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Gay Rodeo

Aired November 9, 2014 - 22:00   ET



LISA LING, CNN NARRATOR (voice-over): This is 27-year-old Brianna from Malibu, California. And she's about to do something she's always dreamed of. So how are you feeling, Brianna?

BRIANNA, 27-EARS-OLD: I'm nervous. Definitely nervous.

LING: Brianna has come to Santa Fe, New Mexico to, ride a steer for the very first time. She's competing in a rodeo. But this isn't just any rodeo, this is gay rodeo. It's a place that promises to challenge expectations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mission is not to go and beat everybody because I'm gay.

LING: And buck stereotypes. How many times have you won all-around cowboy.


LING: How many? When you're competing, how does it feel?


LING: It's here that I hope to discover what it truly means to come out west.

The American cowboy, he's rugged, stoic and independent. From John Wayne to the Marlboro man his image has defined masculinity for generations. But what happens if you're a cowboy that doesn't fit the mold?

WILL, 51-YEAR-OLD: On two, you're going to stop.

LING: 51-year-old will has been riding horses and competing in rodeos for most of his life.

WILL: One, two.

LING: Whoa.

WILL: Can you go? I roped and trained my first horse when I was 13 and have been doing it ever since.

LING: So you rode the qui quintessential cowboy? WILL: Even in grade school that's what they would call me, Cowboy

Will. I wanted to be like my father. I wanted to be a cowboy and I wanted to make him proud. Easy.

LING: But as Will grow older he began to realize he might be a little different from his dad. When did you think that you might be gay?

WILL: I think I was always attracted to guys but I didn't know that that wasn't something -- I just thought, you know, maybe all guys do this.

LING: Will tried to ignore his attraction for other men. At 25 years old he got married and had two daughters and a son. But eventually the feelings he was running from caught up with him and he had an affair with another man.

WILL: I took, you know, from pushing those feelings aside to then I acted on them. After you do that once, then it's like, this may be who I am.

LING: Will was 32 years old and he decided it was time to come out to his wife.

WILL: She just was speechless and finally she just said she was leaving and I says, well, I totally understand.

LING: Will's seven-year marriage and the rest of his family found out that he was gay.

WILL: They couldn't deal with it. So for many years I think I just -- I didn't have a family.

LING: After you came out were you still active in the rodeo world?

WILL: When I first came out I didn't do any type of rodeo.

LING: Why did you quit, though? What would have happened in people found out you were gay?

WILL: I could have got beat up. I mean, I was never worried about the physical abuse. It was the fact that I didn't want the deep down gut feeling that, oh, you know, they're talk about me or nobody wants to rope with me because, you know, I'm gay.

LING: Ironically, it was a chance encounter at a gay bar that led him back to his rodeo roots.

WILL: One day I finally get the courage to walk into a gay bar and somebody says, you're a real cowboy, aren't you? I said, well, I used to be and, well, do you do the gay rodeos? I said, what, there's two words that just don't go together.

LING: But Will was wrong. Probably on your horses already but we need to make sure.

This is the Zia regional rodeo in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And it is a part of a circuit probably we haven't heard of, the gay rodeo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brad, keep reeling it in. You got it.

LING: The international gay rodeo association has 5,000 members throughout north America. For countless gay cowboys and cowgirls, this is the one place they can openly be themselves. Not everyone approves of rodeos but there's no denying they are an integral part of cowboy culture. And I'm here to explore what it's like to be gay in this notoriously macho world.

The gay rodeo welcomes everyone and it's not just for pros. Two words I never thought went together were Chinese and cowgirl but I'm going with it and today I'm going to rodeo school.

CHUCK, RODEO INSTRUCTOR: Index finger, three, 11, point your finger down. We'll get there. We'll get there.

LING: My instructor Chuck works in IT and finance by day. But here at gay rodeo he ropes calves and wrestles steers with the rest of them.

CHUCK: This index is telling it to flip.

LING: The arena is filled with rodeo newcomers just like me. Each is here to learn a different event and become the cowboy or cowgirl of their dream.

CHUCK: That was good because you gave it a little attitude. Kind of told it right here. Nice. Bend your knee, lean just a bit forward. When you're ready, there you go. Right here.

OK, so in this position, I'm on the inside.

