo judge and… So you're still judging while being president? I was judging while president. I was one of the main judges for a while. There were three of us: Chuck Barackman, myself, and Mark Friedann. Neither of them, none of us are judging anymore but one time we were called the three musketeers cause we seemed to be the three judges that were being picked for most of the rodeos. There were not a lot of judges at that time. We were, I was involved in also training new judges so we could build up the pool of judges. But I judged rodeos for a total of sixteen, a little over sixteen years. And I was judging while I was president so, I could get to all of those rodeos because I was usually judging the rodeos.(Subjects: events) Wow, and I mean this is really you know the ‘80s, early ‘90s with the AIDS epedemic. How did that effect the feeling of rodeos and gay culture? At that time the main focus, I mean IGRA and our member associations tried to be involved in raising funds for different charitable organizations. And in the early years, 1985 through probably about 19… maybe all the way to 2000, the main focus of all of the groups was to raise money for different AIDS organizations. Now we’ve branched out and more it's breast cancer, we do things for equine organizations, children’s organizations, we've branched out into a lot of areas not just related to assisting people in the gay community but also other areas. That's amazing. Were they still pretty big parties or as they grew were they getting more focused on rodeo? Well, the rodeo was always the main focus of the weekend and most of the rodeos in the beginning also had some kind of a dance venue at the rodeo grounds, but they would always have a Friday and Saturday night party with big dancing especially on the West coast: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Denver, and Albuquerque. Not so much in the eastern area, they would have parties at the local country bars. There were some, even Texas and Oklahoma I remember having big dance parties at the very beginning but those faded away a little bit. Washington, D.C. had a couple of big parties at the Post Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. Different areas—as the as the dancing became less popular, it was not the main source of our spectators, they had to draw more spectators from their local area than plan on the dancers coming in from around the country. Because other things were happening: gay cruises, gay softball, gay basketball, I don't think there’s gay basketball but there's something or other, soccer, rugby, there's all sorts of things that are taking people from the gay rodeo events that that were so popular at the very beginning.(Subjects: highlight) ... And how…what was the interaction between the rodeos and the communities that were being hosted in did you experience any homophobia?(Subjects: homophobia) Yes. Not so much in the larger cities but I remember the first time that we held a rodeo and I don't remember the name of the city I think it was Enumclaw, Washington. It was about sixty miles south of Seattle when the Northwest Rodeo Association held their first rodeo. The word had gotten out in the community that there was going to be a gay rodeo and when we went over there the morning for the first rodeo there were mostly high school kids and maybe a few people in their 20s holding up signs picketing the gay rodeo and having a lot of anti-gay slurs which I'm not even going to bother to mention.(Subjects: homophobia) ... And as you work with the communities do you people gay or straight express surprise over the gay rodeo at all? Well, even to this day there's people in the gay community that are surprised to hear about it. I mean, a lot of people now find us on the internet, they type in gay, and just find out what’s out there and that's how they stumble upon gay rodeo, and so that may be how there's an event in their area or one that they want to travel to. And within the last ten years there's quite a few straight people that now compete in our rodeos because we are open to anybody that wants to compete and there's a number of people that are very good, especially in horse contestants, that come to our rodeos to compete and they've been very supportive of our membership. Recently, one of the first contestants for the Nevada Gay Rodeo Association, Richard Armstrong, was discovered to have a brain tumor, and he had had surgery, he just actually passed away three days ago. But about a month ago we had a fundraising effort in Nevada, in Las Vegas, and it was the majority of people there were straight people that had known him through the roping and riding equestrian groups, thousands of dollars were raised to help him with his medical bills.(Subjects: events, highlight, community) ... Let's see, so would you consider yourself a cowboy?(Subjects: cowperson) No. [Laughter] Even though I did work on a cattle ranch after I graduated from high school, the summers I did work on a cattle ranch. And mostly the first year just dealing with getting in the hay for the winter season but the following three years I did work with his livestock. Grooming them, brushing them, washing them, and showing them on cattle shows. After I graduated from college and was able to work with them longer into the fall, I did actually go with him to the San Francisco Cow Palace for the Grand National Rodeo that’s held there in October. That year they had a special show for Polled Herefords, which is what he raised. So my picture is actually hanging on the wall in the Cow Palace Center in San Francisco. But it's way up high and it’s this picture of the entire rodeo arena with about a hundred animals being led in by people and I'm leading four animals, four bulls, into the arena for this spectacular show that they did for the rodeo.(Subjects: cowperson) But you wouldn't consider yourself a cowboy?(Subjects: cowperson) Not compared to these people that can ride a horse really well. Even as a judge I was able to ride a horse but I'm not a…I don't consider myself a really good equestrian person.(Subjects: cowperson ) Do you still dance? I still dance, as much as I can. At sixty-seven I've got some problems with my feet but I still dance up a storm when I can. ...

Tre Brewbaker Click to filter

This is Rebecca Scofield and I'm here with Tre, Mr. NGRA 2017 and were at the Texas Tradition Rodeo outside Dallas and its April 1st, 2017. So can you tell me what year you were born? 1982…long time ago.  And where did you grow up? I grew up in El Paso, Texas. Were you more in town? Were you out on a place? I was in town, I lived in the city. Well east El Paso which is now center of El Paso, so yeah I lived in the city.  Did you have much experience with stock growing up? No, my family is traditionally stock car racing, dirt tracks so the communities are very similar, the experiences…however, animal interaction was minimal as a kid.(Subjects: family) Were you at all interested in…like did you want to go ride horses at all? Absolutely, I think anyone who lives and grows up in Texas it's like in your blood. It's very…I think it's culture. Like I feel like the way I was raised and when I grew up it was just there's something…horses are amazing and they're majestic and they are powerful there are just so many positive words I can't think of any negative ones. And who wouldn't want to be involved in something of that nature. What did your parents do? My dad is an architectural engineer and a general contractor now currently its yeah… And my mother stayed home and worked stayed at home so we could have someone there she didn't want to put us in daycare and have someone else raise us. So it made it tough sometimes…eventually she worked you know side jobs.(Subjects: parents, events) Side jobs. Do you have siblings?  I do a bunch of them. I'm the oldest. My parents were divorced so we have step and half-sisters. I have a full brother, a half-brother, a half-sister, and a step-sister in all reality I have 4 siblings. I don't treat any of them different to me they are all the same.(Subjects: parents, childhood) That's great. Were any of them interested in animals or horses growing up? My…I think every girl that I've ever known as a little kid wants a pony. So my sisters totally did…they ended up in music which I'm very thankful for. It's a lot more affordable. And they love it. But they again rodeo's expensive, we couldn't afford it. So I think just going to the events was our extent of it which was just as good for me.(Subjects: childhood, music, events) So how did you end up in New Mexico? I you know you hit that age where you go I have to get out of the house. I'm a very independent person, very go getter. And so I said you know what I want to move out and I met a friend who races and uh he was just getting out of school and was like I've got this house you should move in we can split the rent it was one of those weird things where you are 20 years old and said let’s do it and so I did. And I moved to Farmington, New Mexico which is in the middle of nowhere and the Four Corners and it was fun and everything else is like a series of events that happened that led me to Albuquerque. (Subjects: events) That's amazing. So you are in Albuquerque now? I am. In town or outside of? I'm right on the edge of Albuquerque and everyone says you live to far away I do live like 20 minutes from the center of town which for us is no big deal but you tell everyone else and they are like, “That's so far.”  Do you do you have any stock now? I don't. I don't.  So what do you do for a living? I am a social media specialist for T-Mobile. (Subjects: jobs) Oh wow. So yeah, I love my job. I absolutely take every chance you can cause you never know when it's going to work out and it did. I love it.(Subjects: jobs) That's really good. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here. How long have you been working for them? I've been with T-Mobile for 5 years this May, so 5 years next month, oh my gosh. And it's been amazing. They are very supportive. They know that my title that I'm part of the rodeo that I was Mr. New Mexico Pride last year and they supported that tremendously. (Subjects: jobs) That's right. Very exciting. So how do you identify in terms of gender and sexuality? I'm a male. I'm a dude. And I'm very comfortable in my own skin, I guess, and I'm gay. So how was dealing with your sexuality growing up? Hard. Very much so. And that's internal. You grow up in Texas right you grew up with a southern values that doesn't change nothing has for me but the you go through the “something's not the same.” You don't realize it til like afterthought. And then, “Okay, well maybe I can convince myself otherwise.” So I went through that and that didn’t really change. So I was like, okay. You get to that point where you accept it, where you are like, okay this is me. And then you have to start planning…oh I'm a thinker and a planner and an overthinker and such so it's planning I literally sat there and when am I going to tell anyone? And how? And am I prepared to lose everything I have and start over. That answers is always no. (Subjects: comingout) You got to the day where it was a yes. And it's extremely emotional. You have that one person, if it wasn't for some of my friends who were like dropping hints like they knew it wouldn't have happened, yet. I came out very late publicly to my family. It wasn't a negative experience per say a lot of people say it was but I didn't get shunned I'm happy with that. I'm thought I was going to lose everything and I didn't. I don't have the same relationship with my parents, but I still have a relationship with my parents and that's something that I think they still struggle to this day. But they know and I don't hide it I just don't talk about it. And so, it is what it is. (Subjects: comingout, family, parents) And they are they still in El Paso? My mother is, and my dad is in Arizona now. He moved there for work and so they know. We've talked about and my mom and I talked about it once. She's very religious but not crazy religious and I say that loosely because everybody's definition of crazy is different. And you know I'm spiritual as well so that makes it even more confusing, but I think you know my parents always taught me that it's me and my relationship and that's all that matters. So that's what I do.(Subjects: parents, comingout, religion) And you said you were Mr. New…? New Mexico Pride last year? Wow. So question? Did you come to performing through rodeo or come to rodeo through performing? Great question. I am…I don't consider myself a wonderful performer. That's something that I think some of these people that you'll see this weekend are just amazing. Where I became a performer was, it's for charity. You stand up there and lip sync a song which we do out loud in a car and it's super scary. It's very awkward with a queen or someone in a costume it's very easy because you become something else. And I on stage I mean, “How come you don't have a stage name?” I spent 26 years trying to be someone else, I don't want to be anyone else but me. And so, when I perform, I perform something that's me. I show everybody who I am. So it's a little different from what you will see in other people but I was known to make people cry. I'm very emotional on stage in whatever it is. Because I think that's what you are there to see some sort of emotion, laugh, cry, scare whatever. (Subjects: charity, performance) What's your favorite thing to perform to? I love my country western music. I love country western. See that's what took me to rodeo. I had a friend who came up to me and says you need to run for this. Well, four years later here I am. And I didn't know he was our Mr. [title holder] five years before that. So he was there to crown me and it was a huge deal, for him and for me. That was his legacy. He got to pass it on to someone. I said, “You know I don't want to do pop. I'm like the worst gay ever. I don't…I'm not a Beyoncé fan. I'm not…I hate glitter and the rainbows. I'm not that person.” Once I was able to accept that, no, I'm going to be my own brand because there's gotta be someone out there like me and I'm hoping that one person gets to see it and that's where everything took off.(Subjects: music, performance) Did you grow up listening to country? Oh yeah, absolutely, absolutely. What's your favorite performance you've done to a country song? Great question. Most memorable favorite it’s [inaudible]. I'm performing that here in a few minutes. It's huge. So when I won Mr. New Mexico Pride I was invited if I won to perform the next night at an event, it's like a victory show kind of one of the clubs in town perform. And I had my birthday party the same night, so I was double booked, and you make things happen you just figure it out. So I said okay and we worked with everybody and when I was there and I performed this song that I'm about to perform. It's Jason Aldine, “Gonna Know We Were Here,” because I wanted that to be my motto for the year. Because it says, “We may not be around in 20 years, but they are sure going to know we were here,” like leaving your mark. I think that's what everybody wants. When I got out of the car, I felt like a million dollars that night. It was better than when I won because it was real. (Subjects: performance, music, events) The next day or no, I left the bar, finished, packed my clothes, ran to the car, cause I had to be somewhere else down the road at another bar, I get in the car and the music's playing and it's stops and that song comes on the radio live. And I have no idea why or how or what…I couldn't make that up. I mean, yeah, I could [laughs] but you know that's one of those weird things. And I was just like totally overwhelmed with tons of emotions. So then I was like I'm changing my song and doing it again at this bar cause no one was there to see it. It just made me feel good cause it tells me what I need to do. Like it reminds me of my job and how it feels like that day. So I nobody here has seen me perform it but one person, so I was like well I definitely want to do an up-tempo, lively--I want people to know who I am. And it's it doesn't say I it says we. Cause it's everybody we are a team.(Subjects: music, performance) That's so amazing.  It gives me goosebumps.  So how did you find out about the gay rodeo? How did I…oh my gosh I'm like on everything. I'm social media crazy. How did I learn…? I'm trying to think way back. Someone had a flyer or poster or something. Oh wait! You know what way before that, I found out Nevada had one. I didn't know we had one, but I was in Vegas with my then fiancé now husband and we were in Vegas just on vacation. It's a cheap vacation from Albuquerque, it’s right down the road. And we were at Charlie's in Vegas and they had a poster. And I was like, “Oh I wish we had something like this.” Well, a year later I found out we do. And so I was like, “Let’s go!” And that's when I met Jessie and Jessie’s the one that got me, he pushed me, “This is what you need to be doing. This is where you need to be.” And he was absolutely right.  That's amazing. I haven't been happier. Do you compete in the rodeo? We get a lot of firsts. I am about to compete as soon as I finish performing for the very first time tonight in two events. (Subjects: events) What are you going to do? I’m doing goat dressing which have you seen goat dressing?  I have seen it, but you can explain it.  