Alibi V.18 No.44 • Oct 29-Nov 4, 2009 

Photo Essay

World Gay Rodeo Finals

Calf-roping gear lays at the ready on the sidelines.
Calf-roping gear lays at the ready on the sidelines.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

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.

Terry Bartlett checks his boots before his bull ride.
Terry Bartlett checks his boots before his bull ride.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

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.

Bull rider Simunovich stretches.
Bull rider Simunovich stretches.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

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.

Contestants put underwear on a goat. The goat-dressing competition was developed for the gay rodeo.
Contestants put underwear on a goat. The goat-dressing competition was developed for the gay rodeo.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

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.

Sara Simunovich focuses before her bull ride.
Sara Simunovich focuses before her bull ride.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Simunovich is thrown from the bull. “Few riders ever leave this event without being slammed to the ground and scurrying for cover,” according to igra.com.
Simunovich is thrown from the bull. “Few riders ever leave this event without being slammed to the ground and scurrying for cover,” according to igra.com.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Rodeo royalty from left to right: Miss New Mexico Gay Rodeo Martinique Bouvier, Empress Aleah Rico and Miss International Gay Rodeo Aspen Vail.
Rodeo royalty from left to right: Miss New Mexico Gay Rodeo Martinique Bouvier, Empress Aleah Rico and Miss International Gay Rodeo Aspen Vail.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com