International Gay Rodeo Association
The International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), founded in 1985, is the sanctioning body for gay rodeos held throughout the United States and Canada. They are the largest group coordinating rodeo events specifically welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) as well as heterosexual participants and spectators. IGRA is composed of many regional gay rodeo associations, and sanctions a season of rodeo events which culminates in an annual World Gay Rodeo Finals. IGRA events are intended to allow all competitors, regardless of sexual and gender identity, to compete in rodeo sports without discrimination. The organization helps spread appreciation for Western culture and the sport of rodeo, while serving as a fundraising vehicle benefiting many charitable organizations.
Competitors compete for prize money and the title of All Around Cowboy and Cowgirl at each rodeo. The winners of each event receive trophy buckles designed by the hosting association. At season's end the contestants with the highest points in each event receive invitations to the World Gay Rodeo Finals presented by IGRA. The event was renamed in 2009 from the previous "International Gay Rodeo Finals" moniker it held from its onset in Hayward, California.
The original intent of these rodeos was fundraising, and while highly competitive and structured rodeos still serve the primary purpose of being fundraisers. The money raised at the rodeo is donated to the designated charities of each association. In total IGRA and all the associated associations have donated to furthering the individual causes of all charities that are benefactors of rodeo funds.
In 2010, the IGRA archives dating from 1975 were deposited in the library collection of the Autry National Center in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, which also houses the Museum of the American West.
The documentary film Queens & Cowboys follows the story of out cowboy, Wade Earp and others who compete in the IGRA. Earp discusses how he does not compete in rodeos outside of IGRA because, "There’s still a lot of homophobia. As progressive as we think the world’s gotten, there’s so much we have to conquer." 
On November 9, 2014, CNN aired an episode of This is Life with Lisa Ling that covered the Zia Regional Rodeo in Santa Fe, New Mexico, including profiles of several cowboys and cowgirls that are active on the IGRA circuit. 
The first gay rodeo was held as a charity fundraising event at the Washoe County Fairgrounds in Reno, Nevada on October 2, 1976. The organizer, Phil Ragsdale, a member of the Imperial Court System, was the Court Emperor of Reno. In time, he came to be regarded as the "Father of Gay Rodeo."
Ragsdale came up with the idea of a holding a rodeo to raise money for the local Thanksgiving Day food drive for senior citizens. Over 125 people took part in the first rodeo, and the winners were crowned King of the Cowboys, Queen of the Cowgirls, and Miss Dusty Spurs (drag queen). The National Reno Gay Rodeo title was officially created in 1977, when he founded the Comstock Gay Rodeo Association. Following the Imperial courts lead Ragsdale added the "Mr., Ms., and Miss National Reno Gay Rodeo" titles to aid in the fund raising that was to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. These titles still exist today but have been recognized as Mr., Ms., Miss., and MsTer International Gay Rodeo Association since the IGRA replaced the old National Reno format.
By 1984, the ninth and final National Reno Gay Rodeo brought out over 10,000 people to the rodeo grounds. The demise of the National Reno Rodeos is credited by the IRS as a dispute between the Gay Rodeo and the Washoe County Fairgrounds and the Sands Hotel. The rodeo books were also alleged to have been seized by the IRS.
History has recorded 14 gay rodeos (9 Reno rodeos, 3 Colorado rodeos, 1 Texas rodeo, and 1 California rodeo) prior to the formation of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA). The IGRA became truly international in 1993 when the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association from Canada joined.
In September 1985 with 10 years of rodeo history behind it, groups of men gathered in Denver, Colorado to formulate the history of Gay Rodeo. The five founding states of the International Gay Rodeo Association were Colorado, Texas, California, and Arizona. These four associations seated the Oklahoma Gay Rodeo Association at its first convention held in the same year. The new Association elected Wayne Jakino from Colorado as its first President.
In 1987, IGRA’s first International Finals Rodeo was held in Hayward, California. The name was changed to the World Gay Rodeo Finals in 2009.
