Please support our programs

radio stories and voices to take action

All Around Cowboy: Inside the world of queer rodeo



Rodeo is a part of life for many Americans. But if you’re an LGBTQ rodeo fan participating in the sport you love can mean hiding part of who you are to fit in. But a tight knit group of queer cowboys has found a way to live the country and Western lifestyle in their own way.  You don’t often hear the words “gay” and “rodeo” together. On this edition Producer Vanessa Rancaño brings us one bull rider’s story.


  • Jason Strand, bull rider
  • Stud Monkey & David Grub, rodeo competitors
  • Clint Coil, rodeo judge and Stud Monkey’s partner
  • Judy Munson, Gay Games Rodeo Committee Chair
  • Darcey Ward, arena crew member
  • Rob Matyska, arena crew coordinator
  • Tom Porter, rodeo fan and David’s partner
  • Bill Lyle & Jane Silva, co-owners of The Thrill at Morgan Hill Rodeo Company
  • Steve Wollert, longtime IGRA member
  • Michael Weldert, rodeo fan
  • Edwin & Romiro, Bill Lyle’s employees
  • Will Ikeman, Jason’s husband

Producer, Host: Vanessa Rancaño

This show was part of a partnership with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Special thanks to Claire Schoen.


Author: admin

Share This Post On


  1. I was shocked to hear a Making Contact program devoted to celebrating the Gay Rodeo – an animal abusing activity that is not redeemed from its ugliness and animal cruelty by the fact that formerly oppressed people find “expression” by abusing animals for entertainment. I’ve been following rodeos – gay & straight – for decades. They are vicious and sadistic, including tying belts tightly around the genitals of helpless animals to make them “buck.” Take a look at the FACES of these poor animals, how defeated and helpless they look, and are. Sickening. That people who have known injustice find pleasure in hurting creatures who are even more unjustly and meanly treated. Anyway, I will never support any media financially that represent animal abuse or abuse of any defenseless, unoffending creature of any species as fun or cute or liberated or anything but what it is: human cruelty. Shame on all of you. Karen Davis, Machipongo, VA.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi there Karen,

      Thanks for listening and commenting. Perhaps this program should have touched on the controversy surrounding rodeos–its certainly a valid point you raised. We do think that animal rights and cruelty are important issues, which we occasionally cover. Here are two programs from our archives:

      In the case of this program, the producer chose to focus on something else. I reached out to Ms. Rancano about the issues you raised, and she replied:
      “this is not a story about animal cruelty, nor is it a story about rodeo animals. Rodeos of all stripes have long been criticized by animal activists and much ink has been devoted to the issue. There’s many angles to any story, and producing one is about choosing which facet to explore.”

      Additionally, the topics we cover are complex and intertwined. One example—we are planning an upcoming segment about fast food workers organizing for higher wages. But many people believe fast food is unhealthy and leading to ill effects on our society (to say nothing of the cruelty facing animals which end up in fast food). Should we not report on a peoples movement that celebrates a successful campaign for wage increases, because of those ethical questions about their field of work?
      I don’t know the answer, just raising a similar dilemma we face as media producers with limited airtime.

      Thanks again,

      Andrew Stelzer
      Making Contact

      Post a Reply
      • Thank you for responding to my comment. I understand about working specific angles of a story but I also understand that an angle can be placed in a context suggesting that there are issues beyond the particular focus of the story that is being told.

        To say that the rodeo in this instance was “not about the animals” is to obliterate the victims around whom the players, paraphernalia, etc. swirl. A rodeo is designed to entertain and show off, at the expense of domesticated animals who have been defeated by the punishments they have received from human beings their whole lives. A rodeo IS INESCAPABLY, INTRINSICALLY about exerting brutal power over animals who must struggle with the painful contraptions and other devices (ultimately the whole hideous situation) of what is a power exercise, a brutal game, for the humans who, unlike these poor animals, have chosen to participate, take the risks of injury or whatever may befall.

        There is NOTHING to celebrate about finding one’s identity and “expression” in abusing other creatures. I wish that people who excuse or “accept” such behavior could be channeled into the victims they are so callous toward. Finally, the fact that people who care about animals and are trying to defend them from the ubiquitous human abusiveness animals face everywhere – the fact that Animal Rights Advocates have been protesting rodeos for years does not invalidate or dilute the core fact of the rodeo being tantamount to a blood sport in the type of pleasure it evokes in the participants and the spectators. It’s an ugly, cruel “sport.”

        If people want to create “all human” rodeos and treat one another in rodeo fashion, they may. But let’s leave the non-consenting victims out of it, and let’s stop sentimentalizing animal abuse when it has been ritualized as a game. As I said in my first comment, look at the FACES of these animal victims being put through these hideous human-inflicted gyrations. There is nothing “wild” in those faces, just fear and abject hopelessness and helplessness implanted by the victimizers. Is reducing our fellow creatures to this condition something for us to be proud of and drool over and promote on NPR or anywhere else?

        Thank you for your attention. I hope this recent episode was the last to be aired by NPR and Making Contact.

        Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns, promoting the compassionate and respectful treatment of chickens and other domestic fowl.

        Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *