Bucking stereotypes: Gay rodeo returns to Santa Fe

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All Wes Givens and Civan Belladonna Daniels had to do was put a pair of men’s underwear on a goat to win the contest. Instead, they put the underwear on the guy the goat was hiding behind.

“I want them to have fun,” Givens said of the spectators, who burst into laughter and applause at the unexpected bit of comedy Sunday at the Zia Regional Rodeo in Santa Fe. The 61-year-old from Little Rock, Ark., has been participating in gay rodeos since 1988.

“It’s been my family,” he said as he joked around with fellow rodeo contestant Nikki Starr, who ended up wearing the underwear over his outerwear.

The Zia Regional Rodeo included events such as roping, riding and wrestling steers to the ground.

But only in gay rodeos will you find a wild drag race, in which a contestant in drag must ride a not-too-pleased steer while two teammates help pull the stubborn critter over a line some 70 feet from the rodeo chute.

It’s a place where contestants feel supported and mentored, even from competing cowboys or cowgirls. It’s a place where they can be themselves, contestants said.

“It’s welcoming,” said 19-year-old Nando Cole, who made his rodeo debut over the weekend. “Everybody’s just friendly, and they have open arms. You can just be free and happy.”

The Zia Regional Rodeo, New Mexico’s only gay rodeo, is an associate member of the International Gay Rodeo Association.

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