Rodeo in Denton Focuses on Inclusion

There's a different kind of rodeo coming to town, at the North Texas State Fairgrounds in Denton. It's an event with an emphasis on inclusion, and breaking old stereotypes.

For Kevin Davis, riding a horse is good therapy.

"Riding is something that's always been extremely enjoyable for me," said Davis. "On a bad day, getting on my horse can make it a good day."

Davis is an experienced horseman, who's owned horses in Texas for about 35 years. He is one of about 100 entrants in the rodeo, being held in Denton this weekend.

"We are not your typical rodeo," he said. "We never claimed to be."

The competition is an annual event, run by the Texas Gay Rodeo Association. The group formed in the Lone Star State in the 1980's, in part, as a response to anti-gay discrimination on the traditional rodeo circuit.

"They made it rather difficult," said Davis. "And made it pretty obvious that we weren't welcome."

Discrimination is something Davis says he rarely experienced personally. But he's heard stories.

"I know that it's out there," he said. "I've been around for a while. I've seen some changes. I'd like to see some more."

Davis says he enjoys the camaraderie and the party atmosphere of the rodeo, which blends with serious competition. He's a barrel racer.

"I keep coming back because of all the people I know," he said. "I'll probably keep doing it until I can't hoist my sorry behind up on that horse anymore."

The Texas Tradition Rodeo and Country Fair is also the year's biggest fundraiser for Texas Gay Rodeo Association. The money raised is donated to charitable causes. Organizers say about 80% of the rodeo participants are gay, 20% heterosexual.

A place where all -- are welcome.

"You get started at something like this," said Davis. "And it's hard to quit."

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