Interview: ‘Queens & Cowboys’ Examines World of Gay Rodeo

Documentary Won Two Awards at the Recent Santa Barbara Film Festival

It’s easy to become emotionally involved in “Queens & Cowboys,” a new documentary that breaks traditional rodeo stereotypes. Writer/director Matt Livadary focuses on the diverse members of the IGRA (International Gay Rodeo Association). There’s plenty of triumph and tragedy here as these men and women strive to do their best.

There are plenty of tears as well. Ty Teigan, a well-respected IGRA member, lost her battle against ovarian cancer during filming. Throughout her scenes, Teigan repeated her desire to return to competitive riding.

“She had been dealing with [cancer] for so long, she had been doing so well. If anyone could have gone into remission, it would have been her,” Livadary said when reached by phone for an interview.

The director explained that there was supposed to be a lot more of Ty in the film: “The very week she died, I was going to be spending time going to chemo appointments with her, going to her work, exploring who she was. She was doing so much better that it was a shock to everyone when it happened.”

What is a real cowboy?

As “Queens & Cowboys” points out, there is a visible divide between the IGRA and the world of traditional rodeo. Some enthusiasts think that sexual orientation makes a difference in this highly-competitive sport. A few candid interviews in the documentary show that the popular cowboy stereotype remains a rough-and-tumble adult heterosexual male.

“Queens & Cowboys” offers a decidedly different view of the sport. When it comes down to brass tacks, it takes a lot of courage to slide onto an aggressive animal and hold on tight for 8 seconds. Sexual orientation or gender has nothing to do with how good one can ride.

Traditional and non-traditional rodeos

Livadary explained that his father took him to his first rodeo in Cody, Wyoming, when he was only three years old. “I guess it stuck with me; I never went back to another one for some 25-odd years. I was in Western wear when I was a kid. I grew up in Los Angeles, so it was not really in the cards for me.”

The director rediscovered his love for rodeo years later when he was working in development in Hollywood. He and his colleagues were trying to come up with TV show ideas that could go to pilot and hopefully a series.

“The only show I knew I wanted to do was something that was akin to ‘Friday Night Lights,’ but set in the world of rodeo,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about rodeo, really. I just I wanted to explore it. I got to go on a research trip across North America to go to rodeos. I was going to these small pockets of America like Vernal, Utah.”

Livadary didn’t know about the IGRA when he started this project. During filming, he attended 20 gay rodeos and approximately 15-20 traditional rodeos. In some cities, instead of traditional football arenas, the director discovered that many middle schools boast rodeo arenas and chutes.

“It was an entirely different world. I just had my love for rodeo totally invigorated on this trip,” he said. “And at the same time, it’s a very homogenous world. I was made fun of for driving a Toyota. I was made fun of for wearing khakis, all these little stupid ways I was made to feel like an outsider. It wasn’t serious, but I could only imagine being a minority, being a woman, being gay or being anyone else who wasn’t this white good old’ boy network.”