Denim ’n drag

How do the hyper-masculine world of leather and the camp of female impersonation find common ground at the rodeo? With surprising ease

Robert Cantrell, co-founder of the leather group Firedancers, and Don Jenkins
NOT THEIR FIRST TIME AT THE RODEO | Robert Cantrell, co-founder of the leather group Firedancers, and Don Jenkins, better known as drag maven Donna Dumae, are the seemingly unlikely grand marshals at the TGRA’s Big D Rodeo this weekend. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

In Texas, cowboys are known for their 10-gallon hats. And drag queens are known for the  10-gallon wigs.

The Texas Gay Rodeo Association’s (TGRA) Big D Rodeo 2010 kicks off this weekend in Alvarado, Texas (midway between Midlothian and Cleburne along Highway 67), and as always, there’s a fun mix of boot-stompin’, calf-ropin’ and dress-wearin’ — all in the name of charity.

But the event also highlights a unique confluence of gay culture. This year, the two grand marshals are Don Jenkins (aka drag diva Donna Dumae from the United Court of the Lone Star Empire) and Robert Cantrell (aka Cleo), one of the founders of the Firedancers.
For anyone unfamiliar with the gay rodeo, the mix of drag and cowboys may seem a little counterintuitive, but to co-director Dan Nagel, the Big D Rodeo is the perfect marriage of camp and cattle needed to raise money for local organizations.

“Drag is a huge part of making those charity dollars,” he says. “TGRA is honored to have the support of so many of the other organizations and clubs in Texas, such as the UCLSE. We could not do all the good that we do with the support from our brothers and sisters throughout our communities working together as a team for a common goal: Charity.”

According to Nagel, some of the biggest crowd pleasers at gay rodeo are the “camp events,” which include competition in goat dressing, steer decorating and the ever-popular wild drag race (one rope, one steer and a man in drag — what could possibly go wrong?).

But the Big D Rodeo also features plenty of serious competitive sports you’d find at many traditional rodeos, including bull and steer riding, team roping, barrel racing and calf-roping on foot. And the skills it takes to succeed don’t depend on sexual orientation or dexterity with a curling iron.

In his 13 years with the International Gay Rodeo Association, six of which he’s worked with TGRA as well, Nagel has participated in six to eight gay rodeos per year on both sides of the proverbial fence, with a hand in everything from rough stock and speed events … and his share of camp demos, just for good measure.

“The rush you get is incredible,” he says. “Like any sport, the thrill is to compete and compete well.”

“We have a great lineup of live music, from Nashville and Texas both, a vendor market, great food, beer, and cocktails,” Nagel continues, “and cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country.”

So pretty much, something for everyone.

“It’s a party-like atmosphere with western lifestyle and heritage that come with all the rodeo hype,” he says.
And the fact the leather and drag communities come out for it proves that the stereotype of the dour, hetero Texas cowboy is just that.

Yup.

— Steven Lindsey

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Big D Rodeo calendar of events

Friday
9 a.m, — Horse stall check-in begins
Noon–3 p.m. — Barrel exhibition runs
6–9 p.m. —Registration
6–10 p.m.: Diamond Dash Jackpot Barrel Race
8–11 p.m.: Diamond W Expo; Homo rodeo.com meet and greet; live music and entertainment.

Saturday
9 a.m. — New contestant registration
10 a.m. — Rodeo performance
1 p.m. (approximately) — Grand Entry
Afternoon — Rodeo performances
2–4 p.m. — Expo; entertainment
7 p.m.–? — Expo, with live music by Weldon Henson and James Allen Clark

Sunday
10 a.m. — Rodeo performances
1 p.m. (approximately) — Grand Entry
Afternoon: Rodeo performances
2–4 p.m. — Expo; entertainment
8 p.m. — Expo; dinner and awards.
Diamond W Arena, 8901 E Highway 67, Alvarado. 214-346-2107. TGRA.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas' Alyssa Edwards wins Miss Gay America

Picture 2

The Miss Gay America 2010 pageant took place this weekend in St. Louis, and the unlikely winner is Dallas’ own Alyssa Edwards. Edwards was named first alternate in the Miss Gay Heartland America pageants just last month, a standard regional pageant held in Memphis. She was third alternate in 2009.

Third place overall went to Dallas’ Sally Sparkles, who won the evening gown competition as well. Congrats to both for showing the world that everything really is bigger in Texas — including our men who impersonate women!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones