In Texas, a gay rodeo wants to catch the bull of intolerance by the horns
MISE À DAY
On his horse Diamond, John Beck gallops through the obstacles laid out in a paddock the size of a football field, competing with about fifty other participants in the rodeo of Denton, right in the heart of Texas.
An event that, at first glance, does not stand out from the many others throughout the state, with its tests of roping calves or holding the as long as possible on the back of a bull.
Its difference: it is open to both heterosexuals and LGBT+ people and allows everyone, men and women, to compete directly, rather than being separated as is done in a classic rodeo.
The rodeo of Denton, a town of 158,000 inhabitants in the depths of the conservative lands of Texas, financed by donations, thus offers unprecedented events, like the highlight of the show, the “Wild Drag Race”, during which the participants , in dress and wig, must hold on to the back of a calf for as long as possible.
Generally, the calf rebels, the holding rope breaks, the rider falls and the spectators, few in number , but enthusiastic, applaud.
“Everyone has the same chance to participate, unlike a traditional rodeo”, insists Jim Gadient, 68, member of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association (TGRA).
The TGRA was launched 40 years ago in support of people with AIDS, when public aid did not exist.
“We created it in order to promote a lifestyle at the American and to be a charity organization”, underlines Mr. Gadient.
“Living my dream”
Rescuer of 35 years old, Sean Moroz, who participates in the Wild Drag Race, explains that he grew up in a “western” environment, but “really hypermasculine”.
“When I discovered the existence of a gay rodeo (…) it was like being able to live my dream (…) The people with whom I participate are my friends, my family, I learn from them and I can be myself,” he explains.
John Beck, 73, is a professional cowboy, with all the paraphernalia: jeans, boots, hat with a huge blue feather. He knew from childhood that he was gay.
“I had to hide it, whatever I did I had to hide it. In high school, some students knew about it, but no one said anything,” he recalls.
“I rode untamed horses in the straight world and did the same in the gay world for 17 years. Same for the bulls”, insists Mr. Beck, who points out that with his heterosexual competitors “we have learned to get along”.
Sean Moroz (standing) and Kyle McCann.
But it is on the political ground that the threat now comes, as the Texas parliament has begun to debate bills, 140 in total according to the NGO Equality Texas, which seek to limit the rights of LGBT+ people.
One of the projects plans to withdraw public funds from libraries that would allow drag queens to read stories to children. In the opinion of a Texas official close to Donald Trump, Dan Patrick, these activities “indoctrinate and sexualize” minors.
They also want to reduce the teaching of subjects related to sexual orientation or gender identity, limit treatments for transgender minors, remove books considered “obscene” from libraries or even put an end to policies in favor of diversity.
In Denton, drag queens are an integral part of the show, far beyond the Wild Drag Race.
At the end of the rodeo, a meal is held for collect donations and the drag queens put on a show.
Among them, Delilah DeVasquez, 50, believes that the fears raised by elected officials simply do not exist because , in his eyes, things are clear.
“We adapt our show to our audience, if there are children we act accordingly compared to a purely adult audience, it's totally different “It's up to parents to decide whether or not they want to expose their children to drag queens.”
Most importantly, Texas elected officials should review their priorities and focus on “regulating guns”, in a country now accustomed to fatal shootings, rather than targeting the gay community, insists Jim Gadient.