For the second time in two years the Florida Georgia Rodeo Association’s Sunshine Stampede, generally held in Davie, Florida in April, will not occur. Its board of directors issued a press release in February, indicating competition from other area events, an inability to attract sponsors and declining community interest led them to cancel that year’s event.


Later in the piece FGRA claims “We are a charitable organization that has been known to host a fantastic rodeo. We are not a rodeo that drags a charitable organization.” Whatever they were, or are, the group has failed to secure sponsors or generate interest in bringing back their Sunshine Stampede for 2016, and no one is happier than the participating animals who would have endured a weekend of fear and abuse.

As relieved as I am Florida will not see a gay rodeo again this year, the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), of which FGRA is a member, features four events on its 2016 calendar: Phoenix in February, Dallas in April, Palm Springs in early May and Oklahoma City in late May. Each will include calf roping, bareback horse and bull riding, and steer roping and wrestling. There’s also a goat dressing activity, exclusive I think to IGRA-sponsored rodeos, during which a goat is chased, caught and dressed in white jockey shorts. At each, confused and frightened animals will be provoked into displaying wild behavior so the participating cowboys roping, wrestling and tormenting them in other ways will appear strong, brave and skilled.

IGRA, FGRA and every other gay rodeo association’s website features a long, tiresome page in which it carries on and on about how well its animals are treated, what strict guidelines they have and how everyone is certified, responsible, compassionate and concerned only with light entertainment, education and fundraising for noble causes.

My favorites come from IGRA’s “Animal Welfare” page. It insists they prohibit the use of electric prods in bucking chutes and a fleece flank strap is used for bucking events “and is not painful to animals in any way.” How, then, do they get the animals to buck? Tickling? Another is that the goats used in the jockey short dressing event are required to be 25-30 inches tall and re-rested after every eight dressings. What does a goat’s height have to do with his level of terror and how has he not collapsed from exhaustion after the first three or four “dressings?” The best, however, is “IGRA directs the removal of any animal from competition that appears to be in danger of injuring itself.” If that were true, there would be no animal participants — at all.

Cowboys and cowgirls participate in rodeos voluntarily. There are enough country and western-themed events that can fill a gay or straight rodeo that don’t include animals. It requires a clever promoter and event goers willing to acknowledge the cruelty of tormenting and injuring otherwise docile animals. Consider calf-roping, a rodeo staple: Who finds provoking a frightened baby cow into running for his life and lassoing him, causing torn muscles, broken ribs, a broken back, punctured lungs, or a snapped neck? Truly, only bull fighting (killing) and crush videos are worse, and not by much.

Please avoid the gay rodeos in Arizona, Texas and California, and all rodeos that feature animals. Instead, enjoy rodeo clowns, mechanical bulls, sharpshooting, line dancing, cowgirl drag shows, cowboy porn and myriad other human-only country and western fun.

— Christopher Murphy