LING: At gay rodeo participants compete in many of the same events as at straight circuit.

WILL: We have our roping events. We have three speed events. We have rough stock events. We have steer riding. And the contestants have to ride that for six seconds. This is set so she can ride left- handed.

LING: Steer riding is the toughest event in the rodeo, even for the pros.

CHUCK: Once your glove is hot you feel good, you tell them and slap this, they'll give you some slack.

LING: But in this group of newcomers 27-year-old Brianna is determined to prove she's got what it takes. Why steer riding?

BRIANNA: I'm a drill junkie. You know, if I can manhandle something relating to it or whatever, I'll do that more so than something where I have to like sit, take the time, patience.

CHUCK: If you come out of the chute and he's a bastard and slaps you on the corner gate and your knee hits off that, that's a foul. LING: The rodeo school doesn't have live steers to practice with.

The first time Brianna will ride one is in the arena.

CHUCK: You come off, sometimes their back ends will come at you so you want to roll away from where you land.

LING: While Brianna might look the part her western roots are fresh. She actually grew up in Malibu, California.

BRIANNA: Ever since I was old enough to talk, I've been interested in western and cowboy culture.

LING: Kind of an unexpected thing for little African-American skid in Malibu to aspire to be.

BRIANNA: Yes, absolutely. I'm always just doing things that are completely outside of what everybody else in my family is doing. When I was high school I was captain of my golf keep, soccer team and track team and I was first chair trombone throughout high school.

LING: Underachiever, you were.

BRIANNA: I still have this very competitive background.

LING: Brianna was raised in a conservative and religious household. But in college she began to realize that she was attracted to women.

BRIANNA: The first institution where I studied, it was not OK to show this so I kept it a secret.

LING: Did you go through a period where you felt like there was something wrong with you and that you were sining (ph)?

BRIANNA: Yes. I told one friend about it and she was telling me that, you know this, is the devil testing you. You have to be able to fight this. I was, you know, trying to like men more and it was not going well.

LING: In her junior year she decided to transfer colleges and it changed everything.

BRIANNA: I moved to Colorado and it was much more welcoming environment and so I just became confident enough like a year ago to actually come out to my parents.

LING: So would you say your parents have accepted you?

BRIANNA: I would say that my parents know who I am. I would say that my parents would have preferred if I made different choices. But I still think they are proud.

LING: Rodeo is something that you've always loved. When you found the gay rodeo how did that make you feel?

BRIANNA: Super excited. I was like, that's a thing? A gay rodeo is a thing? I haven't actually told my mom I'm doing this rodeo yet. I want to make sure I'm all in one piece and can tell her, hey, all my limbs are attached.

LING: Instead of the hospital calling?

BRIANNA: Yes. There's that possibility.

LING: Are you nervous about tomorrow?

BRIANNA: It's getting to the zone, I was like, OK, I'm here to win. I'm not here to play around this. Isn't child's play.

LING: Brianna has guts but is she biting off more than she can chew? This may be gay rodeo, but the competition is fierce and the risks are real.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here go ahead and dust your rope a little bit. You can dust it pretty hard.

LING: The rodeo officially starts tomorrow and Brianna has one last chance to get ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come down. See how it's sticky.

BRIANNA: That's burning. That's hot.

WILL: They wanted to take me and have stitches here.

LING: Will is a seasoned steer rider and has offered to give her some last-minute coaching.

WILL: We're going to be over the animal so we've got the rope up.

LING: He's showing her the basics on one of his horses.

WILL: And put it on the rail here. Don't put your weight on the animal.

BRIANNA: When the chute opens should I be anticipating like -- should I be here?

WILL: You're riding this animal where this animal goes, you go. Don't anticipate anything. You know, a lot of these guys, they say this bull ducks this way and turns this way so they anticipate and get their butts bucked off. You get down in the chute. You get hurt. Where should that hand be? Up here so -- no, you're throwing your body that way. You want to throw your hand up if the animal is going that way.


WILL: Does it make sense? BRIANNA: Yes.

WILL: How did that feel?



BRIANNA: Thank you.

WILL: You bet.

LING: Will's not just a coach.

WILL: Go get after it.

LING: He's also a top competitor. He's won the rodeo's highest prize the cowboy buckle for the last two years and he is gunning for a three peat.