Conventions, Presidents, and Royalty
A list of presidents and royalty elected at annual conventions since IGRA was founded in 1985:
|Year / Rodeos Held||Convention||President||Mr. IGRA||Ms. IGRA||Miss IGRA (drag queen)||MsTer IGRA (drag king)||Finals Rodeo||Grand Marshals|
|1985||Denver||Wayne Jakino, CGRA||--||--||--||--||--|
|1986 / 5||Denver||Wayne Jakino||Gary Oliver, CGRA||Jeannie Nelson, CGRA||Fritz Capone (Jim Freeman), OGRA||--||--||--|
|1987 / 6||Albuquerque||Les Krambeal, OGRA||Tony Lazano, TGRA||Dee Godwin, OGRA||Misty Michaels (Steve Rogers), KGRA||--||San Francisco||Shanti Project|
|1988 / 7||Fort Worth||Les Krambeal||--||--||--||--||Reno (see note below)||Lynn Copeland & Wayne Jakino|
|1989 / 7||Albuquerque||Gerald Ford, TGRA||Jerry Hubbard, GSGRA||Connie Clovis, KGRA||Magnolia Spirits (Buddy Sojourner), CGRA||--||Phoenix||Ed Buck|
|1990 / 7||Wichita||Linn Copeland, KGRA||Larry Brumley, OGRA||Laura O'Neill, CGRA||Moosala (Mark Church), AGRA||--||Phoenix||Katie Southwick|
|1991 / 10||Albuquerque||Bob Pimentel, NMGRA||Scott Burleson, MGRA||Linda Sullo, GSGRA||Hollie Woods (David Anaya), AGRA||--||Wichita||The Names Project|
|1992 / 13||St. Paul||Bob Pimentel||Jim Carter, OGRA||RC Cuellar, CGRA||Roxie Heart (John Kingston), KGRA||--||Phoenix||Wayne Jakino|
|1993 / 16||Billings||Roger Bergmann, GSGRA||Ron Neff, CGRA||Dee Zuspann, KGRA||Chili Pepper (Tony Valdez), TGRA||--||Fort Worth||Gerald Ford|
|1994 / 21||Little Rock||Roger Bergmann||J.R. Duran, NMGRA||Joanne Bawiec, ASGRA||Miss Tessie (Tim Smith), SEGRA||--||Denver||Greg Olson|
|1995 / 22||Chicago||Roger Bergmann||Mark Burdine, NMGRA||Desiree Gronwald, CGRA||DeShannon (Mitch Gill), TGRA||--||Denver||Roger Bergmann|
|1996 / 20||Omaha||Tom Vance, NSGRA||Michael Vrooman, CGRA||Shugar Vigil, NMGRA||Naomi La'Rell (Quentin Sims), CGRA||--||Albuquerque||Connie Lee|
|1997 / 18||Salt Lake City||Tom Vance||Tommy Channel, CGRA||Sherry Reedy, AGRA||Tori Hart (Rohn Roldan), CGRA||--||Phoenix||Tom Vance|
|1998 / 20||Baltimore||Linda Frazier, KGRA||Kurt McGregor, AGRA||Tamara Marks, MIGRA||Beverly DeMarco (Anthony D.), NMGRA||--||Phoenix||Glenn Gore|
|1999 / 19||Long Beach||Linda Frazier||Douglas Graff, GSGRA||Laura Scott, NGRA||DeShannon (Mitch Gill), NGRA||--||Little Rock||Ron Trusley|
|2000 / 17||Las Vegas||Craig Allen Rouse, GSGRA||Daniel Lusk, ASGRA||Lonni LaBel, ASGRA||Harley Quinn (Michael Vrooman), ILGRA||--||Albuquerque||Thom Sloan|
|2001 / 17||Long Beach||Craig Allen Rouse||Michael Cunningham, ILGRA||Erin Leavey, SEGRA||Victoria London (Scott Tickler), AGRA||--||Palm Springs||Jose Sarria, aka "The Widow Norton"|
|2002 / 19||Cleveland||Craig Allen Rouse||Mark Larson, NSGRA||Lize MacDonald, NGRA||Bianca St John (Kenny Cunitz), CGRA||--||Wichita||Fritz Capone|
|2003 / 19||Phoenix||Craig Allen Rouse||David Westman, CGRA||Mary Munger, CGRA||Jada McRae (Jay Carlson), ILGRA||--||Tulsa||Patrick Terry|
|2004 / 20||Denver||Craig Allen Rouse||Eric Hanson, GSGRA||Julie Brown, DSRA||Mandy Barbarell (Andrew Goodman), MGRA||--||Omaha||Tamara Marks|
|2005 / 20||Calgary||Brian Helander, AGRA||Ken Pool, CGRA||Gaylia Young, AGRA||Pussy LeHoot (Kevin McSweeny), AGRA||--||Dallas||James Ramey|
|2006 / 20||Nashville||Brian Helander||Steve Wollert, GSGRA||Kimberley Kay, CGRA||Jymmye Jaymes (James Young), ASGRA||--||Reno||Keith Ann, Mitch Gill|
|2007 / 18||Kansas City||Brian Helander||Clyde Mitter, CGRA||--||Destiny B. Childs (Ric Legg), ASGRA||--||Denver||Wayne Jakino|
|2008 / 20||New Orleans||Brian Helander||Gary Rushton, AGRA||--||Janet Jenkins, CGRA||--||Denver||John King|
|2009 / 16||Toronto||Brian Helander||Wade Earp, TGRA||Sharon Starks, AGRA||Aspen Vail, (Steve Sublett) CGRA||Rocket Coxx, (Jamie Light) CGRA||Albuquerque||Lorrie Murphy|
|2010 / 17||Reno||Brian Helander||Roger Courtemanche, CGRA||--||Ionna Doublewide, AGRA||--||Laughlin, NV||
|2011 / 15||San Diego||Doug Graff, NGRA||Michael Butts, AGRA||Sharon Starks, AGRA||Kimberli Foxx, NGRA||--||Fort Worth||David Hill|
|2012 / 15||Las Vegas||Doug Graff, NGRA||Rodd Smunk, TGRA||Kami Boles, MGRA||Victoria Weston, TGRA||Shane Lee, MGRA||Fort Worth||Frank Harrell/Ty Teigen|
|2013 / 14||San Diego||Ed Barry, ILGRA||Frank Thompson, OGRA||--||Sabel D’Zyre, NGRA||--||Fort Worth||Mitch Gill|
|2014 / 13||Denver||Ed Barry, ILGRA||Jeff Germany, OGRA||Pauline Chavez, CGRA||Katrina Davenport, NGRA||Rocki Heffa, TGRA||Fort Worth||Janie Van Santen|
|2015 / 16||St Petersburg||Bruce Gros||Andrew Johnson, CGRA||--||Luxx Bentley, OGRA||Preston, NGRA||Las Vegas||--|
- Note: In 1988, "A contract with a private ranch sixty miles east of Reno was made void when the local homophobic District Attorney filed an injunction two days before the rodeo in order to stop the event. Two days in court as well as a trip to the Nevada Supreme Court failed to overturn the injunction," according to the IGRA website. As a result, no finals were held that year.