Goat dressing is crazy, ultimately, and I was telling them this was my way of getting everyone in the rodeo. They were like, “What do you do? Do you ride bulls?” No. No, I do not. I'm not in shape not that I should. I'm like, “You've seen those bull riders.” They, you, they, no. I mean would I love to, I have more respect for them than any other athlete, but they are just amazing people too. But in goat dressing you're basically putting underwear on a goat. I mean that is the gist of it and if you can do it faster as a team then you win. And people are like that's hilarious, no way. And I'm like, “Show up and find out.” I'm like, “Why don't you do it?” “Well…” “What you can't put underwear on a goat?” And there's no no in there. And that's how you build our numbers and so I'm doing that one and doing wild drag race. That is insane. And I’m doing it with two people I just met. One of them I haven't met yet. I'm doing it with Josh from Australia, and he and I were just talking and next thing you know I'm on a team and this girl Ashley from New Mexico, also. So it's really cool that I said well we were on your team but now you are on New Mexico's team. So we are really excited to have him on board and it's gonna be entertaining we will go with that I have no idea what to expect. And are you guys hosting finals this year? We have two events in two months. We have the Z Regional Rodeo in August 11-13th in Santa Fe, and in my hometown of Albuquerque which is 50 minutes South, in Albuquerque we will host the World Finals. (Subjects: events) That's amazing. And the IGRA royalty competition as well. (Subjects: igra, royalty) Wow. Lots of pressure. Oh, I love it. It's totally like perfect. It's nerve racking because for the first time we've had it, all of our past royalty members are out of state or wherever. They are not really involved anymore because there has been a large gap. So I'm really excited to have our IGRA team. They have been extremely helpful like, “How can we help you? Here is our guide.” They have been very helpful, not telling us but guiding us. And it's been it's nice to have thirty people from across the country being there to help.(Subjects: igra, royalty) And you were mentioning kind of a gap that happened? Seven years without royalty. We are the first team since seven years.(Subjects: royalty) Why do you think that happened? A lot of things, I think the there's a change that's happened and thankfully…I don't know 100% about this, but I have my theories based on research and talking to people. We moved our rodeo from Albuquerque to Santa Fe for due to sponsorship…it's a good thing actually, looking at a bad thing it was a better thing to move it financially because we got more money to pay our contestants and such like that. However, in that it is an hour away and all the epicenter everything is in Albuquerque so getting someone it's the same thing as being in Denton having people to drive from Dallas, you think it's not big because I drove ten hours to get here, to me it's no big deal for thirty minutes. But asking your people to drive past eight different things that they normally go to, to something they aren't sure about, outside in the hot sun. We've changed it. Now we have a night rodeo, one of the only night rodeos so it's under the lights which is really cool, it's outdoors in the wonderful August air in New Mexico. So it's going to be something different and it worked last year, now that we have a royalty team. I wanted it, and I was like I need to can I told my Miss and she'll tell you more about how that process went I guarantee she will it's a really good story. About how I convinced her to do it and I didn't convince her but she I won't ruin the story but you will wanna know that one. It's and it'll tell you who she is. So it was a wonderful deal and I forgot the question because I started rambling.  That's fine. We don't need to stay on topic. Can you tell me do you do other things in the gay community other than just rodeo? Rodeo takes up a lot of our time now, every chance we have to raise a cause we are going to. When we do it one dollar at a time. And I love it. Like I absolutely love it. I still help the other organizations we have several of us who are the heads of different organizations. The Imperial Court System um, the Pride organization, um, we have an organization called MM Power which does a lot of HIV outreach, so we directly connected with them as well. We are trying to work on mending, not mending, building stronger bridges, they are there, but they need to be more solid and it's really working. Someone kind of had to take the reigns and then it's always nice the new kid in town and the rodeo’s the new kid in town again. So it's like the new shiny thing that everybody wants to be a part of and we are totally embracing that. And so we're you know hey well come over here we will be a part of yours too, let’s work together. So it's one in the same we all have the same goals. We are doing something for someone and they give us something we can do in a safe place, which is crazy. (Subjects: community) So I know we have to go pretty quick but just I know that a lot of the older members have expressed sort of a frustration of getting younger members and you’re obviously a younger member. I love that. What do you think is that sort of drew you to it, kept you here, and how are you going to draw in other young people? I love the southern lifestyle. I love the everyone’s welcoming. I mean you're here everybody’s so nice and genuinely nice. There's nice cause you have to put on a face, but you don't get that here. Everyone's literally like, “Hey, how are you doing?” And they actually care like they want you to talk to them. They were laughing yesterday cause it took me two and a half hours because I was like oh my god I saw someone and I have to say hi. It's a family, a real family and a lot of us are here talking about earlier is that family is not as strong but it's still there, but you miss that feeling and you get that here. We all understand each other. We are all so different, but…I mean when I left Phoenix it was like I'm not going to see everyone for four weeks. Seriously, four weeks, get over it, right?. I had so much going on in those four weeks I didn't know what else was I going to do, right? But it was crazy how much fun it is. (Subjects: family) As far as getting the youth involved, we knew that was going to be big. Our average age was in the 40's before we joined, before we joined. I don't know that actually, we were included in that number cause it was the end of the year and I'm like, “Oh my gosh, how are we going to do that?” The reason for us, is that again the Santa Fe is very much older community, traditionalist type community very gay friendly. Albuquerque is as well, but is much younger. It's where the bars are, the inner city, it's where all the…it's the city right. So were okay, if I told you, “Hey, there's a rodeo this weekend.” So? Okay so we are going to go put underwear on a goat or we are going to put drag queens on bulls. That's where you get the youth. The camp events are designed to get the youth involved but if you don't tell them about it… I mean you can tell the story two different ways you're going to get different results. And we are seeing it. (Subjects: community, events) We are seeing it in major numbers. And I'm excited, I can't wait for the end of the year so I have quantifying results and I can say this isn't my thought, this is my results. And if it wasn't working, we already changed it. Now we are going to make mini-rodeos in our bar we are using stick horses instead of real horses we are going to get a blow up sheep for our goat and were are going to make them do that, we are going to teach them so they are already involved. The other thing I've learned in promoting, cause I do a lot of race car promoting, when you go to a race you don't know anybody there, you're not going to [stay] you're going to leave. You are going to eat a coke, drink a beer, or you are going to eat a coke, eat a hot dog. [laughs] Drink a beer and go home. Now we have drag shows during the rodeos, so you need to tell them there are other events. It’s a daylong thing. Then you have to tell them, you know, hey, introduce them to the cowboys and the cowgirls so they know who to cheer for. And that's something we are working on because we haven't seen it enough. When they are out there announcing who they are, tell me where they are from; tell me who is from New Mexico. I found out my teammate in wild drag is from New Mexico and I didn't even know her. Of course, it's a big state so it's very possible but if I knew I'd be cheering for her. That's what we do. We are going to watch tomorrow, I've got a big New Mexico flag, we are going to be waving it. We are going to try something different and as soon as you start trying something new, you aren't getting anywhere so we are blowing the box up.(Subjects: events) That's amazing.  We are trying. Well I'm looking forward to your performance. I'll let you go, but thank you so much for your time. Okay it was a pleasure. Absolutely, thank you.  Thank you. And anything you ever need let me know. 

Chuck Browning Click to filter

OK, so this is Rebecca Scofield, and I'm here today with Chuck Browning. It is July 9, [2001.] And we are in Denver for the Rocky Mountain Regional. So can you tell me what year you were born? Born in 1963. And where were you born? I was born in Casper, Wyoming. Is that where you grew up? I grew up in Casper, Wyoming, through 4th grade, moved to upstate New York 5th through 10th grade, back to Wyoming for my final year of high school, then up to Montana for college, then ended in Phoenix, where I've been for 34 years. What did your parents do while growing up? My stepfather was an electrical engineer, so he did a lot of the high-powered power line constructions. So we would move where the work would go to. So, we traveled for most of my adolescence.(Subjects: parents) And what about your mom? Uh, my mom did some accounting work, she did work as she could, and she also helped my dad with his company.(Subjects: parents) And did you have siblings? I have four older siblings, two older sisters, two older brothers. I had two older stepbrothers and older stepsister and two younger stepbrothers.(Subjects: family) Wow. Yah. I'm really impressed right now [laughs]. I'm impressed I can remember all that. [laughs with RS] And can you tell me a little bit about growing up, what your family dynamics were like? Yeah, growing up in Wyoming, things that I remember is going to the fair and the rodeo and seeing the troopers, which is a drum corps, being very influenced by that. It was kind of like that whole cowboy culture. In the springtime, we would go out to Hat Six Ranch, which was a friend of my uncles who had a cattle ranch, and they did roundups. We watched the castrations. We watched the Rocky Mountain oysters. We watched all that going on. I was probably anywhere from four to six years old. So participating in that, I didn't do. But seeing it definitely kind of affected me, my whole culture at that point in time.(Subjects: childhood, family) Moving out to New York, uh, upstate New York, uh, completely different culture, they thought that we still fought with the Indians, you know, I mean, it was just that whole transition of that. We called, you know, a Coke, we called it pop.(Subjects: childhood) Mmhm. They called it soda. So, you know, that whole evolution thing. So then we kind of transferred all the way to their culture and then melded with that, you know, more hockey. It was more about soccer, is more about lacrosse, you know, rodeo? Nobody even knew what rodeo was. So it wasn't really until we got back to Casper, which was my final year of high school, that, you know, and not really then did I get interested in rodeo, it was a little bit even later after college, but yeah, it was kind of a kind of a big change.(Subjects: childhood) And growing up in such a big family. Did you get along with all your siblings and step-siblings? Well, it was most of just the five, the initial five, three Scorpios, a Taurus, and a Leo. And so if anybody knows, you know, that part of you know, it's power signs. So uh, three scorpios alone, the oldest and the last two. But, we did get along. I mean, we because we moved a lot, we had to rely on each other for that transitioning and building friendships. When we moved to New York, we found out that families had eight to 10 kids, you know, so it was like, you know, this guy and well, you know her sister and you go to school with the brother and everything. So it was kind of, kind of nice in that way. When we did move, we did travel a lot. But then my older brothers went to college and it was my sisters and me and, you know, then my sister, we kind of moved back to Montana and Wyoming. So it was we always had that and we're still very close. So.(Subjects: childhood) So in, you know, middle school, high school, as you're moving, did you form any really close friendships that you still think of today? Actually, I have two very close friends in upstate New York, Michelle Rose and Maxine [Jibo]. Michelle is from Chadwicks and Maxine was from Malone. Malone was where I went 7th through 10th grade, so that was probably the most impactful part of you growing up. Maxine, actually I reconnected with her on Facebook because I had lost touch with her and she actually came out to Phoenix and I met with her and I met her partner and talked about, you know, the fact that we both had alternative lifestyles, which was probably why we connected so well. So that was just kind of liberating, I guess you can say. But other than that, I haven't really kept close friendships, even from people in college. I think that maybe just because I'm used to moving and relocating, but I do have a lot of good friends in Phoenix, because I've been there for 34 years. And can I ask how you identify in terms of gender and sexuality? Gender, I'm a man, a he or a him. Sexuality, I had sex with women in college. I prefer to have sex with men. So I guess I'm gay, I guess I'm bi, I guess I'm whatever anybody needs to label me as, that's, I'm good with that. That's great. [laughs with CB] That's perfect. And so growing up did you struggle with that at all? Were you aware of that? Um, concerned about it? I think when I go back to it, I had a teacher when I first moved to Chadwicks, New York. And he was Italian, dark hair, you know, muscular. I look back at that and I was like, there was some reason that I was, you know, there was a connection. I didn't understand it then. But now I look back and I'm like, you know what, that probably was what was going on, but I was just too young to know that. I think I really resisted any of that. Of like seeing guys and saying, God, they're attractive or, you know, or things like that just because of where I grew up in Wyoming and what the talk was and how people that were in the community at the time that identified as being gay and how they were treated. And, you know, it was fear, it was fear-based. And I was like, and I really, those that I did know that were gay, I really wasn't like them. And so I was like, OK, is this black and white? I gotta either be this way or that way because I'm not that way. So there was that struggle, but there was also that uniformity with the culture and the expectations that you're going to have a girlfriend and you're going to get married, you're going to have kids. So I kind of bought into that, I think, probably until I got into college. So, I was in college when I started, uh. I was a lifeguard and was coaching a swim team and hung out with other lifeguards and met a couple other that were gay and lesbians. Started realizing that there's a whole gambit of different levels of this alternative lifestyle. It's not just this way or that way. And where did you go to college? At the time it was called Eastern Montana College. It's now called MSUB, so outside of Billings. Right in Billings, actually. Yeah. And what was your experience like in college and in such a red state? Well, again, because my friends at college were from all different areas and it was kind of like I still hadn't grasped my sexuality. I think I was starting to understand that there was a lifeguard, his name was Jack, and he was open and free about it. And, but he wasn't like the flamboyant type either. So that when I was like, okay, wait a minute, this is a little bit more uh, broader than I kind of thought it was. You know, there were guys that I found attractive, but I really never reacted on it because I was still dating women. I dated two girls in college, you know, and thought, you know, everything was fine until I probably moved to Phoenix and then and realized that I was a trainer at the time. And one of my clients who I didn't know at the time was gay. And, you know, he knew that I was new to town. He says, hey, there's a bar in Phoenix that you should come out and just kind of hang out with us. And it was Charlie's. And, you know, I was like, how did he know? How did I know? You know, I sat in the parking lot for an hour before I went in because I was like, oh, I [inaudible] guys going in there, but. You know, I think that was the turning point for me, and I was like, just just go in there, had a great time. That's really great. Do you think um, if you hadn't had, you know, such a good friend to kind of prompt you, do you think you would have started grappling with it eventually? Well, it's funny how things work out and how life just kind of works. And I think that's what happened. I mean, he, not that I don't perceive myself to be flamboyantly gay or, you know, just broadcast it. Maybe I do, I don't know, maybe I'm confusing myself. But he