WILL: I really believe I have an edge. I've done this on the ranch. I've done it all my life so it's second nature to me.

LING: But Will may not be a shoo-in. He'll be facing some stiff competition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm primarily known for being a really good roper.

LING: Many believe that Greg is the man to beat for the coveted all- around cowboy buckle. On though a lot of people come to just have fun you really want to win this.

GREG, COWBOY: Yes. I am extremely competitive and anything that I try. If I don't win it, it's because I didn't do everything possible. The rodeo is my heart. I love it. I've been involved in rodeo since I was a little kid, well, maybe five or six.

LING: You still compete in traditional rodeos.

GREG: Yes.

LING: After you realized you were gay were you still as active in the rodeo as ever?

GREG: Yes. I came out to my family but I didn't come out to people that -- where I rodeos. If they could tell I was gay they made it a little difficult sometimes, but I competed as hard as I could. I have won quite a few rodeos, so when I started to continually win, they kind of backed off. They're like, OK, well, Greg is here. He's not going to lay down and just like give us his money.

LING: Because rodeo is such a masculine sport. Is it extra important for you to do well because in a way you're sort of representing other gay people?

GREG: My mission is not to go and beat everybody because I'm gay. My mission is to go there and beat everybody because I'm me, because I want to win. It's for me.

LING: And then there's David. One of gay rodeo's most winning cowboys.

DAVID, GAY RODEO: I hate to lose more than I like to win.

LING: Like Greg, David also has a foot in both the straight and gay rodeo worlds. Would you say that it's fair to assume that most of the people here at gay rodeo might not be welcome at a straight rodeo?

DAVID: There would definitely be some people that would not be accepted. I think you kind of have to establish yourself as you being you and not throwing the gay thing as your first card.

LING: When did you think that you might be gay?

DAVID: I knew from a very young age that I didn't know that it was called gay. My family were very strict Catholics. Two guys together, you know, they would describe it as evil. I actually tried to commit suicide four times before I was 10. I just kept telling my mom and dad that I was evil.

LING: It's a pretty strong statement to say that you thought you were evil when you were a little boy.

DAVID: It was -- it's all I knew.

LING: As David grew older he eventually accepted himself and came out to his family.

Did your parents ever express sort of shock because you're this cowboy who's been involved in rodeo and all these things for so long?

DAVID: They thought it was a faze at first.

LING: Did you ever face any discrimination in straight rodeo?

DAVID: Some.

LING: Has it made you work harder and try harder?

DAVID: For sure. I think you always have that little voice in the back of your head saying you're still different. And you're competing with people that, you know, you consider normal and you want to fit in as well as you can and you want to be taken seriously.

LING: You know, I think I unfairly assumed that gay rodeo would be this big party. But it became blatantly apparent that most of the participants take this very, very seriously. Yes, it's fun, but the people involved with gay rodeo are in it to win it.

Gay rodeo everyone has a story and most of the participants have experienced real pain and this rodeo has allowed them to be who they are and do what they love. I can't wait until tomorrow. I have a feeling I'm going to be witnessing some extremely serious competitors.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We sure do appreciate y'all coming out and spending the weekend with us.

LING (voice-over): It's rodeo day. For the competitors it's finally time to show off their hard work and preparation. Will has competed in hundreds of rodeos. But this one will be a milestone. For the first time his daughters have decided to come see him compete in a gay rodeo.

WILL: I have not put that part of my life into my children's life.

LING: Now the two worlds he's kept so separate will finally come together.

WILL: I woke up yesterday morning with a lot of anxiety that with my kids here and they're in the stands and I see them, the nervousness will go away.

LING: Will's daughters have accepted that he's gay but his son still struggles with it.

WILL: I still text him. I call him and left messages. He's not speaking to me and I respect that. But I'm not going to stop let him know that I think about him.

LING: So give than your son is not speaking to you, what does it mean that your daughters have decided to come see you at gay rodeo?

WILL: I'm very close to my girls so I'm real excited so I got to perform well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, guy, move up.

LING: Will's been a regular at gay rodeo for 15 years. But one man has been here since the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want, big boy.

LING: How long have you had him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It'll be nine years old. Get your head back.

LING: Hi, Diamond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your head back. Feeding time.

