It's almost that time of year again, when, for three weeks, Houston, Texas becomes a mecca of all things rodeo. A beloved event in the local community since the 1930s, it is without a doubt one of the largest live entertainment and livestock exhibition events in the world. And, every year, the proceeds generated go to scholarships and other educational funds for Texas students.
The Houston Rodeo welcomes everyone. But the event is now taking their gay-friendly up a notch with "Out at the Rodeo." As A.J. Mistretta of Visit Houston explains, "Members of the gay community have long been associated with the event, whether behind the scenes on committees or as attendees. This new event simply heightens the community's engagement in this signature event." Founders of the event, Doug Masson, and his partner, Eric Hulsey, talk about why "Out at the Rodeo" is so important to establish as part of Houston Rodeo culture.
1. How would you characterize the LGBT participation in the rodeo both in terms of those in the rodeo and those attending the rodeo?
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) has made steps to being more inclusive of minority groups with the addition of Black Heritage Day and Go Tejano Day. Members of the LGBT community have also been very involved behind the scenes as volunteers, organizers, promoters and operators.
Because the HLSR is such a large event for Houston, it is pretty normal to see members of the LGBT community sprinkled into the crowds during any given day at the rodeo.
2. I understand you'll be having Out at the Rodeo for the first time at the rodeo this year. How did that come about?
Being new to the Houston area, I was looking for different LGBT events. So when it was rodeo time in Houston, I asked for the date of the LGBT rodeo day, only to find out there was no such thing. That got the ball rolling. It's about time for the thriving LGBT community of Houston and its supporters to be Out at the Rodeo together and we are excited for our inaugural year!
3. What will Out at the Rodeo entail?
We are grateful to all the community members and allies for rallying behind Out at the Rodeo (OATR) and really pushing things through. In our first year, we kicked things off with an exclusive shopping night and two parties leading up to our event day.
Since OATR is unofficial and unsanctioned by HLSR, we are asking all community members, allies and supporters, to sport OATR tee shirts, red shirts or rainbow items as a visible marker. We also have organized rallying points throughout the day where we will gather in higher concentration to discover areas of the rodeo together, meet new friends and snap some photos.
Because things took off so quickly, we decided to use the momentum to give back to the community. Proceeds from items on our website and portions of the sponsorships go to benefit AIDS Foundation Houston.
4. When will Out at the Rodeo take place?
OATR will be on Saturday, March 5th from 12:00-noon to 10:00pm.
5. What do you hope will be the result of having Out at the Rodeo?
Our end goal is to have an HLSR recognized LGBT day and to raise funds for great community programs like AIDS Foundation Houston.
6. What do you think the reaction will be both inside the LGBT community and outside of it?
The reaction from the LGBT community has been overwhelmingly supportive. We have yet to see any push back from outside of the community.
7. What would you say is the climate in Houston in general for the LGBT population?
Even with the most recent vote on HERO, an anti-discrimination ordinance, which played out on the national stage, Houston is a very diverse and accepting community. We know that political and some religious ideals will bring people to not agree with what we are doing, and we will do our best to be gracious to those who oppose our movement.
For more information on Out at the Rodeo, or to support AIDS Foundation Houston, visit www.outattherodeo.com.