obviously knew. He obviously knew. And I think he kind of guided me at least that way to find people more like me. And coming from Montana, Wyoming, into Phoenix, which at the time was a big city for me, to actually go into a gay bar and see guys dancing and start to talk to guys and, you know, then start to go to other gay bars and see that there's, you know, country bars, there's the disco bars, there's whatever, you know. Yeah. The leather bars, all that stuff. It was just, it just opened my eyes even more. So when did you graduate college? Graduated college in 1987. And what took you to Phoenix? Warm weather [laughs]. I, I had a girlfriend, I guess you could quote that and uh, I used to teach aerobics in Billings at the [inaudible] Fitness Center and one of the girls there was coming to Phoenix to see her sister. So she invited me to come with her and it was in November. So in Montana in November, you know, it's cold. And we came down to Phoenix and it's 80 degrees and I'm like. Oh, my. Oh, my. This is paradise. So I was about ready to finish college and I just thought, where am I going to go? My brother actually lived down here at the time and I just needed a new adventure and wanted to get to a big city, probably because I was trying to. Just, you know, open up, so, that's why I decided to go to Phoenix. So 1987, would have been right in the middle of, you know, the Reagan years and the AIDS epidemic? Correct. How did that affect your life? Well, I got into Phoenix in November of '87. My grandmother had just passed away. So on my trip down, I stopped in Casper got there. You know, this is when I was kind of like, trying to find jobs. I was, you know, I had my degree was kind of a personal trainer at the time. So I found a couple of jobs doing that and then started to go to the gay bars and then starting to hear about this gay cancer, and all about everything. So for me, it was, it was scary because I didn't understand it. I didn't really know what it was about. I mean, I'm just like getting into being gay and hearing this, and it's like, what the hell? So I befriended an older gentleman. His name is Gary. And I met him at Charlie's and on Friday night and we went to a place where everybody goes for breakfast and we were just chatting and. He was getting ready to go to Flagstaff to work on some people's houses, kind of like a handyman, so he asked me, he said, listen, I need someone to look at my house for the summer. Would you be interested in just staying at my house for the summer? Like what? So I literally did and I mean, and he knew I was from Montana and he told me, he said, listen, I know that you're good people and I'm still good friends with him. And I think he was another person that kind of helped guide me into that and everything. So it was, it was still scary, it was still unknown. I wasn't sure what was going on. But again, because I'm new to all this it was also there is some political stuff going on in Arizona at the time with our governor and Ed Buck and. All that stuff, so it was, you know, it was just crazy. Yeah, but just literally crazy. And, you know, when you started going to Charlie's and opening up more, did you talk at all with your family about it? I did not. In fact, let's say that was in '87. I started going to the rodeos in Phoenix in that January, I think it was '88. I volunteered in '89. I thought these guys were crazy. Greg Olsen was the big rodeo cowboy at the time and I went to L.A. to go to the rodeos so he got stepped on by a bull and a lacerated liver these guys are frickin crazy. What the hell are they doing? But I kind of got into that whole rodeo thing and ended up going to Denver. And in Denver, I apparently had a little too much to drink and got into a situation that was not good. And I don't remember a lot of it except for about six months later, I went and had tested and was HIV positive. So being 26 at the time, being new to all this, and everything else - uh, it was just, it just happened. And, you know, it was unfortunate. My family still didn't know about me being gay. And then in 1990, I met a doctor that I was dating and I'm like, you're crazy, you're dating a doctor, you're HIV positive. You know, he's going to find out. (Subjects: family) He's going to freak out. And it was that whole stigma with it, because literally every time I would date somebody and they would find out, they were like, you know, they just ghost you. They just didn't - and I can't blame them, because they don't understand it. But, so I was dating, this doctor's name is Ken Cross, and, you know, we were -we met at Charlie's, actually. Our friends brought us together. My friends physically picked me up and carried me and stood in front of him and said, you guys need to talk to each other. We talked for three hours. We didn't move. We never talked about a relationship, it just developed. And we started just doing things together. And he had a place in Deer Valley and I had my condo. We would spend certain places and nights with him and he'd spend nights with me and we had it all worked out, he had a sister. But one night we were just sitting there talking. He said, listen, I need to talk to you. I said, Well, I need to talk to you, too. And he said, well, let me go first. And he told me he's HIV positive. And how ironic that anybody would find, what I want to say, good in that? Because I did and he did because when I told him, it was like, how did, why, how, who, what? You know, just how could this even happen? And so to me, that was liberating, it was like, oh, thank God to this stigma thing of, you know, trying to date people and figure that out. But um, he was an emergency doctor in L.A., so he was working at the emergency hospital. And a lot of this was going on and. I was told when he was draining an AIDS patients lungs, they had to switch the bag out, the needle got stuck and ran back into his finger and so, I don't know the specifics of it, but to me, it was like listen, it doesn't matter. It is what it is. And so we were together for two years and in June of '92, he passed away from AIDS. Which is really tough. It was a time when I was lucky to be allowed to be in the hospital with him. So that was tough and my parents had just arrived in Phoenix the weekend after he had passed away. And again, my family know nothing about me being gay. They know nothing about the fact that this is my partner. They, I know. It was just - [inhales] so I'm trying to show my parents a good time and, you know, and everything and so I was with my mother that I finally kind of told her everything was going on about that was just about being gay. I did not tell her about being HIV positive. That came out years later. But, that was the first step. And she was fine with it, said there was no issue and. Eventually kind of rolled it out to the rest of the family who have never had any problem with it. So, yah.(Subjects: comingout, parents) So, when did you actually start competing in events at the rodeo? Started in 1995 at the Phoenix rodeo, which was in February at that time. So, you know you were aware of it, you've been going to it, you've been on, you know, the edges of it, dating, losing loved ones. What pushed you over the edge to start competing? After I lost Ken, it took me a couple of years before I really started dating again. And then I started dating guys that were positive. And then I lost about three other friends that were guys that I was dating at the time and, you know, which was really difficult to deal with. I mean, it's like, what - you know, and I, when I was diagnosed in '90, January of '90, basically my doctor said, you probably have five years, so you probably need to get your affairs in order. And I was like, OK. Family still doesn't know about that, but um. I think what happened is I started thinking about what do you really want to do if you've got five years, you know? And I thought, you know what, I always wanted a horse. I always wanted to compete in rodeos. Maybe this is something I can do. So, one of the girls I was working with at the Scottsdale Princess, um, lesbian, open about it, awesome, had a brother who was gay and she was telling me that he competes in rodeos. So she kind of connected me with Chris, and then Chris was talking to me and he found me this horse, and, you know, so I got a horse, like probably about six months before the rodeo and started learning how to ride and do all that stuff. And basically in January of '95, I entered my first rodeo and I think that's when the bug hit. I was just going to do horse events - I was not interested in anything else. But, yah, it's just again, the right people at the right time and how that worked out, I don't know. And can I ask, how did you cope with um, being told you had five years to live and losing so many people you were close with? How do you even begin to cope with that? I journaled. I have a journal and I go back to it. And today when I go back and read, it brings me to tears because it was pretty dark. It was really dark. And to have that documented and I'm already getting a little bit, whatever right now, [inhales] um. It, again, because my family wasn't aware of my medical stuff as they were of being gay, my roommate at time, Gary Harry, was very supportive of that and probably the one that I leaned on the most. And I guess you just move on. You have to be able to say, listen, this is what happened. Are you going to get sucked into the black hole of all the what, why, when, how, poor me, or are you going to move forward, find things that you want to do, enjoy life and, you know, take control of that? And I think that's what I did. So I kind of got myself into rodeo. Work was really good work was where is was at the time and that gave me the ability to kind of start working with rodeo, meeting really good people and being able to travel and have fun and yeah. So, I think that's just how I coped with it, but my journal was my big thing for me to just write down every day, kind of what the hell happened, and how you were feeling. And, yeah, and it wasn't always good. I was like, you know, I'm ready, I'm ready. I'm done with this. I'm ready - [laughs] which is crazy. But yeah, I know it's kinda - I lost a lot of friends, you know, and it's just uh, [exhales] yeah. I guess I'm fortunate, very fortunate, blessed, whatever you want to call it. But I do work very hard to take care of myself and took control of that, and my, you know, my medical care. I don't just do what the doctor says. You know, I research. I challenge.(Subjects: jobs) And were you open at work, did you feel supported at work at all? Not initially, in fact, in Arizona, you could be fired for being gay. So I literally had a doctor who would create an alternate being for, and you would pay cash for everything, because you didn't want anything going to your insurance companies, which just is crazy that people had to do that in order to get the care that they needed. And thankfully, you know, although it probably was illegal with the doctors at the time, they had to do something for these people. And, you know, some of them didn't have that, and then when their employers found out not only were they sick and needing help, they were unemployed.(Subjects: jobs) That's really devastatingly scary. It is, it really is. So as you started to get more involved with rodeo, you said you started with some of the horse events. What did that look like? That's barrel racing, pole bending, flag racing. Barrel racing is a traditional women's rodeo event, but in gay rodeo, women and men can compete in all 13 of our events. We don't - we open that up for them. So I was competing in those three events. I had a friend that was coming in that I was going to compete in Steer Deco, I can't forget. I don't think I was doing Wild Drag at the time I wasn't doing any roping. So it was just those three or four events. Goat Dressing is just a fun camp event where you run down and put a pair of BVDs on a goat. And, you know, it's crazy as hell, but it's fun and yeah, it's probably one of the most entered events.(Subjects: events) Um, did you work with one horse in particular? Yeah, it was a four year-old mare that I bought, her name was Sugar, from Chris. Chris [Eisenhet]. And she was a little smaller than most horses, but she was uh, she was out of [Justalina and Dockbar], which is great horse lines, you know, just she just had a heart of gold and just loved what she can do, so yah. So if you were living in a condo at the time or were you still? Or essentially I'm asking where did the horse go? Initially I was boarding him at Chris [Eisenhet's] place. So he's the one that found her for me, so he was going to take care of her and everything. So I basically would go down there and ride and then when we went to the rodeos, he'd haul her for me. In fact, one that year, he hauled her out to Atlanta, Georgia, because they had a rodeo out there, so yah. It was awesome because he kinda took care of all the hard work, basically, and I just kind of, you know, showed up and jumped on. Well I've heard before that there might be some divides at times in IGRA culture between the horse people and the non-horse people. Is that a real thing and did you ever feel that at all?(Subjects: igra) [breathes in] Well, there was a term called FHP, which is some people will say his "favorite horse people," but other people use the other acronym for the F word. Um, you know, it exists. It exists because we as horse people, who make large investments in our animals and their care, we don't want them injured, you know, so arena dirt conditions to us are very important. We do not want hard packed dirt. We don't want it where they can slip and fall. We want a safe environment for them, as with anybody who has a pet. If you're doing anything with them in any type of competition. So, you know, I crossed the line because I was in, I started doing rough stock events, I did the camp events, and then I started adding roping events - so I basically competed in all 13 events. (Subjects: events, igra) I can kind of see where certain contestants that, you know, are the rough stock riders. They just kind of come in with their gear bag. They put their gear up and get ready to go and they jump on the animal. They do their event, they're done, they're gone. But they also want the arena to be a little bit soft because when you fall on that, it hurts. And, you know, when it's rock hard, you, your hip doesn't - yeah, well, if you're twenty-five, it's probably OK. But as you get older it's, you know, and people falling off of horses are et cetera, et cetera. So horse people are a little bit, you know, persnickety because they care for their animals and those are expensive animals. And when you have an injury, it's expensive to take care of. Yah. Have you ever experienced any protest of gay rodeo from either, you know, people saying that rodeo shouldn't be gay? Or from PETA and people concerned about animal welfare at all? Both. San Francisco, Sacramento, Vegas - all from PETA, understandably. And I respect them and I understand where they're coming from, it is out of concern. But it's more of an educational thing. They just don't understand things to the point where somebody was like, oh, my God, they blind the horses with these things over their head. And it's like, you do know that's a fly mask? And that literally is to protect them from the flies biting their eyes. Oh! So, you know, it is about education. It's like you can't just look at something, you know, when they flank a bull or a bronc to buck. You know, it has a fleece-lined flank strap. It's like cotton, guys.