LING: At 65 years old John is one of the circuit's longest competing cowboys.

How many years has the gay rodeo been going on.

Denver is the oldest. We just had our 32nd.

JOHN, 65-YEARS-OLD: Denver is the oldest. We just had out 32nd.

LING: Thirty-two years.

JOHN: Yes. I've been to every one of those.

LING: Really?

JOHN: Yes.

LING: How long do you think you can do this?

JOHN: I had my physical two months ago. Then come back and said I was the shape of a 30-year-old.

LING: In the early 1980s John came out at the age of 33 in a small western town. This was not only difficult, it was dangerous.

JOHN: I went to get in my car, put the key in the ignition and I just happened to look up and on the windshield was written in the blood move or die. So that shook me up. Pretty good. So I slept with a gun for about six, eight months.

LING: The gay rodeo became a refuge where John could feel accepted. But the gay rodeo was not always accepted by others.

JOHN: Reno, Nevada, that was going to be one of our first times rodeos. I pulled up my truck to the gate and the sheriff was there and I just thought they were welcoming us to the rodeo. Instead of that, no. They surrounded my truck, one cop on one side, one cop on the other side, pulled up the doors so I couldn't get out. And one behind us. And he pulled his gun and he said, no queers allowed on this property.

I knew he was in the wrong. But I knew, you know, that they'd be either shoot me or, you know, beat me up or something, you know. Get myself together here, but I don't think people knew what I went through. So scared for your own life, you know.

LING: How often do you think about that day when you're out there competing?

JOHN: I have to forget it. You got to let it go or it'll kill you. It'll tear you apart.

LING: When you're out there competing now, how does it feel?

JOHN: Freedom. It's a very, very hard life.

LING: Is there anything that you would want to say to those people who wrote that on your car?

JOHN: That I'm still here and I'm still riding and I'm doing what I wanted to do.

LING: The gay rodeo may have many of the same events as straight rodeo but it was started for a very different reason.

WILL: When we started, you know, 30, 35 years ago, it became fund- raisers to help people that were, you know, confronted with the AIDS and HIV crisis, and these people didn't have funds. They were being kicked out of job, kicked out of housing, you know. They were being isolated in hospitals. They had nothing. So we were doing rodeos as charity rodeos raising funds to give money to our own people. We lost a lot of incredible cowboys and cowgirls.

LING: When you say you lost a lot to AIDS, about how many?

WILL: I personally knew probably at least 35, 40 people, one after the other. And, you know, you saw them on the rodeo circuit, you know, rodeo after rodeo and then all of a sudden you didn't see them and we continued to lose some of our family members to that.

LING: Every gay rodeo features a riderless horse ceremony to honor those who have fallen. The ceremony symbolizes the end of the relationship between the horse and rider. And the home of the brave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the Zia rodeo.

LING: The rodeo is about to begin. People have driven in from all over the country to be here including two young women who are going to watch their father compete in the gay rodeo for the very first time.




LING (voice-over): One of the first events of the day at the Zia regional gay rodeo is breakaway roping. In this event a cowboy or cowgirl lassos a calf from horseback.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right now we're going to be looking for Mr. John beck from Broomfield, Colorado.

LING: 65-year-old John starts out strong, but today the calf wins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: San Diego, California, is home of Mr. David Rainier.

LING: It's also a miss for all-star cowboy David.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up next, Mr. Greg brigade, Arizona.

LING: Greg lassos his calf in record time and takes the lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next in, the Texas cowboy, Mr. Will Lam.

LING: Will is up next and I'm in the stands with two very special spectators. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will wants to welcome daughters, Carly and

Kendall, to see him perform in this weekend's rodeo. He is sure glad to have them here and so are we.

LING: Having you guys out here in the stands makes him a little nervous. How are you guys feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We -- we've always watched him rope and ride and we know he's good so we're fine.

LING: Kendall and Carly grew up in a small conservative town where being gay was something people kept to themselves. What was it like to grow up with a gay dad in the west?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we didn't usually tell people just for the fear of the stigma and people -- I think we told like a few people and they made fun of us so we never told anyone after that. My dad was in a different town.

LING: Did you ever feel like he was trying to protect you all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do because he usually never had his boyfriend over and he would never try to push that side of his life on us.

