New Mexico History Museum

Pride in the Saddle in New Mexico: The Story of Gay Rodeo

July 10, 2013


Gregory Hinton grew up in the cowboy country of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, but evacuated to a California more tolerant of him as a gay man, finally making peace with his roots thanks to gay rodeo. Blake Little showed up at his first gay rodeo in the 1980s intending only to take photographs, but became so enchanted that he eventually earned his spurs as a champion bull rider.

Hinton and Little will talk about their experiences, joined by Brian Helander, founder and president of the Gay & Lesbian Rodeo Heritage Foundation, and renowned Santa Fe photographer Herb Lotz, on Sunday, Aug. 4, at 2 pm in the New Mexico History Museum Auditorium. “Pride in the Saddle in New Mexico: The Story of Gay Rodeo” is free with admission; Sundays are free to NM residents.

Hinton is creator and producer of Out West, a national program that uses lectures, plays, films, and gallery exhibitions to shine a light on the history and culture of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and two-spirit communities in the American West. Little is a celebrated Los Angeles photographer who will display some of the vintage gay-rodeo photographs that will be exhibited at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis next year.

Gay rodeo is included in the History Museum’s special exhibition, Cowboys Real and Imagined, through March 16, 2014, including artwork, photographs and a prize belt buckle loaned by Lotz.

“The exhibit aims to show the many ways that the cowboy persona has been adopted and adapted by people of various backgrounds,” museum Director Fran Levine said. “After taking in this event, we hope visitors will head out to the Zia Rodeo to see the real thing in action.”

The New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association’s 22nd annual Zia Regional Rodeo is Aug. 9—11 at the Rodeo de Santa Fe grounds. For information, log onto

The first gay rodeo was held in Nevada in 1976 as a fund-raiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Today, gay rodeos are held from Little Rock to Calgary to San Diego and points between. Top-notch competitors in standard rodeo events share the arena with a few “camp” events, including goat dressing. The Zia Regional Rodeo is sanctioned by the International Gay Rodeo Association.

Out West and the Gay & Lesbian Rodeo Heritage Foundation are co-hosts of the History Museum event. Established in 2009, the foundation is a charitable endeavor supporting the broader community in preserving, maintaining, promoting, and communicating the role of the LGBTQ community in the sport of rodeo.

Cowboys Real and Imagined explores New Mexico’s cowboy legacy from its origin in the Spanish vaquero tradition through itinerant hired hands, outlaws, rodeo stars, cowboy singers, Tom Mix movies and more. The exhibit grounds the cowboy story in New Mexico through rare photographs, cowboy gear, movies and art. It includes a bounty of artifacts ranging in size from the palm-sized tintype of Billy the Kid purchased at a 2011 auction by William Koch to the chuck wagon once used by cowboys on New Mexico’s legendary Bell Ranch.

The exhibition is generously supported by the Brindle Foundation; Burnett Foundation; Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, Houston; Candace Good Jacobson in memory of Thomas Jefferson Good III; New Mexico Humanities Council; Newman’s Own Foundation; Palace Guard; Eugenia Cowden Pettit and Michael Pettit; Jane and Charlie Gaillard; Moise Livestock Company; the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association; and the many contributors to the Director’s Leadership, Annual Education, and Exhibitions Development Funds.

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