(Subjects: peta) I mean, it's yes, they want it off, but it's not harming them in any way. You know, when you're trying to move a fifteen-hundred-pound bull through the chutes to get them in there, sometimes they're stubborn and they don't want to move. Well, sometimes you got to slap them on the ass or something to do that. And we went from Hot Shots, which are just little electrical things. But you know what? It's just you can hot shot anybody, it's not that bad. But it does get them to move or it gets them out of a dangerous situation. So we try to adapt and move to beaded paddles, which is a paddle full of beads. You know, they get smart. They're like, I ain't movin, you know, and it's kind of - so definitely I understand that. I respect it, I respect their right to do that. As long as they respect our right to do our sport and realize that we take very good care of our animals. They are very well taken care of. From the gay aspect? Yeah, there's been a couple of pride parades that we've been in as rodeo associations that we've seen the protesters line up and all that. Which, you know, again, it's America, everybody should have the right to express themselves and we don't deny that, they're free to do that. But, you know, we're also free to live our lives the way we want to as well. So when did you meet Brian Helander? Brian started rodeo in the same rodeo I did. I knew Brian because I met him at Charlie's one night and, you know, he was a little older than me, maybe 10 years, but [laughs]. He'll, he'll be pissed off with that, but that's OK. And, you know, I mean, back then, he was very attractive and I was attracted to him, but he had a boyfriend. So to me, it's like there's no chance of that. But the gentleman that I was supposed to rodeo with in camp events that first time ended up not being able to get down to the rodeo. So I didn't have anybody to partner with. I didn't partner with Brian at the time, but I partnered with another guy from Chicago and I rodeoed, did camp events with him for that first year. But, Brian and I had met each other knowing that we were doing the rodeo and we're talking and it was in '96 that we decided to do all the camp and team roping and everything together and just be kind of rodeo partners. And travel together and everything, so. That's amazing, and I'm sure Brian will love that you noted his age. [laughs with CB] That's OK. It's bittersweet [laughs with RS]. I mean, he will appreciate that you called him attractive. Well of course! I, I, - you would be surprised. I've seen the pictures, I'm like oh my God. So I want to drill down into some of the events. What do you think is the role of camp events in IGRA? They're really designed for fun to bring people into the rodeo arena that don't have a horse or don't want to do rough stock. Just want to come out and play and kind of just get used to that. We think that that'll bring them in and get them maybe interested in a little bit more. Yah. What was or has been your favorite camp event to participate in? Probably goat dressing. You know, Brian and I, for twenty-six years, we've got the whole non-verbal, verbal everything down and you know, to the point that people have tried to videotape us and see how we're - what we do to that underwear, you know, and it's it's just funny. And, you know, we've been successful in that event. We've been successful and Steer Deco too, Wild Drag is fun, but lately the animals have been a little bit rougher than usual, so. Being, you know, rather old myself, [laughs] you know, it's kind of like I'm not sure, but it really was intended to have fun. And we - I think we need to refocus on that. But definitely goat dressing is our favorite. So can you, so in Rough Stock which Rough Stock did you participate in? I actually competed in all: Bull Riding, the Steer Riding, the Bareback Bronc Riding and the Chute Dogging. And can you walk me through what, sort of, preparations before you get on a bull and then what that experience is like? Obviously ride would be different, but just sort of, how does that feel bodily to do that? How do you get yourself ready? And then live through it? Yeah, well, definitely being in good physical condition is good. I, you know, it was a personal trainer. I worked out as much as I can in my entire life, and I will continue to do that, you know, so strength to a certain extent is good. But it's more about center of gravity. It's more about stretching and flexibility and making sure prior to my ride that I was stretched out. Uh, as far as preparation, you know, from strapping my boots and jeans up to put my spurs on, to my chaps, to my vest, to my, you know, I didn't wear a helmet at the time. It was not the thing to do and knock on wood. I somehow escaped any, you know seriou- well, maybe not. Maybe I've had a few head, head-bumps. But, you know, once you get focused on all your preparation and that for me, that was what it was about to where I wasn't thinking about my ride or how big the animal was or look at those horns or, oh, my God, he's only got a left horn. Nothing. I really didn't want to see my bull. I didn't want to stock contractor to come tell me, he traditionally comes out so circles to the left or the right, and sometimes they'll tell you that because they're unpredictable. And if you are set to think they're going left, and they go right, you're already gone. So for me, it was about I focused more on my preparation, stretching, flexibility, equipment, getting everything ready, burning up the rosin on my rope, getting the handle rosined up as well, making sure my glove is good, getting my wrist taped, having my mouthpiece, everything ready to go, having my poller and my safety set up, you know, so when my team and my bull came in, in the preload shoot, I would go rig them up myself because I want to make sure my riggin' was right the way that I want it. Although Brian was very good at that. And Brian, majority of my rides was always there - I learned that he would do that for me and he wanted to and I was good with that. You can rig it backwards, and I think maybe that happened once or twice, but I always told him, I said, just drop the bell over left [laughs]. I told him don't drop the tail, because for me, that's bad luck. But, you know, you get all these, you know, he can't wear yellow. You can't put your hat on the bed. You know, you can't wear a buckle after you rent it until two rodeos later. But anyway, I digress. But it was really about focusing more on everything that I needed in my equipment and [inaudible]. So when I got up there, it was it was still the focus. Get on, get centered, get your riggin' where you want it, move it up under his armpits, you know, get the bell centered. It was all a process. For me, the more I stuck to the process of what I was doing, to the point in time that I was ready to go and I would nod my head, then it was stick on your spot and just stay with it and just not tense up. But use my arm as my strength and keep my feet wrapped around him. I was pretty successful at it. I don't know why. Everybody told me as big as I was or like, you can't ride bulls, you're too big. And I'm like, "Oh well, we'll see." So for me, I think keeping focused on the preparation and the steps of everything I needed to do, kept my head out of the fact that you're sitting on a fifteen-hundred pound bull and this could happen, this could happen, this - you never think about that. And even to the point when you hear the buzzer go off, you pull the rope, you look over, for me because I'm left-handed, you look over your left shoulder. You flip your right leg over, he'll throw you up and you'll land on your feet. I mean, you just had that all figured out to where. It didn't always happen that way, ya know, but yah. What does it feel like, is it, you know, is it like being on a roller coaster or in a jet plane? What is that? The spinning and the going up and down. Have you ever experienced anything else like that? Uh, I did the Fremont experience zip line. And initially, when they dropped that gate down in your coming out there and I did the one where you kind of do the Superman position thing, and it was kind of like that. Now I want to do some of these like Brazilian ones where it's like forty miles up and that, you know, it's that feeling of that adrenaline when it hits you and you're just like, oh, my God. And then it just hits. And you're like, this is amazing! And it was for me, it was just the feeling of, you know, just keeping my spot and keeping where I need to be. And, you know, and then it was done. And that adrenaline and that feeling to me, you can't match it. Yeah, that was my drug of choice. And did you ever have any serious injuries at the rodeo? Well, luckily from bull riding, I only had a fractured ankle, which, you know, and it was because six weeks earlier I had fractured my ankle in Bronc Riding in Vegas. And so, I probably didn't let it heal up. And as and it wasn't because he stepped on me. It's because I got off on my left foot wasn't right. And I rolled it and I refractured it, which just a small hairline fracture. So knock on wood, Bull Riding, no serious. Steer Riding I broke my right arm, both bones, and it was Oklahoma City. Brian was riding steers at the time and I'm trying to walk out of the arena with my arm hanging because it's broken and he's yelling, "I need the vest! I need the vest!" Because he was still riding [laughs], but it was like oh don't worry about me. So they got him the vest. But it was, [chuckles] just the things we deal with. So I'm in the back behind the chutes waiting for him to finish up the rodeo with my wrapped up arm.(Subjects: injuries) You know. I had two titanium plates put in, probably the worst one for me. And it wasn't really bad. It was in Albuquerque finals. In Wild Drag, my friend Mickey Montoy and I, there were there were a couple of lesbians that were doing a documentary on us and it was awesome. So they were, you know, we were like, hey, we're going to dress up in drag for you. So we put lipstick on. We did the whole thing. And mind you, we don't do drag per say like drag-drag like professionals, but leave that to them. But, you know, so we went out in Wild Drag, my steer, just as I was going over the line, did a quick turn, and I rolled over in the back hook, caught my lip and ripped my lip down to my jawline. (Subjects: injuries) So I had you can't see it, but there was a scar there. So I got up, you know, and everyone was like, "Oh, my God, you're bleeding." And I'm like, "What?!" Well, you know, again, your adrenaline's high, you don't know what's going on. So I just kind of grabbed it, not thinking that I have shitty dirty gloves, but, you know, anyway. So we go over to the medics and the medics are like trying to get it cleaned up and they're like, "You're going to have to go to the hospital. You're going to need stitches." I'm like, "But wait a minute, I got flag race left. I gotta finish flags because this is finals! I qualified!" So I said, "Dude, tape it up, whatever. I got another event to do!" So they taped it up and crazy as it was, and uh, finished flags.(Subjects: injuries, race) And Brian got me to the hospital and on the way, he's like, "You've got to get that lipstick off. You've got to get that lipstick off." Because you don't go to the hospital and say, "Hey, I was just in a rodeo," because your insurance will freak out. But so, I'm trying to hold the flap and pull the lipstick off, you know, and do everything I possibly can, but. You know, we eventually got to the hospital, they didn't ask too many questions, but it was just like, you know, that they were just they probably knew, but they're probably. "Well, what happened?" "Well, we were just practicing for Halloween dress up and we had an accident and I slipped and caught my lip." And, you know it was, uh. Yeah. I've hit my head several times, you know, not too seriously, but other than that, I think, you know a couple gores, you know, from the bullhorn or whatever. Oh, I forgot New Mexico two years ago, in Wild Drag, I had the rope and the steer was crazy. And so they, I was dragging on the ground, literally it was Wild Drag. (Subjects: injuries) So I grabbed the rope and pulled em, and the steer turned around. Well he saw me and he was aggressive and I was just getting up and he came after me and I took his right horn right above my right eye. And everybody said it sounded like a watermelon exploded. It didn't. It just cut it open. But the blood was coming into eye, I thought I had lost my eye. So I stood up with the flak jacket that had fallen around my legs because the straps had come undone. And I proceeded to probably say every fowl word there was in the book for about 20 minutes. And Brian, who's a nurse, knows that sometimes that happens when that [inaudible] [laughs]. But the poor medics were trying to hold it on there and, you know, get it cleaned up and I ended up going in for stitches. But I'm sure the crowd was like, "Oh, my God, this man is crazy!" because I just everything. So I'm not proud of that moment, but [laughs] what else could I do?!(Subjects: injuries) What are you competing in this weekend? All the roping events, all the speed events, and Chute Dogging and Goat Dressing and Steer Deco.(Subjects: events) Can I ask? What is - what's really the difference between Bull Riding and Steer Riding? In terms of experience? It's, Steer Riding is more for entry-level people to come in, but it's actually a little bit more difficult to do, because they're smaller, they're quicker and they're really not trained in the event. But it does give our contestants a less dangerous event, I guess you could say, to see if they really want to move into Bull Riding or not. But, yeah, I mean, it's for me, it's harder to write a steer because they're smaller and they're squirmy and they belly roll and, you know, so it's a little bit more challenging.(Subjects: events) Have you ever competed on any of the royalty competitions as a Mr. or a Miss? I have not. I think I did a fun Charlie's Miss Rodeo fun thing, whatever, one time, so. But that was it, yah. Um, are you close with anyone who does royalty at all? Actually, Brian and I were, in the earlier years, the royalty have to do a horsemanship video. So we were always there to help them with that and get their horsemanship videos on our horses. So, yeah, we were you know, that's where we felt we could contribute to that. That's really great. Yah. So, as you've been a member for, twenty-five years, thirty-five years? Twenty-six. Twenty-six years - I'm good at math. It's OK [laughs]. History PHD over here [laughs with CB] How have you seen the association change over time? When I first started going to rodeos before I was competing, especially like L.A., it was amazing how many people in the community came out. I mean, we're talking 10,000 people. Not all of them came for the rodeo. They came because there were dance tents. There were cloggers in this tent. We had country line dancing here. We had two-step over here. We had disco over here. So it was like every, you know, gambit of the whole LGBTQ+ community [laughs]. Uh, you know, so it was it was exciting to be a part of that. And going out after the rodeo and the bars were crazy and, you know, people were having fun. You know, it kind of went through a lull, I'm going to say probably in the early 2000s. And then I kind of pick back up and then we started losing contestants, mainly because we're not bringing in younger contestants and we're all getting old, because time does that to you. (Subjects: community, dance) So I think we're suffering from that point. I think we're really wanting to bring in some younger people, to not only do the rodeo, but get involved in the associations, how are all non-profit. We all do it for charity. And initially it was all that money was going to help a lot of AIDS patients. Now we do it for cancer. We do it for, you know, the community. The rodeo community gets to choose who their beneficiaries are of that. So it is about charity. But, but you know, yeah, I think we're struggling right now and then especially with Covid, you know, and having that lull. This is our first rodeo coming back. So we're excited to see who's coming back and see what I can do.(Subjects: charity, community) Yeah. So my first question would be, why do you think young aren't joining? Well, I think that, and this isn't a bad thing, I think. Just overall, people are becoming more accepting of it. I think a lot of the younger kids don't see the need to go to a gay bar. They go hang out with their friends, whoever their friends are, whatever their friends are, they don't care. They don't do labels. It's just interesting for me to see what's happened. And it's kind of like, we've been fighting for this for years and it's happened and we're all like, oh, crap. [laughs] We didn't expect this is a side effect. So you can't be upset with them, you know? And maybe we need to look at it, and I think, you know, there's been discussion. Maybe we need to take the gay out of our rodeo associations and just make it more about inclusive and, you know, non-discriminative or, you know, just whatever we can do - because we allow everybody to compete. We don't care if you're gay or not. But we had the gay games in Akron, Ohio, and the facility where we had them, I was the contestant, kind of support person, the lady that ran that said, you know, all my writers here are so happy you guys are coming and we're going to do everything we can. We know we can't compete, you know, but we're okay with that. But we want to help in any way that we can. I said that you can compete. She's like, but we're not gay. And I said, that's okay. There's nobody that checks for that. [Laughs] There's no way to really check for that unless that, no. But anyway, so it is that stereotype that we can't get over. But, you know, just for me, if I went to, hey, there's a straight hockey league, I'm going to be a little bit hesitant about it because I'm gay and it is about how you label it. So we've had the discussion at our conventions for several years trying to figure out a solution to that. We've not come to a point where we can get the majority of the assembly to really change that. But my suggestion years ago was drop the gay and put in a deeper, diverse. The International Diverse Rodeo Association - something. But uh, until we do that, I think we have to understand that, we're going to have to explain to people - we're not, you know, exclusive to just gays. Yeah. And how is the association historically been split between, you know, men, women, non-binary people? What is it historically looked like? We always had a strong male leadership. I think we've had a couple of female presidents, including Candy, our current president and Linda, oh I forget, Linda Frazier. But other than that, it's mostly been men, even the board of directors has been traditionally more men, although we have more female trustees coming on board, which is good. Um, [clears throat] you know, as far as, what their sexuality is and that? I know that we've had straight people in those roles. Lori comes to mind, she's from Vegas, and she's kind of a straight ally. But it wasn't about, again, being gay or whatever. It was just like, be a part of us. So I don't think we necessarily look at leadership from sexuality in any way. And who knows for sure? Because I don't ask them. I'm like, what are you? "Well I'm -" ya know [laughs]. We just assume you're here and, you know, you're going to bring something to the table and you're going to help us promote