LING: I just wonder if it makes you sad that he felt like he had to sort of lead two separate lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We understand it. It being for us and, you know, so we didn't get made fun of but now that we're adults and, you know, he's including us now, it means a lot to us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like society is more accepting of it now.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Man, he was nervous.

LING: Will's calf got away from him. But having his daughters in the stands is a great consolation prize. Are you proud of your dad?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's gone through quite a bit.

LING: I know, probably not easy to talk about this stuff because I guess stuff has been swept under the rug for a long time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it took a lot of courage for him to come out and be who he was and still have his family and so I kind of admire that. Be who you want to be and let other people think what they want to think.

LING: So much has changed in recent years for people in the LGBT community. Gay marriage is now allowed in more than half of our states. But one man here reminded me that many gay people still live in fear. This cowboy goes by the sum anymore Bubba. He's agreed to speak with us but he's requested that we conceal his identity but because 'still in the closet.

You're almost 50 years old.


LING: Why aren't you out?

BUBBA: Because my job. It's really hard. I work for a high security prison.

LING: What has that been like for you to be gay and not be able to live your life fully day to day.

BUBBA: It's really bad. You know, it is like even go to these rodeos, I'm -- I can't -- you know, I talk to people. I work and I tell them I go to different states because I can't tell them the rodeos I'm going to because if they look it up it's a gay rodeo and I don't want that coming out.

LING: Bubba didn't grow up with rodeo. But he loves the macho environment and competes in the physically demanding rough stock events.

So when you found gay rodeo and you met all these gay cowboys, how did that make you feel?

BUBBA: It's amazing because it's what I like doing, you know, and it's -- I'm accepted. It's -- lets me be myself and have fun, you know. Sometimes it's almost like a fantasy I'm going through. You know, it's -- you know, so --

LING: Why is it a fantasy?

BUBBA: Because I can't be out to people. It's -- it's hard. It really is sometimes. It's like people always say you could change and if I didn't have any gay, I wouldn't be gay. I mean I would be so happy, you know, being straight. It would be easier that way but I am gay.

LING: Do you think you'll ever come out?

BUBBA: You know, I could retire in a few years, yes, once I retire from my job, yes. It's hard right now but someday. Probably life will be so much better.


LING: Like Bubba, Will spent years caught between two worlds, but today he's taken a big step towards reconciling them.

WILL: I missed my calf.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you were nervous.

WILL: I wasn't nervous. I just dropped my arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1943, 1943 for Greg. Brings us to Mr. John Beck from Broomfield, Colorado.

LING: In event after event contestants duke it all for all-around cowboy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to bring us to David Rainier from San Diego, California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to shape up like this, I think and initially fourth should go to Mr. David Rainier, for our men's barrel racing today.

LING: As the day unfolds it's clear that gay rodeo isn't just a rodeo to its participants. For some, it's the one place they can truly be themselves. For others it's an opportunity to live out a lifelong dream.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to get ready to do some junior bull riding. Going to be our first event of the afternoon.

LING (voice-over): It's finally the moment that Brianna's been waiting for.


LING: This will be Brianna's first time ever on a steer. I'm nervous for her. I know she's nervous so I'm not going to talk to her right now. I'm going to let her do her thing.

Brianna has to stay on the steer for at least six seconds. An eternity when you're on the back of a thousand-pound animal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brianna from Boulder, Colorado. She is a new contestant out on the circuit. That chute gate opens I expect to hear everybody giving her the encouragement she needs to make that six- second ride.



LING: This is will's last opportunity to give her advice.

WILL: You're doing good. Lock your legs. Lock your spurs into him. Down. Watch that head.

LING: Go, Bri!

Brianna came up just a few seconds short. Still a huge accomplishment for her first time on the steer.

That was amazing. I'm like -- how are you feeling?

BRIANNA: Good. Going good.

LING: My God, I'm crying. I was just like -- I don't think I felt so nervous in a long time.

That was awesome. Great job.

BRIANNA: Thanks.

LING: Wow. Badass.

WILL: Good job. You did good. You recovered two or three times.

BRIANNA: Thanks.

WILL: You bet.

BRIANNA: That was good. I liked it.

LING: Curious if you have a message to your mom right now.

