Matt Livadary quickly lassos his audience and engagingly ropes them in to a film that—outwardly—tracks a year in the life of LGBT cowboys/girls/trans but—much more importantly—celebrates the hopes, dreams, fears and accomplishments of the different amongst us who survive their societally challenged lives by strapping on wild western gear and then expressing their beautiful selves one bull at a time.
At the centre of it all—what could be a better back-story—is Wade Earp (yes, from the famed Wyatt Earp clan).The goateed Texan and his long-in-the-mane horse, Digit, travel the International Gay Rodeo Association circuit (a stop in Canada’s Calgary permits the multi-national designation—redneck Albertans will be some pissed that this illustrious, lavender organization has an event with the er, rugged, Rocky Mountains in the backdrop—but wasn’t Brokeback Mountain (cross-reference below) also filmed in the “Land strong and free’s” cowboy heartland?
Wade is no slouch, with dozens of buckles (the equivalent of medals or trophies in the cash-strapped volunteer-run organization), er, under his belt. As wonderful as those past achievements are, it’s the Cowboy of the Year prize—twice a bridesmaid—that is missing on his rodeo résumé. Hilariously—and there’s nothing like the truth straight from the mouths of uppity queers—David Renier, the long-reigning queen of IGRA—comes across as the epitome of gay smugness while defending his, ah, crown.
And so the drama is set: Who will win this year’s championship?
Happily, thankfully, most intelligently (a lesson could be taken here from the artistic trust of Oil Sand Karaoke—cross-reference below) the competition plotline was a subsidiary device: the real story surrounded the participants.
Wade, we learn, is HIV+, having been unwittingly infected by his five-year partner who chose not to disclose his status—even to the man of his dreams (What price, hear of rejection?). Rather than effusing bitterness, Wade cherishes their time together—rejecting the cry of “Woe is me” even after his lover has left the planet.
Lesbian Char has more metal holding her ample frame together than WW II vets following a hail of shrapnel. No buckle in her trophy case—yet! So—after each bone shattering/crushing injury—she just dusts herself off and heads back into the ring (much to her loving partner’s dismay), hoping that she will finally last the 6.0 seconds that it takes to record a victory on the gyrating back of very angry horned (not horny, for sure) bulls.
Small-town Oklahoman, Chris, long ago decided to eschew the anonymity of big cities and defend his queerness using his fists and rodeo victories. The youngers competitor of the feature is a pose boy for telling the truth, staying within his family/community and making other gay bashers shrink away in shame.
Behind the scenes, San Francisco Chapter’s (the movement is under stress with 38 closed and just 22 still operating) treasurer, Travis, stoically goes about trying to raise $70,000 in hopes of hosting the Bay area’s event on Treasure Island. He has no qualms about revealing this transgenderdness—morphing from a precocious blonde to inquisitive tomboy to skin-grafted phallus, well-whiskered man because what he saw reflected in the mirror didn’t match what she/he felt inside.
Phew! How empowering it will be for suicide-contemplating, uncomfortable-in-their-own-skin others of all ages to buy a ticket to this rodeo then realize that if they have the courage to don spurs, ten gallon hats and sit on leather-in-the-making tons of angry flesh, they might well find the way to accept themselves, just as they are. JWR