things and build the association. In the late 80's and early 90's, what was the sort of a country-western scene like? Was Charlie's filled with, um you know, gay men and lesbians? Were the bars separated? What did that look like? Charlie's was more male. I don't think that they really discriminated, but I th- they might have at the door. I've heard that, which I think is sad. But there was a bar called Cash-In, in Phoenix that was mostly the lesbian cowgirls. And again, it was like, why? You know, why can't, you know? And I'd been to the Cash-In before and they never gave me any problem, you know. But it was kind of their space and their place and we didn't want to be disrespectful or whatever. And they probably thought the same thing. But it was really ridiculous, when I look back at it, it's like, why? Why would you do that? Both good supporters of gay rodeo. I know Charlie's traditionally has been very strong in supporting gay rodeo, which is wonderful. But we also need to make sure that we're allowing other not just bars, other organizations to come in and be a part of that and support it, but. Yah. So, you know, moving forward, what do you see both for your own continued future in the association and then what do you hope for the association? Well, for me, you know, I take it pretty much one rodeo at a time. I've got my seven-year-old mare that I've trained, and this is her first rodeo. So for me, this is all about her. This is all about creating great experiences for her. The trailer ride up went great, getting into the stall went great, you know, getting the arena today went great, getting in the roping box went great. Tomorrow's a whole different possibility because there's going to be music and noise and announcers and things that she's not been exposed to. So, uh, she's my priority right now. I know what to do for the events that I'll use her in, but I'll be using her in the speed events and then the roping, too, which is a lot to ask from a seven-year-old, but she's very smart, she's just like her mom. So, you know, for me, if she's willing to do this and she's good and, you know, I'm good with that. (Subjects: events) Again, I'm just taking it one rodeo at a time. Maybe another year, maybe two? That Brian and I talked about this 20 years ago, like, you know, there's going to come at a time when we decide that we're going to probably have to transition. And we're like, OK, transition to what? And we always talked about, probably being judges, rodeo officials. So, you know, for the association, um, it's a lot of struggles and it's a lot of struggles because the bars, the gay bars are struggling. And that was our support. So we've got to find other support systems to help us, but it's really about supporting us because then our associations can get back to the charities and their community. And I think we need to do a better job of that. If it's looking for grants, if it's writing more grants or finding somebody who can help us write grants, then that's probably something we need to do. Um, so. I forgot my question. [laughs with CB and Unknown] That happens a lot because I'm listening. I forgot the answer, by the way. [Everyone laughs] I wanted to ask if, um because, you know, I know that Brian's your rodeo partner, but I wanted to hear if you had ever had a part - a partner or partners in your personal life? I have. I'm not one of the lucky ones that finds the golden egg and that you know, you're there for 25 years, but I still try. I've had a few rough ones, you know, which it's unfortunate, you know, that there's people out there aren't truthful, but, you know, I weather it and I move on. And for whatever reason, if I just like I said earlier, when life kind of just guides you and directs you, you sometimes can't blame yourself for, like picking the wrong person, you kind of just have to realize that listen, is this going to go or not? But if it's an unhealthy situation, then by all means, you need to get out of it and I want to make sure anybody that's in that situation knows that. And, you know, I have hope. I mean, I've extended my life beyond '95, which was my expiration date, and my health is exceptional. And I'm going to continue to drive it out and you know, and I know that eventually I'll find my, my twin flame or my soul partner. I think I might be your twin flame [laughs]. Hey! [Laughs with RS]. I shouldn't say that, that's inappropriate [laughs]. So, uh, my follow-up question to that is, as a competitor, I know that rodeo weekends can be really intense, but were they also places that you were looking to find love or did find love even if it didn't last all the time? Well, it is. It's a possibility. You know, there's been opportunities for some, you know, one-night stands or flings or whatever, and that's fine. I mean, you know, I don't judge people. I know there's people out there. However, whatever they want to do, it's none of my business, you know, and just as you know, what I do is not necessarily everybody else's business. But, you know, I do believe that I really want that that soul mate, you know, to settle down with. And I have a lot to give and a lot of love and. I look forward to that and I keep that forward thinking and keep it in my vision. But you know, it any rodeo, gay or straight, it tends to be about, you know, people hookin up! And that's just kind of a [inaudible] But that's a music festival, that's a NASCAR race. You know, that's that's anything that just kind of is what it is. [laughs with RS] And we're just natures, er, you know.(Subjects: music) Yeah. Did you know anybody who met a rodeo and stayed together for a long time? Uhhhh, yes. [pauses] I want to say, can Sean Eddings and Kirk Carter. Live in Texas now, Kirk was from California, Sean was from New Mexico. And they had known each other in rodeo for a long time and they're still together. Great guys, love them to death and that's a, that's a good match there. So, yeah, they're find people that meet and um. I'm trying to think - there was another couple that I know that met in '95 and they're just I'm drawing a blank right now but. Yeah, in terms of the social life of rodeos, how do you or did you during like the last twenty-six years, do you compete, go to the bars, compete, or is it competition all weekend? Well, earlier we used I used to go out, you know, I don't - I like drinking. I'm not a, you know, a heavy drinker, you know, especially now I've kind of learned to keep in moderation. But, you know, there - some people function well under the influence. So if they drink a lot the night before, they seem to do better the next day, maybe because they're a little more relaxed. That may have worked for me earlier on. I don't know, it doesn't anymore. So I, I'm not a big drinker, I you know, I'm like I'm I have like one good quality margarita a week and I'm good. I look forward to that. But, you know, I had one yesterday [laughs with RS] and I'm like, yay! You know, but one is good for me. But yeah, I tend to on rodeo weekends between Saturday and Sunday, I tend to not drink. I tend to focus on my hydration and getting all my electrolytes back up and get my vitamins in me and everything else because I'm not twenty-six anymore [laughs]. Um, can you talk about how last year with Covid-19 has affected either you personally, or the association, and what this rodeo could potentially mean? Well, it drew us all from the association into a tailspin because we didn't know what to do. You know, we have an annual convention to do. We have our royalty competition that is in conjunction with finals. We knew that, you know when Arizona had theirs in February, which I was at that rodeo, and then everything hit. And then we finally made the decision of what do we do? We have to reach out to a parliamentarian to kind of help us look through our bylaws and figure out that the probably the best thing to do is to merge the two years together. Well, that means we didn't have a convention. That means our royalty team is going to roll over for two years instead of one year, you know, and then we're in the predicament now of like, well are you going to do 2020, 2021 and 2022? But now we're kind of doing a little bit different. So it's it's I think some decisions have been made, which aren't correct. But, that's just my way of thinkin'. Maybe a few other people, but not everybody thinks that, but. (Subjects: royalty) The main thing is to get our rodeos back on. And so having this one, having Santa Fe, having Vegas is good, you know, and that's four rodeos in the last, what, two years. And then we can add that to 2022 and kind of get things rolling. So I think a lot of associations lost their support from their community and their bars, not because people didn't want to give, but because everything shut down. So a lot of the associations are struggling and that's why they had to cancel the rodeos. Not only that, because our rodeo in Canada can't get people across the border. If they brought the officials, they'd have to quarantine them for 10 days. So, yeah, it's for me personally, I just miss my rodeos. I mean, that was my expression. But I just kind of had to hope that things were, you know, would come around. For me, working from home was great and it still is. Saved me a lot of money on gas and travel, and time. But, you know, I still have my horse. I still have to work with her and get her trained and everything. So if it, if anything, it's giving me more time to train her to get her ready for this experience. OK, so I kept you for about an hour. Oh, wow. Is there anything that we haven't touched on that you would like to talk about? Um, I don't think so. Um. No, not unless- Do you have anything you like to follow up on? Yeah, just like a couple of questions. But you um, you talked about how you got into rodeo, right, when you were dealing with the fact that you were trying to save your own life, basically by yourself without your family. You've been given this diagnosis of five years. You lost a partner. Do you think that there was something specific about rodeo and maybe the danger of rodeo or the physicality of rodeo, that something specifically about rodeo that helped you through that point? Well, you know, I think it was more about when, you know, the people in the rodeo were looking at me based on not being HIV positive. And again, because I I chose to take control, I chose to do a lot of specific things for my health care that were not traditional. You know, I had a naturopath and was working with that right away. So if I'm understanding your question, which I hope I am. It, it was a way for me to to push further into life rather than pull back. And I think that maybe that's what it was, and again, having the right people in the right place at the right time, you know, I mean, I really was going through enough dealing with losing my partner. And I think one of the hardest part was the family wasn't really kind of, the father was OK with me the mother was a little struggling with it, my partner's mother. And the fact that they - I was allowed to be a pallbearer was really devastating to me. So with all of that, I think I needed. To get into something that would get me out of that and not dwell on it, so again, I'm grateful for the power above or whoever guided me to the right people at the right time to make those decisions because it was life-changing to me, you know, and again, I I don't know what my expiration date is. Nobody ever does. But I was given one which sometimes feels like, hey, at least you have one. But it's like yah, but it's way the hell back there. Can you give me a revised one? Because, you know, it's hard. It's hard to see people get up and go through the crap of, like, you know, and it's like where is? Just, just give me the button, you know, I'm out [chuckles]. But yeah, I think the right people at the right time and the right influences helped push me into, "Go live." And that's what I wanted to do. And I guess just too, like hearing you talk about preparing to write a bull. Like it seems so all consuming, like you're not about anything else. Is that an aspect of it that maybe keeps you grounded or centered, like it almost - do you meditate? I'm just was wondering if there's a similar mental space you go into to take care of all those ropes and harnesses and physical things, it seems overwhelming to someone like me who is just hearing about it. Well, again, because, you know, my first steer ride was in Oklahoma City and I borrowed Cheryl Wains [inaudible]. Cheryl was an awesome bull rider. She was probably 5"2, and she probably weighed 100 pounds. And I mean, she was just amazing, you know, but she would get thrown off that bull and she'd hang on her, get tied up and she'd swing around that thing. And I'm just like, this is crazy. But I had influences like Scoot, Dennis Terrell's brother, who's straight, and he competed in the rodeos and he kind of gave me some hints. So I picked up little bits from people. And for me, I'm a processor. I'm analytic. I have to have a flow-chart, if you want to say that. To me, that's what I do at work. So I think I was able to take this process over here and when I mentor certain students, I do the same thing. I'm like, this is what you need to do this and you need to repeat it every time. And it becomes muscle memory and it becomes automatic and you know what you're doing, but it keeps you out of thinking what could happen and it keeps you away from the fears, because that's in everywhere in life, you know, and you're going to, you're going to have failures and you can go back and analyze it. And I usually do with my kids that I mentor. Alexander's one of them. And I'm like, when he gets off ride again, tell me what tell me what's in your head. Relive it, rethink it. Go through it. See where you lost your focus. But, yeah. Did that answer your question?(Subjects: mentor, teaching) Yeah. Thank you. So I did think of a follow-up, I'm sorry. When it comes out when it comes to living through this pandemic. You know, I have kids, I am just the absolute horror of this past year of being afraid, and I'm wondering, as someone who has lived HIV positive, you know, what was it like watching the rest of the world kind of grapple with their mortality or the mortality of their friends and family in a way that, you know, the gay community had to do in the 1980s while other people looked on in judgment and, or ignorance or completely ignored the situation? What did that feel like for you? Well, you don't wish any ill will on anybody for sure. I think there's a lot of people out there that really don't understand what happens with the AIDS epidemic. They'd have to dig into to go research it. But kind of being on the front lines of that with my partner and seeing everything that happened, it was, it was just horrible. You know, there were, there were angels who came in to help people where not even these men's families would come to their aid and help them. Not even a place to bury them. I mean, you know, to me, it should be taught in history, but it probably won't. But, you know, hopefully, hopefully some kids will take an opportunity to look at that. So when this all started, of course, you know, I'm HIV positive. I'm also diabetic. So I was like, oh, shit. But I was also told from work to go work from home and I did not go out. I mean, I wore two masks when I went shopping if I had to. But I went shopping, I went to the pharmacy and that was it. And I went home and I worked. And you didn't do anything. I did work with my horse because I had the capability to do that, you know, without anybody else around. So that was good. But, you know, I, I. We need to look at what it can teach us. We need to look at the lesson. We need to look at what we can do in the future, what we can do better. And I still see some people that are resisting it. And I don't understand it. But that's, again, that's part of America. People are free to believe how they want to believe. And it's like, could you please just validate your resources before you make up your mind? Could you please just go to some of these organizations that will validate what's being said and if it's accurate or not? And but you know what? You're, you're educated from your family. And I see these younger kids that were brought up in these rural communities, and it's kind of what they were taught and it's scary. And you're like, when are you going to learn to go outside and do some of your own investigations and make your own mind up? I think that would benefit everybody, but it's going to be that way. It's something that we have to live with and we're going to have to expect, because if there's a right side and a left side, you're never going to bring the right to the left or the left to the right. And if there's a way to find a middle line somewhere in there, then that's what we can do. But, you know, I, I - it still scares me that some people are not getting vaccinated. You know, I wish them well. I'm concerned, especially with the Delta variant, you know, so. Has, has history taught us anything? I don't think so. Now, the nice thing about it, if there is one, the nice thing about wearing masks, not Covid, the nice thing about wearing masks is the number of flu cases that went down. So can we look at that? Can we start to see that this isn't just about Covid. This is about what can we do to protect everybody all the time? That's great. OK, well, I'm sure you're exhausted, but thank you! Oh no! I could talk forever. [laughs with RS]. And we can always do follow-ups. OK. And thank you so much for your time! Oh, thank you guys. I appreciate it.

