Rainbow Cattle Co.


Rainbow Cattle Co.

Liberation, Inclusion, and the History of Gay Rodeo

Nicholas Villanueva, Jr.

246 pages
5 photographs, 15 illustrations, index


November 2024


$50.00 Pre-order

About the Book

Rainbow Cattle Co. tells the story of gay rodeo as an overlooked and important part of the LGBTQ liberation movement. Nicholas Villanueva, Jr., argues that the history of gay liberation has been oversimplified as a fight for sexual freedom in the major cities of the 1970s. But, as Villanueva reveals, the gay liberation movement thrived in rodeo in the U.S. West and in rural communities throughout America. LGBTQ rodeo athletes liberated themselves from the heteronormative social world of sport and upended stereotypes of sport and queer identity. Organizers, athletes, and spectators fought to protect their rights to openly participate in sports, and their activism was pivotal in the fight against AIDS.

Rainbow Cattle Co. reveals a history of gay liberation through rodeo, which from the mid-1970s provided a safe space where LGBTQ athletes could focus on their sport and evolved into a highly successful philanthropic organization by the end of the twentieth century. This intersectional study of LGBTQ athletes, heteronormativity, Western history, and sport builds on scholarship from ethnic studies, critical sports studies, sociology, and history.

Author Bio

Nicholas Villanueva, Jr., is an associate professor of ethnic studies and the director of Critical Sport Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the editor of The Athlete as National Symbol: Critical Essays on Sports in the International Arena and Critical Sports Studies: A Document Reader and the author of The Lynching of Mexicans in the Texas Borderlands, winner of two southwestern book awards.


“The story of the International Gay Rodeo Association is particularly fascinating as it evolved from an athletic association to an activist community. The testimonials of cowboys and cowgirls add to the humanity of the story. . . . This is quite obviously a gender, Western, and cultural history. But this is also a history of sports in America and how it shaped American mainstream life.”—Sunu Kodumthara, professor of history at Southwestern Oklahoma State University

“To date, there has not been a formal history of gay rodeo or a work that contextualizes gay rodeo within the gay liberation movement. This book . . . will be valuable and usable to those interested in teaching gender, sport, and the American West.”—Leisl Carr Childers, author of The Size of the Risk: Histories of Multiple Use in the Great Basin

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. A Rodeo to Call Their Own: The Origin of Gay Rodeo
2. Rough Riding: Coming Out and Homophobia
3. Gay Rodeo Programs: How-To Guides about LGBTQ Culture
4. “Riding with Pride”: How the Sport of Rodeo Became Gay Pride for LGBTQ Athletes
5. Riding, Roughstock, and Camp Events: A Rodeo to Call Their Own
6. Masculine Capital: Gay Rodeo Cowboy Identity
7. Our Chosen Family: Cowboys, Cowgirls, and Coupling at the Gay Rodeo
8. The Riderless Horse: HIV/AIDS in America and the Gay Rodeo Community
Conclusion: A Sustainable Future

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