The mission of the International Gay Rodeo Association is to promote the LGBT country-Western lifestyle. “It is a huge surprise to many that the gay community is involved in rodeo, but this being America and the fact that all of us are intrigued with our Western heritage, it only adds to the reality ‘We are everywhere!’ ” the association writes on its website.
Phil Ragsdale put together the first gay rodeo in Reno, Nev., in 1976. Though it was hard to find ranchers willing to lease livestock for a gay rodeo, and though the first batch of competitors and spectators was slim, Ragsdale continued the event yearly.
The idea caught on, and people began traveling to Reno to participate. Other Western states began hosting their own rodeos, and they were eventually joined by Midwestern and Southern contingents. These days, associations hail from across the United States and Canada. New Mexico joined the IGRA in ’86. Our state has a long history of involvement with the association and has hosted conventions and finals over the years.
2009 brought the World Gay Rodeo Finals to Expo New Mexico. Contestants competed last weekend in traditional events like bull riding and calf roping, as well as camp events like steer decorating, goat dressing and the wild drag race.