Tommy Channel Click to filter

This is Renae Campbell and we are doing an interview at the International Gay Rodeo Association Convention in Denver, Colorado. It’s November 11, 2019—nope—November 22nd. [laughs….]. And I am here with Tommy Channel, and we are going to talk a little bit about your experience with IGRA. Okay. And so, I usually like to start by asking where you were born. I was born in a little town called Cushing, Texas. About three hours east of Dallas.(Subjects: childhood) Nice. And did you grow up there, or…? Born and raised. Nacogdoches County.(Subjects: childhood) And what was it like growing up there? I was born a coal miner's daughter… no. [laughs] I was born and raised on a farm with my mom and dad. Grandparents lived right next door and they were vegetable farmers, raised cattle and pigs. That's how I grew up.(Subjects: childhood, family) You grew up around animals then, it sounds like? Yeah, I did. And I had a good childhood. I had a good childhood. We didn't go hungry. We didn't have a lot of money, but we had what we needed to live.(Subjects: childhood) And did you have brothers and sisters? I had two older sisters—two older sisters, we're very close. I enjoy being with my sisters when I do go home.(Subjects: childhood, family) So, does your family still live mostly all in Texas? They all live in Texas. Okay. And I have a little farmhouse there on two acres that I was raised in. When my parents passed away, I inherited the homestead and my partner and I frequently visit there.(Subjects: family) Nice. So, you have some fond memories of your childhood, it sounds like. Very fond memories, yes. And did you go to high school there? High school in Cushing, Texas. And then attended a little business college in Nacogdoches called Massey Business college back in the day.(Subjects: childhood) Okay. And then, what did you do after college? After college, well, after that business college, my first real job that I call an extended job was for an export company, actually. They're in Nacogdoches. We exported to Saudi Arabia—to the oilfields in Saudi Arabia back in the mid- ‘70s.(Subjects: jobs) Okay. And growing up, did you go to many rodeos? Was that part of your upbringing? We did. That was—that was a pretty good—pretty much the pastime back out in the country in east Texas. A lot of rodeoing, country rodeos, yes.(Subjects: childhood) And were you involved in them? I was not at the time, no. Okay. How did you find out about IGRA? Well, after—after working for a few years there in Nacogdoches for that export company, I met some friends who introduced me to Houston, Texas, and discovered where I needed to be. And who I needed to be, finally.(Subjects: comingout) So, was that kind of during that period that you came out, or was it before then? No. That that was the period where I came out, where I discovered who I was—who I am.(Subjects: comingout) And was that a—what was that experience like for you? It was.... It was like a weight lifted off your shoulders. When you finally know who you are, and you don't have to pretend to be somebody that you're not to try and satisfy a religion or a family expectation. It's a huge relief to finally know who you are.(Subjects: comingout) And did you have a very supportive community there, with you at that time? My family is very supportive. In the day—in those late ‘70s, by this time—mid- to late ‘70s—it wasn't something you talked about. Families know; mothers know. I think mothers know from adolescence. It's just—I think it's an instinct.(Subjects: family, comingout) So, then, it was your friends there in Houston that introduced you to IGRA events? Correct. My first IGRA event was in Houston, Texas. In, um, ‘80…. Wow, can't remember. ‘80 something—the early ‘80s. And I didn't know anybody at the event. I just heard about it. Maybe I saw a poster or something at a bar or read about it, maybe somewhere that I had been. I don't remember how I heard about it. But I went, and I didn't know anyone. I didn't know a soul. But I was so intrigued, watching these events that were so—some of them—foreign.(Subjects: events, highlight) Some of them were just rodeo events like, you know, bronc riding, bull riding, and roping—those kind of things. But they did something so unusual that I had never seen before, like a drag race, and the goat dressing, and wild drag. Those events were foreign. Something I'd never seen before. And to these people, it was—they were having fun. They were really fun. And guess what? I wanted, I wanted to be a part of it. [laughs] So, I did what I needed to do, and met some people, and said, “How do I—how do I do this?” And that's what we did.(Subjects: events, highlight) So then did you go—uh, what was the next one that you went to? Did you immediately start attending? The next—the next event was in Denver, Colorado. The next gay rodeo was in Denver, Colorado. And, um, that's when I fell in love with Denver. And did you participate in that one? Or did you just, um…? Not in the first one, no. But it was probably the next one or so. I ran right out and bought myself a horse—yeah. And my little horse’s name was Sassafras. Nicknamed Sassy, after myself, of course. And we did barrels, poles, flags—the horse events. And we, we just blended right in.(Subjects: events) So, did you do more events than that, or are those primarily…? Those were the primary. The camp events, and the wild drag, and the goat dressing, and […] steer decorating, now, I did those as well. Yeah, I did. I never rode a bull, never rode a bronc—no.(Subjects: events) Did you have a favorite of those events? Oh, absolutely. Absolutely! My horse and I, our favorite event was flag race for sure. We loved running flags.(Subjects: events) And did you…? A couple buckles? Yeah. Yeah? How did you know what I was gonna ask? [laughs] [laughs] Huh? Yeah. I sport a couple of buckles in that event. Nice. And then have you been pretty consistently involved since that time? I have been very involved since then. I have been president of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association four terms, and I've been a rodeo director for CGRA, the Colorado group, I believe, three times. I've been rodeo director for the International Finals Rodeo twice—two different times. And just last year was my—I think it was my fourth term as president here, which ended in September of this year. And I have been a Mr. IGRA in 1997—I think. I think that's the year. [laughs] And that was a huge accomplishment, something to be proud of, I'm proud of. To be recognized by your peers is always a good thing. And, um…. So, it sounds like you've done the rodeo events, you've also been part of royalty, and you've been part of the administration so to speak. Currently—I am currently—the administrative assistant. I'm the only paid employee of the International Association. And so, I'm very involved currently. Still in the in the International Association and with CGRA. I helped produce this weekend's event here: Convention.(Subjects: jobs) Congratulations on pulling that off. I think it's going very well. Thank you. Yeah. So, when you came out to that first rodeo in Denver, was that when you decided to move out here or…? I had already moved. Oh, you had already moved. Okay. I had already moved here when I attended that rodeo. And in all the different roles that you have served, do you think that there are—do you think that you've seen a good cross-section of…? Oh, absolutely. Going from a contestant to administration and production of the event that I love so much, it's a huge spectrum to cross. And I've enjoyed every minute of it; every event that I participate in, I love.(Subjects: highlight) Nice. So, what do you think makes IGRA different from, say, the rodeos that you participated in—or saw—as a kid? Hmm. Well, for one thing, we—the interaction from association to association, state to state, becomes a family affair—a huge social event. And it's exciting to see friends and people that you consider family at this point, you know, a few times a year. Just like you—just like I go home to see my blood family. These people are my family. I love them dearly and appreciate their contributions, you know, to our society. We have doctors, lawyers, nurses, practitioners, veterinarians in our group, schoolteachers, you name it. Sexuality has no boundaries. And it's, it's a beautiful family.(Subjects: family, community, highlight) Nice. Um…Yeah. That's a lovely statement. Well, thank you. It was not rehearsed. It just came out that way. Yeah. So, have you ever been at one of the events where there were—it sounds like you've been on a lot of them—where they were protesting? Absolutely. Absolutely. In the early years, in the early ‘80s, perhaps even in the early ‘90s, we experienced quite a bit of protesting. Not only—they weren't so much protesting “gay,” they were protesting “rodeo.” And what they considered animal abuse. Many signs that come to my memory first off would be, let’s see… I remember seeing this in California, particularly, that would say “Gay yes. Rodeo no.” Comes to mind as one of the proliferate, or more…. that’s what I remember.(Subjects: peta) So, you would see that outside of the rodeos as you were going in? They would be at the entrances in the street—at the street entrances to the property, yeah. They were never allowed on the property. I mean, it's free speech, but, uh, yeah. And does that happen much anymore? No. We don't see that anymore. You know, freedom of sexuality, thank goodness, has become easier and more accepting today. In the last probably 20 years, you know, thank goodness. Yes. Are there any other changes that you've kind of noticed over the period of time that you've been involved? Well, early—in the early years, up through then, up through the ‘90s, you know, rodeo, country and western was at its height, in my opinion. We have seen a decrease in our spectator crowds and in participation—sadly. What we sometimes refer to as the Garth Brooks days—thank goodness he’s back [laughs]—but there was a period of time where it was—it was cool to be country. You know, there's a song… [laughs] To that effect? [laughs] “I was country when country wasn't cool.” And so, anyway, so, yeah. Things have changed. Social media has changed our way of life drastically. You, you used to have a social outlet, that was the bars, that we don't have to experience anymore. You pick up your phone and get a date. So, do you think that a lot of word of mouth for IGRA came from different bars? Absolutely, absolutely. Personal interaction was a big… oh, what’s the word? Medium, I guess. You know, that's—a lot of people heard about it from you talking about it in a bar or club atmosphere. And we don't see that anymore. Where we used to go into a bar here in town, in Denver, there’d be a sea of cowboy hats—doesn't happen anymore, sadly. And I miss those days. ‘Course I'm 64 years old now. I was 34 back then. Do you ever wear your cowboy hat anymore? Oh, yeah. Still do. Still do. Love my hats. [laughs] So, do you consider—would you say that you dress in sort of a Western way? Every day. Every day? Every day. Right here. [points to boots] Yeah, every day. I wear my boots every day. I don't wear a hat every day because it might not work—it would be in the way. But, yeah. And what do you do now—for work? I'm an antique dealer. Yes. So, I'm pushing, and pulling, and moving furniture almost every day.(Subjects: jobs) Yeah. I can see how a cowboy hat might not work. Yeah. It gets hot. And then you've also said that you're currently the, um, …? The administrative assistant for IGRA, yes. And that's a very focused job on IGRA. So, I handle all of the insurance needs, anything that the president needs from me, you know, um, to assist with. Whatever they may need, you know, me to do as far as, mostly insurance. I make sure that all of our events are properly insured, and our stock contractors are all properly insured.(Subjects: jobs) How much time do you say that you—would you say that you—dedicate towards that a year? It varies. It varies. The summer months are busier when there’s more rodeos than in the spring. You know, our finals are in the fall. It's very busy. So, it just varies from month to month.(Subjects: jobs) And you've been doing that for a while, have you not? I've been doing—I've been administrative assistant for almost, I think, about 15 years. Yeah.(Subjects: jobs) Nice. And do you plan to keep doing it? As long as they let me! Okay. Do you have a favorite part about that position? Uh, well, a responsibility under that is merchandising. I handled the branding—merchandising brand—that you saw downstairs for the association. I love merchandising. So, that's probably my favorite. Yeah.(Subjects: jobs) Huh. And would you say that you have ever had, or have, a mentor in IGRA? Or are you someone's mentor? Is that something that’s been important to you? Humm. I hope. I guess everybody would hope that you have a positive effect on somebody out there. I hope. I hope somebody is looking up to me. I really don't know if I can call a name, but I would hope so. Do I have a mentor? Hmm… yeah, probably so. Sadly, he's passed away.(Subjects: mentor) I’m sorry. His name was Wayne Jakino. Have you heard that name before?(Subjects: mentor) I have heard that name before, yes. He was a very special person that was instrumental in starting this organization back in the early ‘80s. If I had to look up to somebody, it would probably have been him. I didn't know him personally. Sounds like other people have mentioned him as well?(Subjects: mentor) Yeah, well, I've heard his name from Patrick a number of times too. Well, there you go. Okay, good. Yep. It's too bad we can't interview him. It would be an awesome interview. And there probably is some recording somewhere. Maybe they'll find that someday in an archive. I'm pretty sure there is. I'm sure there is. Let's see if we can't get that for you. Yeah, that would be great. So, do you have some favorite aspects of IGRA? Favorite aspect? Uh…. You know, like… I think you talked about the difference between IGRA rodeos and other ones. But, you know, is there something that keeps bringing you back into the fold with it? That keeps you so heavily involved? Well, I think, I think there’s a very simple answer to that: It's my family. And I just—I would not be complete without this group of people. That's what keeps me around. I love the events. I love, you know, World Gay Rodeo Finals in the fall every year is a special event that I'm very fond of, and I take very personal interest in. And I have been involved with the production of that event for, oh, probably, going on 15 years.(Subjects: community) So, do you always make that event every year? Every year. Every year, yeah. Because I'm usually in some portion of production. Even if it is just providing the branded merchandise. I get involved with buckle designs often. For several years I have handled buckle designs. This past year, worked very, very closely with another team member and handed it off to her because I was so busy. She does a fantastic job—so maybe I mentored her now that I think about it. So, yeah, that's always a, uh, that's always an enjoyable task for me as well. Because I love design and things like that.(Subjects: mentor) I've seen a number of those buckles on the website and…. Some of those were probably my work. They're lovely! Not that I made them, but just—with the buckle manufacture and design. So, you don't have to answer this if you don't want to but, like a family, do you ever have frustrations with any parts of IGRA? Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, just like with any family. Family is family. And you don't always agree but, when you love someone, and you care about someone, you agree to disagree. And that's what you have to do to maintain. And, well, that means a lot when you can do that. That's when you know you have a friend. Are there any directions you would like to see IGRA take in the future? Well, sure. We need to, we need to grow our organization. But I would like to see some more public exposure. I don't have an answer to how. But that that would be, probably, at the top of my list. To expose a younger generation to our world called gay rodeo. Because there are many, many young people—and what I call young people is 30 and younger, probably—that are looking for something to call home. And looking for a family. We could be that family.(Subjects: igra) So, do you find less younger people involved? Unfortunately, yes. Our group is growing old. You're talking to one of them. [laughs] We would love to see a younger generation. Someone's got to take over for us. Someone has to keep our organization alive. And that's the only way we're going to survive.(Subjects: igra) Yeah, makes sense. Sure does. And you mentioned earlier—just to kind of jump back—some of the camp events. Is that something that you approve of? Enjoy being part of at the rodeo? Oh, absolutely. They're fun to watch. And I participated when I was younger. And they are fun events. But they're—they can be dangerous as well. They can be just as dangerous as they are fun. The crowd seems to love the wild drag race, probably the most of the three camp events, because it can get wild and crazy.(Subjects: events) As the name would suggest. As the name would suggest. Do you have a favorite rodeo that you've been to, since you've been to so many? Or are there several that kind of...? Well, okay. That's a great question. And I have a great answer. We produced a gay rodeo for Gay Games in Cleveland, Ohio. Well, Gay Games was in Cleveland, Ohio. The rodeo we produce was in Akron during Gay Games…. What year? What year was it? Oh, my goodness…. We're gonna have to find that out. K. It was a few years ago, maybe four or five years ago. It was a life changing experience to produce an event that was attended—not so much contestant-wise, but spectator-wise—to have the stands filled. Filled with countries, delegations from other, you know, from parts of the world. It was a life changing experience to be part of the opening ceremonies of an Olympic event. It really, it really was an incredible time. Do you think that helped grow your membership at all? Is that…? I'm not sure that it did. We hoped. But the base of spectator there was, was a worldwide base. So I'm not—I don't know if it did. But it certainly exposed us. We, uh, we showed the world, at that point, who we were. And many of them had never heard of us. So that was the intention, really. So, I noticed that the name “International” has been in the acronym since the beginning. Do you know anything about how that came to be? Canada. It's the United States and Canada. Canada put the “I” in IGRA. We're very proud of our Canadian friends to the north. And then, I guess, sort of to the flip side, do you have a rodeo that you felt like… just didn't go right or… that you were less pleased with? Well, there was but, unfortunately, I was not in attendance to a finals rodeo that was in Reno—Reno, Nevada, I believe it was—that had to be canceled because of protests, that we talked about earlier. There was a big protest and the grounds where the event was to be held ordered us off of the property. The event was not held. That's probably the biggest disappointment. Like I said, I wasn't in attendance there, but I was involved during the time. I just wasn't at that event.(Subjects: homophobia) And you knew many of the people who were there? Right, right. I can't remember what year that was. We can look that up, too. We'll have to look it up. Okay. Is there anything else you want to tell me about your experience in IGRA or anything else? I don't know, I think I've said a lot. But, you know, I guess I would stress the family orientation of our group. How we, as large as we are, we're a small organization. And our representation is special to each of us. With each other, it truly is a family. And was that something you felt immediately? Immediately, immediately. That first event that I went to in Houston, Texas, in the ‘80s, I knew I was home. I knew I was home. Even though, like I said before, I didn't know anybody. I knew I found it. I knew I had found where I needed to be.(Subjects: highlight) That’s lovely. So, the last question I always ask folks is, um, if you consider yourself a cow person—a cowboy or a cowgirl? And if so or not, why? I'm cowboy-ish. [laughs] Because I currently don't have a horse, even though I like to dress cowboy. I like to wear a hat, my boots, and… I still like to put myself in that category.(Subjects: cowperson) Excellent. Okay, well, thank you very much for your time today. I know it's busy here.