BRIANNA: Sorry, mom. I meant to tell you sooner. But I know you will worry because you love me. I love you too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steer riding sponsored by New Mexico aids services. We're going to get him all tied in there. Have a free hand that's got to stay up.

LING: Of all the events at the rodeo, steer ride something by far the most difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here comes the animal, can't touch the cowboy during the ride.

LING: And the most fun to watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Here we go. Let him hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to make it six seconds. Lost control. No time. Kind of gotten himself sideways.

LING: Now it's Will's turn to go one-on-one with a steer. Will's daughters aren't his only fans in the audience. Michael, his partner of two years, is also here.

WILL: I am very much in love with Michael. He is a great guy and I feel like that's where my life is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to go tight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's ready to go here.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to ride it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to get it. Here we go. Let him hear you, folks. He's coming out.

LING: How do you feel when Will does the steer riding?

MICHAEL, WILL'S PARTNER: It makes me really nervous because, you know, you never know what's going to happen.

LING: It's a little scary to watch him but it's kind of a turn-on, isn't it.

MICHAEL: It is. It is an adrenaline rush. You have somebody you love doing what they love and -- a little bit dangerous.

LING: It's so manly.


LING: Kind of hot.

MICHAEL: It is. He's a cowboy so what can I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First place today to Mr. Will Lam.

LING: Michael is not just a rodeo husband, he is also becoming a competitor.

MICHAEL: We're ready. We are ready to do this.

LING: He and Will are partners in one of the most cutthroat events in the rodeo.


LING: The rules of goat dress are simple. The team that puts the tighty-whities (ph) on the goat fastest wins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all so beautiful. You're so sexy. Work it. Work it.

LING: Goats wearing underwear, drag queens on steers and Abba on the loud speaker. Yes, this is the gay rodeo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. How are we going to get him?

LING: Everyone here competes hard but at the end of the day they also play hard.

Should I be scared? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LING: Man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a rodeo thing.



LING: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here, I'll help you.

LING: That's good.

Gay rodeo, straight rodeo, a lot of things different about them but one thing that is constant, the whiskey.




LING (voice-over): The rodeo is winding down and competitors are starting to think about their daily lives. But Brianna is still replaying the steer ride in her head.

How do you feel?

BRIANNA: Well, you know, I always struggle to trying to let go of expectations and I wanted to do really well.

LING: You don't think you did really well?

BRIANNA: I wanted to do better. Hopefully I'll come back and I'll be able to do a little bit better the next rodeo.

LING: So you haven't given up.

BRIANNA: I definitely haven't given up. This is something, you know, I wanted to be where people are like, hey, Brianna, there was a steer rider. Maybe you can ask her for advice, like I want to win and I also want to be able to turn around and help other people like I have been helped. So thank you.

LING: Brianna came to the rodeo for a physical challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go left, go left.

LING: You got it. You got it.


LING: But she's leaving with much more. BRIANNA: I feel very strong sense of love from the community.

LING: That sense of community has also spread to Will's daughter Kindle. She and a family friend have moved from the stands to the arena and are participating in a ghost dressing contest for audience members. Will couldn't have imagined this moment.

WILL: I've asked her to come about three or four years ago. And she told me I don't think I'm ready for that. And I kind of felt maybe she would never be ready for this. It's an awesome feeling. I'm a proud, very proud Dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to get started. For women, for first go-around.

LING: The rodeo is over and it's time to see who walk as way a winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steer riding the buckle goes to Will Lam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.

Will has a strong showing. But when all the ribbons are counted --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All-around cowboy, Greg B.

LING: It's Greg who takes the rodeo's biggest prize.

LING: Congratulations.

GREG: Thank you so much.

LING: Here friendships prevail over rivalries. Perhaps one day the barrier between straight and gay rodeo will fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be that one person that comes out and says, this is who I am and I'm just as good a cowboy as anybody else. And it doesn't matter who I have as a partner, it'll be quite a moment for all the history of rodeo.

LING: Until then, gay rodeo will continue to serve a very important role in the lives of these cowboys and cowgirls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all came together and found a place to feel comfortable and loved.

DAVID: It's more like a family. It's like being at home.

LING: Almost everyone in that that arena had a story of feeling unaccepted at some point in their lives. And so that made the competition even more fears. And whether they were winners or losers, I thought that there were a lot of victories today.