Like all traditional rodeos, IGRA rodeos also sponsor an annual royalty competition to determine the twelve individuals who will comprise the IGRA Royalty Team. Each fall the various associations send either their state winners or their first runners-up to compete for the Mr., Ms., Miss, and Mster International Gay Rodeo Association sashes.
The five areas of competition are:
- Personal Interview
- Horsemanship Skill
- Western wear modeling
- Public Presentation and On-Stage Question
- Public Entertainment
Animal rights organizations such as Mercy for Animals, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) and LGBT Compassion criticize Gay Rodeo for being cruel to animals. In response to increased publicity given to critics of Gay Rodeo, IGRA published a press release stating that their animals are well-treated and handled in accordance with established ethical guidelines.
State and Regional rodeo associations
Rodeos under the IGRA umbrella are organized into four divisions (see map here ) and more than two dozen regional associations:
- includes the state of Arizona except for the southeastern counties covered by SGRA (see below)
- includes Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan
- includes Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and metropolitan New York City
- CCGRA - Central Canada Gay Rodeo Association, Toronto, Ontario, founded 2006
- CGRA - Colorado Gay Rodeo Association, Denver, founded 1981
- DSRA - Diamond State Rodeo Association, Little Rock, Arkansas
- FGRA - Florida Gay Rodeo Association, St. Petersburg
- GWGRA - Gateway Gay Rodeo Association, St. Louis, Missouri, founded 2004
- includes St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Franklin County, Jefferson County, and Lincoln County
- GSGRA - Golden State Gay Rodeo Association, Long Beach, California, founded 1984
- HSRA - High Sierra Rodeo Association, Reno, Nevada
- includes Washoe County
- IAGRA - Iowa Gay Rodeo Association, Red Oak
- ILGRA - Illinois Gay Rodeo Association, Chicago
- KGRA - Kansas Gay Rodeo Association, Wichita, founded 1986
- LGRA - Liberty Gay Rodeo Association, Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania
- Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Northhampton, Lancaster, Berks, York, Lebanon, and Dauphin counties
- MIGRA - Michigan International Gay Rodeo Association, Dearborn, founded 1994
- MGRA - Missouri Gay Rodeo Association, Kansas City, Kansas, founded 1986
- includes the state of Missouri other than those counties covered by GWGRA (see above)
- includes the state of Nevada other than Washoe County, covered by HSGRA (see above)
- NMGRA - New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association, Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded 1984
- NSGRA - North Star Gay Rodeo Association, St. Paul, founded 1989
- includes Minnesota and Wisconsin
- includes western Oklahoma
- includes Idaho, Oregon, and Washington
- includes several counties north of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
- includes the Sacramento area of California
- includes Kentucky and Tennessee
- includes southeastern Arizona counties of Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham, and Greenlee
- includes the northeastern Oklahoma counties of Kay, Osage, Pawnee, Washington, Nowata, Craig, Ottawa, Rogers, Mayes, Delaware, Adair, Cherokee, Wagoner, Tulsa, Creek, Okmulgee, Muskogee, Sequoyah, Okfuskee, Hughes, Pittsburg, Haskell, Le Flore, Latimer, and McIntosh
- TGRA - Texas Gay Rodeo Association, Fort Worth, founded 1984
- Pacific Coast Gay Rodeo Association (California), loosely organized in 1980; replaced by Golden State Gay Rodeo Association in 1984
- Cowboy State Rodeo Association (Wyoming), founded 1988, name changed the following year to Big Sky Gay Rodeo Association (Montana); dissolved 1998
- Oregon Gay Rodeo Association, seated at 1988 IGRA convention; replaced by Northwest Gay Rodeo Association in 1990
- Utah Gay Rodeo Association, seated at 1989 IGRA convention; dissolved 2006
- Northwest Gay Rodeo Association (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho), seated at 1990 IGRA convention; reorganized as Pacific Northwest Gay Rodeo Association
- Tri-State Gay Rodeo Association (Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky), founded 1990, dissolved 1995
- Silver State Gay Rodeo Association (Nevada); reorganized as Nevada Gay Rodeo Association, 1992
- Pennsylvania Gay Rodeo Association seated at 1995 IGRA convention; name and coverage changed to PONYGRA (Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York Gay Rodeo Association) in 1999; dissolved 2007
