Slapping Leather: Queer Cowfolx at the Gay Rodeo (Paperback)
Campy and competitive, gay rodeo offers a community of refuge that straddles the urban and rural. Since the mid-1970s, gay rodeos have provided space to both embrace and challenge the idealized masculinity associated with the iconic cowboy of the US West. Slapping Leather traces the history and growth of gay rodeo over the decades, demonstrating how queer cowfolx have fought to build a community where LGBTQ+ people can escape discrimination in both mainstream rodeos and broader society.
Yet not all LGBTQ+ groups have found full acceptance in gay rodeo. Originally formed by gay men for gay men, the rodeo has at times perpetuated historically problematic ideas about the US West, the iconic cowboy, and the meaning of masculinity. Despite the gay rodeo's credo of acceptance, its history reveals complicated relationships with straight rodeo, gender stereotypes, and women competitors. Drawing from multiple archives and over seventy oral history interviews, historians Elyssa Ford and Rebecca Scofield demonstrate how amid these tensions, participants, volunteers, and spectators continue to redefine the performance of the cowboy and national belonging.