The International Gay Rodeo Association was founded in 1985 at the height of a conservative political realignment, an emerging AIDS epidemic, and a national crisis in masculinity. Navigating tense debates about what it meant to be a man in Reagan’s America, gay cowboys pushed back on the notion that gay culture was both inherently urban and effeminate. Investing in hypermasculinity, however, also potentially excluded women and effeminate men from this supposedly inclusive space. Focusing on surging popularity of gay rodeo in the 1980s and 1990s, this lecture analyzes the growing internal debates among gay rodeoers about the performance of gender and the performance of the US West.
Dr. Rebecca Scofield earned her PhD in American Studies from Harvard University in 2015. Originally from Emmett, Idaho, she is happy to now serve as Assistant Professor of American History at the University of Idaho. Her research focuses on the history of gender and sexuality, with a focus on popular culture and the American West. She has published on Dolly Parton, the figure of the urban cowboy, and her current book project–tentatively titled Outriders: Rodeo at the Fringes of the American West–analyzes rodeo as a significant cultural performance for marginalized groups over the twentieth century. Her Gay Rodeo Oral History Project received a University of Idaho Center for Digital Inquiry and Learning Fellowship for Fall 2018. This award will provide time and technical support as she seeks to create an online curated exhibit of gay rodeoers’ experiences and reflections.