"Subcultured" is a 14-part online docuseries from PBS which shines a light on lesser-known subcultures.
The series can be seen on PBS Voices, a YouTube channel from PBS Digital Studios dedicated to helping people understand each other a little bit better. "Subcultured" is produced and hosted by Josef Lorenzo, who is described by PBS publicity as "ultra-curious."
At least one episode of "Subcultured" is of definite interest to the LGBT community. In "How Is the Gay Rodeo Different?" Lorenzo talks to gay cowboys and a gay cowgirl about the gay rodeo, which came about in the 1970s as a safe haven for all those who had faced bigotry and discrimination in the traditional rodeo.
"The great thing about it is that I could be open," one cowboy said in the film, which packs a lot of information into its scant 10-minute running time. "I couldn't be open the way I wanted to be walking down the street. So here was a place where I could open up. That was what really struck me. This is my place. This is where I need to be."
As the film continues, it appears that the gay rodeo is no different from the mainstream rodeo. Gay cowboys are seen roping steers, riding bulls, and taking part in other activities which are associated with the rodeo. But there are a few activities that set the gay rodeo apart, like Goat Dressing and the Wild Drag Race. In Goat Dressing, teams of two race to put underwear on a goat, while the Wild Drag Race entails someone in drag riding a steer across the finish line. These are timed race events, according to Lorenzo.
At one point in the film Lorenzo mentions that the gay rodeo was condemned by animal rights activists who felt that the sport was cruel to the animals involved.
"The biggest thing that the gay rodeo members told us is that they do prioritize the safety of the contestants and the safety of their animals," Lorenzo said in an interview with SFGN. "They pride themselves in putting more emphasis on that safety than a traditional rodeo. At the end of the day the story is about trying to understand the contestants and the reason that the community was formed and not about the backlash they received."
Lorenzo added that what he found most fascinating about the gay rodeo is that when it was first formed in the 1970s, it began as a charity event.
"It was really more about helping others than helping themselves and I thought that camaraderie among the community and among the contestants was really unique and not something that is really common," he said.
The film also delves into the homophobia faced by the gay rodeo, and how the rodeo was impacted by the AIDS epidemic, with one cowboy stating that he's had full-blown AIDS for 30 years.
"It ripped through gay rodeo," he said of AIDS. "They lost literally hundreds of contestants. But we got past it. We still lose people from time to time from HIV-related diseases. Exactly how I'm still here I'm not sure."
One of Lorenzo's primary goals in making "How is the Gay Rodeo Different?" is to let people know the origin story of the gay rodeo, how it came to be and why it was formed.
"I feel that if more people knew about it maybe more people would want to give it a shot," he said. "It's a cool thing, why don't more people know about it?"
To watch "How is the Gay Rodeo Different?" please visit the PBS Voices/Subcultured channel on YouTube.