Most associations host at least one annual rodeo. All associations must follow the rules of conduct as outlined in the IGRA Rodeo Rule Book, the first edition of which was published in 1985. These rules are often updated and ratified at season's end when delegates from each association gather at the IGRA annual convention. The purpose of the convention is to elect new officers, create new rules and bylaws, and seat new associations.
Each of the thirteen events has a set of rules that must be followed in order for contestants to score points and to qualify for the year end finals. Unlike in traditional rodeos, contestants are allowed to compete in all events regardless of sex. Buckles are awarded to the top male and female competitors in each event, as well as buckles for Rookie of the Year and for All-Around Cowboy and All-Around Cowgirl.
Rough Stock Events
- Bull riding
- Steer riding
- Chute Dogging or Steer wrestling
- Bareback bronc riding (this is an optional event)
- Wild Drag Race
- Goat Dressing
- Steer Decorating
- Pimentel, Bob. "The History of Gay Rodeo," Out in All Directions: The Almanac of Gay and Lesbian America, Warner Books, 1995. ISBN 0-446-51822-0
- "About Us," International Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 3 July 2011[dead link]
- "Autry Libraries awarded NHPRC grant". Libraries.theautry.org. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- Hinton, Gregory. "Better Two than One: The Shirts from Brokeback Mountain," pp. 118-122 in The Brokeback Book: From Story to Cultural Phenomenon, ed. William R. Handley: Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, 2011 ISBN 978-0-8032-2664-7
- "Gay Rodeo History," International Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 3 July 2011.[dead link]
- "Past Officers and Royalty," International Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 7 July 2011[dead link]
- "Mercy for Animals". Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Cruel Celebrities". Showing Animals Respect & Kindness. Showing Animals Respect & Kindness. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Animal rights group says "whoa" to plans for gay rodeo event". Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Gay Rodeo - Don't Bully Animals!". Andrew Zollman. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Animal Welfare". web.archive.org. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- [dead link]
- Arizona Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 3 July 2011[dead link]
- "Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 3 July 2011". Argra.org. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- "Atlantic States Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 3 July 2011". Asgra.org. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- Canada Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 3 July 2011[dead link]
- "Colorado Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 4 July 2011". Cgra.ws. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- "Diamond State Rodeo Association, accessed 4 July 2011". Dsra.org. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
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- Gateway Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 4 July 2011[dead link]
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- "Bay Area Chapter, Golden State Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 4 July 2011". Bayarearodeo.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- "Greater Palm Springs Chapter, Golden State Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 4 July 2011". Palmspringsrodeo.org. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- "Greater San Diego Chapter, Golden State Gay Rodeo Association, accessed 4 July 2011". Sandiegorodeo.org. 2011-11-09. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- High Sierra Rodeo Association, accessed 4 July 2011
- "Iowa Gay Rodeo Association Facebook page". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- "Illinois Gay Rodeo Association". Ilgra.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
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Articles and interviews:
- Paynter, Ben. "So You Wanna Be a Cowboy?" The Pitch (Kansas City), 20 October 2005[dead link] lengthy interview with participants at an IGRA rodeo in Missouri
- "Out on the Range," The Guardian, 25 November 2005 interviews with participants at an IGRA rodeo in Mesquite, Texas
- Ayers, Chris. "Homosexual on the range: rodeo where gay cowboys can ride high," The Sunday Times, 14 January 2006
- Greenfield, Beth. "Gay Rodeos; Tightly Knit and Western-Loving," The New York Times, 24 February 2006
- "Out of the chute and in the pit," Gay and Lesbian Times, 10 September 2009 interview with gay rodeo officials in San Diego