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The Calgary Herald
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July 2, 1994
First posted Nov 24, 2012
Last update Jan 20, 2020
A transcript of the following article is available below
Transcript of the above article

Gay rodeo attracts big crowd

OCR Transcript by Frank Harrell, Apr 5, 2013

When Tim Haskin struts into the arena wearing a white dress, the crowd gives a loud cheer.

An advertising man, Haskin per-forms in this International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) event as Miss Firecracker. He steps out of the dress after competing in what is called the wild drag race.

On the lawn nearby at Symon's Valley BBQ Ranch, Ken Pool and Billy Mitchell kiss before they tell about their Canada Day long weekend with IGRA's local affiliate, the Alberta Gay Rodeo Association.

Mitchell says "the two of us couldn't be sitting here together with our arms around each other at a straight rodeo."

Pool says "there's a complete difference in camaraderie. If I'm going to compete, I want it to be in an environment that's comfortable for me. At a straight rodeo, you just wouldn't let it be known. You'd have to be closeted. I don't want to live my life that way."

Aboard a horse, Mary Taylor adds that a higher purpose is served by the first Canadian meeting sanctioned by the international governing body of rodeo for homosexuals and lesbians.

"It's a chance for society at large to see us as a normal group of people," says the Calgary real estate agent. "These events do a lot to educate against the prejudices we face."

Taylor says: "We're an invisible minority. People only recognize a gay man if he's very effeminate or a lesbian who might be considered butch. They're identified as a fag or a dyke. Here, you see people that really break down the stereotypes."

While the rodeo drew a crowd estimated at up to 1,000 before thunderstorms hit Saturday, far from all were willing to take the bull by the horns and make it an open, public demonstration to their neighbors.

Haskin was far from his home in Los Angeles. Pool and Mitchell came from Denver. Most Calgarians who took part demand anonymity.

Whittle Taylor said coming into the open did no harm to her as a commission-sales agent, rodeo association leader Gord Woima explained that not all can be so sure.

"It's a big thing to some people, especially in Alberta," where discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is not specifically prohibited.

Woima called the rodeo a positive, serious fun event that will be held annually.

Apart from "camp events" like the wild drag race and a race to dress goats in underwear, gay rodeo uses the same livestock and contests as straight competition.

"It's just as dangerous," Mitchell said.

Taylor said "more than anything, gay rodeo is a chance to bring our community together for a celebration of our western heritage, which we all feel a part of."