Marie Antoinette DuBarry Click to filter

It's April 1st at the Texas Tradition Rodeo 2017 outside of Dallas. This is Rebecca Scofield and I'm here with Paul and your stage name is Marie Antoinette Du Barry. So could you tell me first, and I'm sorry for this, what year you were born? I was born in 1980. So it was late in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I'm the only child of an only child. My grandmother owned a bridal shop. She's very well known in New Mexico, actually in Santa Fe. She owned her business for fifty-five years and I grew up in that bridal shop. So, yeah that's where I come from and that's who sort of who I am. That's sort of the great beginnings of Du Barry.(Subjects: childhood) And as a little kid, did you ever feel like you were different at all? Did you feel pretty mainstream? I was very different. I was classified as weird at a very early age. So maybe about anywhere from late kindergarten to first grade, the acronym “weird,” “you're weird,” “what are you talking about? You’re weird,” was constantly referenced because I was dyslexic. They didn't really discover it until I was maybe 5th or 6th grade, which is actually I find is really the norm for LGBTQ people. I think it's in our genetics and I think it's something that helps us cope with different abilities. So I wasn't a very good reader so that made me very obvious. I was also very effeminate, which is really obvious. And all those things made for an interesting school life especially at the beginning because kids don't necessarily have the protection from being bullied. (Subjects: childhood) The protection from…because back then it was completely normal for the principal to say to my mother, “Well, boys will be boys. Boy will be boys. Your son is effeminate so you're going to have to expect some of this.” So that is sort of the beginning experience of school. I was very good at art, I was very good in history, I was very good in tests that did not involve writing or spelling. And later on as I grew up in school I started to get…they diagnosed with me with dyslexia. And actually it, what’s really interesting is, it's not a learning disability like most people say, it's actually a learning different ability. That’s what I like to refer to it as. Because it's a totally different learning ability, you learn in a very different way but boy can you store a lot of different computer stuff in your brain.(Subjects: childhood) So was your mom pretty protective of you with all the bullying? Yes, my mother was extremely protective of me for bullying. I moved schools about three or four times. I finally finished my schooling out in elementary at Gonzales. So it was always, you know, once the bullying got too much, my mom would move me, move me, and move me cause there was that constant, “oh, boys will be boys.” That kind of crazy nowadays if you really think about it.(Subjects: parents, childhood) As a mother of a son I hoped that that's crazy. Yeah, it's intense. And it's completely…you see a lot of resurgence right now and of course this will go into forever, this interview will go into prosperity, prosperity, posterity. And we’re seeing a lot of those resurgence of allowing people to act the way…by allowing it, saying, “Oh, well, that's how people are supposed to act.” When that's not really how they're supposed to act at all. We're supposed to act much better than that. And it's shameful to see a lot of that. But it's really wonderful to see other people standing up for each other. So it's sort of this weird sort of time of vacillation of breaking with the old and stuff like that. But my mother was incredibly protective of me. She was always afraid that I was going to get kidnapped. So really weird phobia that she had: I was born during the prison riots in New Mexico, where there was a very bad prison riot that happened at the state pen. And my grandfather actually boarded up the windows and kept her in a specific room and then put told her not to come out ‘cause he was afraid that they were going to come down the street and kill people. So and he was a police officer, so my mother was sequestered into a particular room and I think that's what caused her to be so overprotective of me. As I speak to you with a wig on my head right now so. [Laughter] It's really funny when I think I'm like ahh. So yes she was incredibly protective.(Subjects: parents) Were you able to, even though you were switching schools and sort of bullied, were you ever able to make a core group of friends or a best friend that saw you through some of that? Yes, I had a couple, but it was more in middle school and then, after middle school, it was high school. It was sort of the time where I found it…I was very introverted in middle school because I wasn't out and then I decided when I hit high school I was going to be out for the whole experience. And so being sort of the artistic person that I was in that time and that I am now it was very hard for them to not automatically say that I was gay or whatever. And then as I got older and then I went into high school, you know all these people really admired me for coming out at such a young age and saying this is who I am, this is what I where I'm going, and I'm not going to let anybody tell me no. So that experience was very liberating in high school as a freshman. But to miss out, as me as a person, I missed out on things like I wanted to go to prom with a boy, I wasn't able to because everybody was so intimidated by being so out and being so forward about my gaiety, my homosexuality. I hate to say it because it sounds so clinical when you say “homosexuality.” My queerness. And so it's really a strange thing because boys are either attracted to especially in that age they're either attracted to you or they're not attracted to you so it's really hard experience going through high school. (Subjects: childhood, comingout) Yeah. So how do you identify as far as gender and sexuality? I identify as gender-fluid, so I don't really identify either as a boy or a girl. Though I vacillate between the two, sort of…[letting people pass by] Now that the chatty Cathies have passed. Gender, I mean I identify as gender-fluid. I'm sort of in between, I sort of float in between being masculine and feminine. Though I live my life as a man, I am very comfortable being a woman, dressing up as a woman. But I consider drag a very sacred experience. I consider it Greek Theatre. I consider it divinely inspired. Very sort of older than Christianity. Which is typically normal for ancient societies and then when you get into Christianity all of a sudden it sort of stopped because its considered not normal which ironically it is very normal to consider yourself both sexes or be more on the spectrum of being masculine or being feminine. So that’s sort of changeable and you can sort of change throughout your life and be more masculine when you're younger and be more effeminate when you're older or vice versa for either genders. So that's sort of what I consider myself. That's great. And when did you first start getting into drag? I think I was always doing drag. I think even around five or six, ‘cause my grandmother owned the bridal shop that I had mentioned earlier, I always tried on high heels, you know my grandma was using me for like dressmaker's dummy, so I was always, you know, ‘cause of course I was the right size of a flower girl at, you know, five or six. So these dresses worked really well. So I was constantly trying on bodices and trying on skirts and trying on hoops and stuff like that so it was very, very natural for me to just be able to slip into drag. But officially I started drag as a sort of as a career in six or seven years ago. And have you always had the same stage name? No. My stage name has changed throughout time. So the first of my stage names was Cherry Boom Boom and then later on I became Marie Antoinette Du Barry, which was the amalgamation of two women at the court of Versailles. Of course, Marie Antoinette and then Du Barry, who is sort of a lesser known. She was a courtesan at court of Louis XV. And what happened is I sort of blended the two girls together because I thought it would be really funny to have two, excuse my language, bitches sort of residing together who never liked each other and make it a full name. And so that's why I glued them together. That's amazing. What draws you to that period of time that sort of, you know, late French empire period? What draws me is the extreme pomp of everything, every movement meant something, every little thing you had on your dress. I mean if you had passion flower on your dress, it meant something. And women were constant rivals of each other, which much is like today. Who's wearing what? Are you wearing Gucci? Today, you know, it's Gucci or McQueen. But in those days, you had your dressmaker who you bought your fabric that had no fabric on it and thought of a dress that you wanted and then you said I want lilacs and lilies embroidered on the fabric and then. So that the extreme elegance and that extreme hard work to make such a beautiful outfit is really what draws me to it. And just simply the width of the dresses. The silhouette is what is really stunning to me because it could be, it could be really boring. But you have a tiny little waist and then giant hips and, you know, no bosom. I think that's really, I know it sounds crazy, but it's very effeminate to me, it’s very charming and beautiful. Because how does a woman move in that? How does a woman go from point A to point B in a carriage like that? And it takes a lot of patience and a lot of grace and a lot of elegance to get into the carriage to get out of the carriage without killing yourself. You're literally, I mean without tumbling out and dying or suffocating to death. So that's why I'm drawn to that, ‘cause it's so. And everybody knows it. Everybody knows that that is sort of the height of elegance and wealth and beauty. That always impresses me and that's why I decided to choose that. So when you officially came out and started getting more into the artistic side of drag and things like that, has your mother and your grandmother still supported you and are they still sort of part of your artistic vision? Well, my mother doesn't really have an artistic bone in her body. She can only draw like Christmas trees and roses. But my grandmother she passed away in 2016, so this will be her second-year anniversary. She was a wonderful lady. She taught me how to sew, so the dress that you saw was I made it and you know did all my stuff on it. And she taught me how to sew and she taught me how to be a lady. She said you can show as much heaving cleavage as you want but don't show your ankles. Men don't get to see your ankles. Men don't get to see certain things. They get to see other things, but they don’t get to see other things because those are personal, those are private things that make men interested in who you are. They ask questions. And I get that all the time. Why do you only show your shoulders? Like I don't wear triple D boobs because I don't think that's a natural thing for my body type, I think that maybe I'm a C or anything from a B to a C and I don't think it's proper to have giant boobs and give other people a false impression of womanhood. Because you don't have to have giant boobs to be a beautiful woman. You don't have to have a tiny waist to be a beautiful woman. Even though I corset myself quite a bit, in fact I wear corsets probably for everything that I dress in, but it's very important and very special to me that I don't have a very big bosom. ‘Cause I'm not interested. I don't like padding out, I don't pad out because that's not natural for me. And I typically find that other drag queens wear pads and stuff because they've been forced into it. And if they had a choice, I think that they would go in a different, they would do other things. And that's why I used panniers, which are the hip hoops that make me look wider. Because it makes my shoulders look way smaller and it makes me look like I haven't eaten in like three days, which is perfect so, you know. Which is of course isn't a natural way that woman would ever look but in that time period it would be very normal to have a teeny weeny little waist. So where did you start performing when you first got into it? I started at the Closet Ball which is where like men that are in the community that haven't done drag before or have done very little drag start off as men and then change into women. And so that's when I was Cherry Boom Boom and then a friend of mine whose a producer of show the Joe Box Cabaret in Santa Fe, her name is Linda Kraus. She was the lighting person for the show and she saw me and said you really have to join the show, so I joined the show from there. And it was very fortuitous because I didn't really have an outlet, you know I would dress up to go to parties you know or for Halloween but I really didn't I really didn't have a place to perform. Because I didn't perform at all I just went out in my costumes.(Subjects: performance) Yeah, what is your sort of you know we talked about your artistic side as far as fashion goes. What about singing, dancing, any of that side? It's very funny because I look a lot to history for, you probably I figure I look a lot to history, so I learn ancient dances like the Volta, which was a favorite dance of Queen Elizabeth, where the man, where it was sort of like a hop, skip, and a jump and then the man lifts the lady up from her crotch into the air and they say, “Volta.” It was an Italian dance, which was all the rage in her time and I put it to her modern music and it's very interesting because modern music has a lot of the same tonality of old music. And if you find the right one it's scary because it looks like exactly and people are like, “Well, where the hell did you think that dance up?” I didn't think it up, it's just an old dance that's re-appropriated. You know waltzing, I use a lot of that stuff. So, yes, I do dance.(Subjects: dance, performance) I don't really sing. Not really. I don't…I'm not really a big singer but I enjoy singing in the car and things like that. But I enjoy lip-syncing more because you get the tonality that you want. You get the song that you want from the singer you want and all you have to do is emote that emotion. There's some people that aren't good lip-syncers and there are people that are good lip-syncers. And you just, you have to hear the music and I think that that love between music and your performance is really what conveys to the audience because you can be talking to somebody over here and look at somebody from across the room and they'll be like, “Oh my gosh.” It means a lot to them. Oh my god. So that's yeah. But I don't sing, I don't sing very well. I sing but I don't sing very well, yes.(Subjects: performance) So how often would you perform in like in maybe a month? With this particular title, ‘cause now I'm the now reigning Miss New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association 2017, it's almost every other week. And some of them I have such a lucky sort of experience where I'm experiencing out of town so I'm actually performing outside of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'm performing in like Texas and you know Denver and things of that nature. So I'm able to show off my drag and it's…but it's very interesting because I get mixed reviews. I've always got mixed reviews on my drag because people say, “Well that's not drag.” Yes, it is. It's historically it is drag. If you look at Shakespeare yes, it is drag. You are seeing women dressed up in different time periods. Men dressed as women doing different time periods. First of all, yes it is drag. Historical drag is drag because it's in history. But I forgot what we are talking about.(Subjects: performance) Different responses to your drag outside of New Mexico. Then there's…it's interesting because now with rodeo there are people who have certain definers or what’s called hegemony of what rodeo should look like. And I tend to step outside of that boundary of what it looks like. Because what is really rodeo? What is really western looks? Because we can look at right now with stretch jersey and stretch jean and boots or we can go back to the 1600s or go back to the 1800s and we can see woman with bustle dresses. So what is really the definer of western looks? Is it a duster? Is it all leather? Is it jeans? Because in the 1800s Levi Straus I don't even I think he had started maybe making Levi's.(Subjects: cowperson) For mainly miners. For miners, yeah. And women weren't wearing pants. God forbid they were wearing pants. They were all corseted and bustled. Even the soiled dove women, which are prostitutes at that time period, were wearing, to go out in public because they weren't going to go out how they were dressed, in certain definers that defined what they looked like, you know, feathers in their hair can can girls. That is that is typically western. And then you look to modern sort of western sort of history. It doesn't just start now. It starts with polka. It starts with, you know, crinolines and colors and Annette Funicello square dancing. So you see this various range and then you see these people who tend to sometimes, they love country so much that they feel it has to be defined in a certain way. (Subjects: cowperson) But how do you define it? It's not just music. And it's not just fashion. It's what's inside you and sometimes it's the manners how you take care of each other with that changes that perception of western. Paula Cole said it best when she wrote her song about where have all the cowboys gone? You know, where's my Marlboro man? That's the truth of the matter. And I think with western people they have a romanticized idea of what it's supposed to look like. Jersey-comfortable, whatever. But it really isn't comfortable. Really, it's actually not a stereotype because it's really not a stereotype. It's an experience that you either experience it in your heart and you convey it to the audience or you don't. Especially as a performer you can either do it whatever you want to do it but I think it’s the gentleness that they want. (Subjects: cowperson) It's almost Southern in a way. Where western men are I mean I've never met nicer men than this. I mean tipping hats and being really lovely. In the gay community because it's a completely different community then if I was a pride pageant because gay men would be like a little snooty. Well not snooty but they can be a little huffy sometimes. And not all of them. But some of them. So there's that experience and with western experience they are very, very nice, it's like you experience gentlemen. And not all the time ‘cause there's some that are a little out of control but you can't do anything about that you just move on and have a good time.(Subjects: community) Yeah this is a really interesting point you are making about the sort of historicalness of western style when you know the south west was Spanish ladies and native women and lots of different visions of femininity before bling and Wranglers. And bell bottoms and boots because you look. I come from Santa Fe. Which is the end of the Santa Fe Trail. It ends with me. It ends where everybody wanted to go. I mean everybody was coming out to New Mexico and finding, I mean turquoise, silver, Wrangler boots—boots, and Wranglers, and concha belts. Where do you think it all came from? It came from where I come from. So I know where I'm coming from and I can play with it how I want to because I am where the Santa Fe Trail ends. But I also have the Spanish background and it’s unfair to only see the Anglicized version of “western” because there is no…even, even those gentlemen were fur trappers they were French, they were Anglo-Saxon, they were Spanish, they were—shoot, they were buffalo soldiers, Native American peoples. What is Southwestern? What is the defining moment that says, “Oh, well, that's western, a cowboy hat. That's western”? There's nothing. You can pick and choose from whatever the hell you want and make it into whatever you want. So what is it?(Subjects: cowperson) So have you gotten a lot of comments of like today you know you were dressed in a corset and lace and that more… Antiquated Style, yeah. Sort of hyper-feminine beautiful style, whereas a lot of the other women were dressed in jeans, tight fitting jeans, button down shirt, some had hats. Do you get comments on not fitting in to the other…? I think, not I'm not going to take them as negative comments but I think that they think that it's not country enough. And ironically, it's sort of, to me and my perception, it is country it's just a different version of country. Today somebody told me I look steampunk. Steampunk western is a perfect example of a defining moment in fashion and in a visual experience where people dress with top hats they have crazy little things. They have little doohickies and doodads but they act with the same gentility they you know bustles but the dresses are short and you know the ankle breakers and things like the fans and the little parasols. That's western. That really is western, you know. So you really get these experiences of “I don't understand you, so I'm not going to understand you. So it's easier to not understand you, so you're not, you're not country.” (Subjects: cowperson) What the heck is country? I just went through it. It can be Buffalo Soldier, it can be an Anglo coming down the Spanish trail. It can be a Spanish person. If you if you went back just a couple years earlier, you'd see people in squaw skirts and concha belts and peasant blouses. And ironically those peasant blouses and squaw skirts are coming back into fashion but it's typically Spanish with silver buckles down the side of the dress. Okay. Well, give me what is right historical western fashion I'll stick to it. Because if you really want to get real serious, go to the Native Americans where they defined Southwestern fashion, because they were here way before anybody else and say you know a rug dress is what is Southwestern, is country. It's so interesting.(Subjects: cowperson) It's really fascinating. So most of the time you let them have their perception of it, you love them anyway, and you accept them for what…’cause there's no reason to fight over it. If they have a defining idea of western, God bless all let them have it. I'm not going to take it away. I'm proud of them. But maybe I've twisted their mind a little and they said oh I can do that too and it's perfectly fine if I want to do it they don't have to do it.(Subjects: cowperson) So did you get any training in fashion? Well, my grandmother was the main sort of lady who trained me in fashion, sort of taught me certain ways of putting outfits together. I went to the College of Santa Fe and got my bachelor of fine arts in Historical Costuming. So that's why I can really speak from a historical point of view of the knowledge of what things should look like and sort of put them in historical context and then juxtaposition them against today's sort of look. That's super interesting. I’m sorry. You were going to say? No, no, go ahead I totally forgot anyway. So what do you do for a living now?(Subjects: jobs) So this is really interesting, I work as a funeral ambassador. So it goes from drag queen in the evening to funeral ambassador in the day. I do it all, you know I formulate death certificates and help take loved ones into our care, which is taking them from the home or the place of passing, to the funeral home, to doing all the paperwork for my funeral director, to helping them lay them to rest. So it's very interesting.(Subjects: jobs) Does that take a lot of emotional strength for you?(Subjects: jobs) I think so. And I know it seems…I don't think it seems too healthy. Sometimes you have to turn it off. Not turn it off in a cruel way and not have compassion for the people who have lost loved ones but you have to be the strong sort of wall to lean on for them. Otherwise if you are all messed up and crying, messed up and crying, messed up and crying how are you helping any of these people? You can't do any of your job, so it's pointless. And it may not be easy, but it has to get done because you know the loved one isn't going to get up and do it for themselves. I know that first hand so I'm like eh. So.(Subjects: jobs) And where are you living? In Pojoaque, New Mexico, which is 15 to 30 minutes outside of Santa Fe. It's right out past Santa Fe Opera. So would you say that's a small town or like a suburb of Santa Fe? It's actually a pueblo it's like it's within in the Pojoaque Pueblo. It's not within the Pueblo itself but it's surrounding territory. So how did you first find out about the gay rodeo? My brother Trey, who is not really my blood brother because I'm an only child but he's my spiritual brother, let me know about the International Gay Rodeo and the New Mexico Gay Rodeo, and asked me if I wanted to join and then run for Miss New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association, the host association, because there hadn't been a court in about seven years. And he really wanted to do the run with me. We were the only contestants. We won. And so here I am. (Subjects: family, igra) Sort of a funny story, I tell it to a lot of people. He had been sort of bugging at me—not bugging at me in a bad way ‘cause New Mexicans use the word “bug” but not in a bad way—he was calling me and he I was sitting on the can and I see his phone number come up and I said, “Well, I better answer,” ‘cause I really enjoy my phone calls with Trey. So I answered it and he says, “So have you made up your mind about running for Miss New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association?” And I told him…you know, I was going to tell him no and all of the sudden I stopped and I heard this voice and it wasn't Trey's voice and it wasn't my voice. And it was sort of this divine voice. I don't know what to say better than that. It was like right out of like a story book and it says and I heard it just as clear as day and it said, “He's not asking you. I'm asking you. Say yes.” And I said, “Yes. Yeah, I will. Yeah, why not? Let's do it.” And he's like, “What?” ‘Cause he was expecting me to say no. And that's sort of the beginning of this experience. So it's been very amazing, very different. I don't think I've had more fun—because I was the first Miss Santa Fe Pride—I don't think I've had more fun holding a title than this title. It's been a blast. Had you ever been to a gay rodeo before? Yes, I had. The year before, it was sort of ironic, it was like I was being primed for it. I performed at the gay rodeo in Santa Fe which is the Zia rodeo, it's in Santa Fe, on the rodeo grounds, and I performed there and I was like geez this is really fun but I never thought in a million years that I would be Miss New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association. And do you perform in the rodeo, do you compete I mean, in the rodeo? Yes and no. In October, we will be tested and then we will have to perform and crowned for International Gay Rodeo which is the highest that you can go, that’s world, right now I'm just state. So I'll be competing with my other brothers and sisters, and I always call it competing with because I'm not competing against—it's not fair to say that I'm competing against because then that would make me an enemy of theirs and I'm not an enemy I just want to compete with and have a good time. That's great. And what were you scheduled to do today but you're going to do tomorrow? The Gay Rodeo Association, the International Gay Rodeo Association, as it is known, has different events which define itself as queer/gay/LGBT and the sort of there are several stock events, and two others, but what defines it as queer/gay/LGBT is camp events. So we do campy sort of things which are goat dressing, wild drag race which is where you put a drag queen on the back of a of a heifer and the heifer goes all over the place and you have to pull it across a line. Goat dressing is where you have to put underwear on a goat. Steer decorating is where you have to put a bow on a steer’s tail. So that's typically LGBT. It's taking that real heavy, intense, competitive nature and making it really fun and silly, sort of making fun of itself, which is perfectly okay.(Subjects: events) So I often have a hard time defining the word camp for my students. How would you define camp? Camp is I think not ordinary or regular or associated, it's not going not camping. People would automatically say camp is camping. Not it's not camping. It's not going outside and cooking with a Dutch oven. It's seeing things in an unordinary fashion and being able to laugh at it. I think also the rodeo, the straight rodeo had been so oppressive to the gay competitor to the LGBT competitor, that they needed to have something to breathe and break away from that oppression, that slavery. ‘Cause I often say that we’re sometimes in emotional chains. Or people say it's not okay for us to be who we are, which is completely insane because of course it's okay for us to be whoever we are. And whatever we believe in and if you don't like it, you can go you-know-what. When you are listening to this interview and you don't agree with it too bad. Everybody is allowed to have their own experience and I think you best beat back the misunderstanding and the ugliness with humor. So I think the gay rodeo beats back that oppression with funniness, with clever funniness which makes it light and airy and not so intense. Though it can be intense you're bull riding, you are racing, you could get hurt, you could get killed, you know, you could get paralyzed but the camp events make it so that it's like who cares at least I was having fun when I did it and that's the truth of the matter, you know. Do you ever want to ride a bull? You know, I see it and it looks really interesting and you know I'm full in drag. I would do it full in drag, wig and all and yes, I would. But there's like this one…but I'm sort of…I have a husband and, you know, I have cats and I always worry that I could get severely hurt and be a quadriplegic. You know they live full, rich lives they just have to work a little harder. And but it's a little scary ‘cause you can die doing whatever we're doing, you can have an accident and just die accidentally. You can hit your head wrong. You are dealing with wild animals, and those are drag queens included. [Laughter] I'm just teasing. But you are dealing with wild animals and wild animals are like children that have no…they are afraid and scared or comfortable and happy or…there's no in between and there's no having the conversation saying, “I'm going to put some underwear on you today, little goat. You don't need to gore me. You don't need to poke me in the butt or anything.” “I'm just going to ride on your back, bull, for eight seconds. If you just make this easy for all of us, you know, it'll be okay.” There's no conversating with them because they don't understand you. And so that's you know eh. And you mentioned you're married. Are you legally married?(Subjects: family) Mhhm. We were married in August of 2007 and, legally but we were married the year before in October 2016 with a spiritual marriage and then we went to California before Prop 8 was actually voted through and everything but we had sort of a grandfather time where we were sort of grandfathered in so we were married legally and then we brought the…but New Mexico didn't recognize it until the United States Congress Supreme…Congress pushed it through. So we were still not legally married in New Mexico but were legally married in California which is the most stupidest thing I've ever heard. It's stupid.(Subjects: family) But you have had a spiritual marriage? Mhm Does he come to gay rodeos with you? Yeah, he just walked by just earlier he went to go to the bathroom with his sister. He supports me in everything. He carries my sash, he helps me change, he helps me dress, he keeps me on time. So, yes, he's a great support in my life. Richard Lee Polly. So he doesn't get mad that I didn't mention him in the interview.(Subjects: family) And you… He'll say, “You said husband but you never said my full name.” I said your full name so stop complaining. And yeah, I mean, do you think there's any resistance to having drag or royalty as part of the rodeo? Have you ever had anyone be like, “Well, rodeo's just rodeo why do we fuss with these other things?” Not yet, and I say not yet because it's not yet. But I think I'll probably be confronted by it. But it's sort of interesting because our rodeo had not had royalty for seven years. And that was a very hard time for them because they hadn't had royalty, so other royalty had to stand in. So there was always royalty but it was by proxy royalty. And I think the face of drag and I think the face of royalty brings a lot of recognition to the rodeo because it draws people in and says, “Well, why are they wearing crowns? What are they doing? What's the New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association?” And when people start asking questions then they want to join or they want to say, “Oh, I want to be a cowboy. I want to do stuff.” So it's very different. It's very different without and with. I think sometimes they are symbiotic and they need to have each other. And sometimes it's good and sometimes it's, bad but it is what it is. That's really great. So in the day-to-day operations of the association what is your, other than Goodwill Ambassador, what is your main…? PR. Information. Being able to answer people's questions if they have like “what's goat dressing? what's…,” you have to have certain answers. Then there's everyday questions that are like “Who is your president? Do you have an association? What's your chapter number?” You know, things like that so it's really interesting. So it’s just light stuff, you know. But for our test we have two-hundred questions we have to answer for IGRA. And you only get one chance to answer those right. That either places you as one, two…so Queen one, two, and three, or nothing. So I got to get my shit together for that. Do you think you're going to do other, whether the Imperial Court System or other organizations that have royalties, would you'd be interested in doing…? I have worked closely with different courts and the Imperial System. And my title as a city title for Miss Santa Fe Pride was sort of. Yes, so yes, working with them but I don't think I'd ever, I found sort of my niche in rodeo and I think this is where I want to stay. Though things always change it's not like anything permanent. Yeah. And, you know, I know there's a lot of concern about just not getting younger people in you know and the association shrinking. How do you think gay rodeo can expand, can go into the future?(Subjects: igra) Well, I think we're now experiencing a Renaissance again. So there's a renewed interest in the rodeo, it's starting to come back little by little. But I think the important part is that you have to accept everybody for what they are and what they define rodeo or Western as. Because when you say, “You don't fit in.” You take that prospective person who's interested and you alienate them. You say you can't be who you are. Because what defines rodeo? What defines Southwestern? What defines country? Is it the music? Is it the clothing? Or is it the person? And if you are denying the person his or her own individuality of how they express it then you're doomed. And have to be clever to allow other people's definition of it and say, “Hey, that's okay. Or I don't understand it, but what the hell, go for it. I'm like eh whatever.” And that's when you find a renaissance, a rebirth. (Subjects: igra) ‘Cause there is a rebirth of western stuff in pop culture which is steampunk. So you look at steampunk western, people are wearing western stuff. And so you just have to remember that nothing defines country. If it's a top or it's a pair of earrings, then you have to look a little bit deeper. ‘Cause it goes much further than that. ‘Cause it is history Manifest Destiny, Westward Ho. You know, Westward Ho, you read it in your history book, Westward Ho, the lady carrying electricity to the West with no wings but she's an angel and she's carrying a peace branch but everybody’s getting killed. That's what we’re experiencing. Cattle rustling, cowboys, Billy the Kid: those are only one part of very a large experience, people coming from Chicago going to New Mexico, people leaving New Mexico to go to Chicago, some people who never got there. They all have stories and they all have their own fashion in their own way that they experienced life. We're not living in that time, so we can't define what it is.(Subjects: cowperson, igra) Well, this has been fantastic. Is there anything else you want to mention? Hello. No I'm just kidding. Just that…not really. I think I've pretty much said everything that I thought I wanted to say. And then I'll say, “Damnit, I forgot something.” You can always call me on the phone and I'm like hello yes, and I'm all so yeah. So if you ever need me, just yeah give me a call. Excellent. Thank you so much. You are more than welcome.

Lacey Edwards Click to filter

Hi, this is Court Fund, sitting here with Lacey Edwards at the Pheonix Rodeo. Hi, Lacey how are you today? Good. How are you? Pretty good. I'm just going to go ahead and start. What year were you born? 76.(Subjects: childhood) 76. And where did you grow up?(Subjects: childhood)