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How to ‘Cowgirl Up’

How to ‘Cowgirl Up’

Why do I rodeo? What made me want to wrestle steers? How in the world did I choose to do THAT activity? People not involved in the western lifestyle want to know. And, my answer is simply “Why not?”

Let me explain this first: I did not grow up around livestock or on a ranch or farm. Even though I come from an athletic family, I was never the athletic type. I came out in my mid-twenties but have never played softball, basketball, soccer, football, golf or participate in any of the other “lesbian” sports.

So, how did I end up wrestling steers in the Gay Rodeo? It was actually just a whim. One night in September 2010, I was looking over the Gay Rodeo website after attending their rodeo in August and happened upon a notice for something called Rough Stock School. They claimed that anyone could learn to ride a bull, ride a bronco or wrestle steers if they attended the school. I asked my wife if I should try it and she said, “Sure, why not?” I asked her best friend from high school that had been involved with Gay Rodeo for some years and he said, “Well, yeah! I think you could do it! I’ll help you!” And just like that, I was off on a Gay Rodeo adventure.

We both joined the local rodeo chapter and my wife’s friend Travis gave me a list of items I would need to purchase to meet rodeo participation requirements. Rodeo is expensive! I attended the school in September 2010 and after an afternoon of being the only woman to make it through the school uninjured, I was hooked on rodeo! My wife and I became more involved in our local Chapter, with Travis’s help and introduction. My wife ran for and won the Ms. Bay Area Rodeo 2011 and was part of the fundraising and rodeo planning teams. I focused on training for the 2011 rodeos in Palm Springs, Las Vegas and San Francisco. With the support of my wife, my new “rodeo husbands”, friends and coach Travis, I took part in my first rodeo in April 2011. It was not pretty. I ate arena dirt, hard. But I showed the rodeo family what I was made of. I was stubborn and wouldn’t let go of my steer, it would have to pry itself from my grip when the chute opened. Then came Las Vegas in May 2011. Again, it was not pretty and even more violent! I learned that the steers got stronger, smarter and more ornery as the year wore on. I started to feel like I was letting my rodeo family, my friends and my wife down. I almost quit. But, I had invested all this time and money into rodeo and I AM stubborn. Everyone assured me they thought I could do it so I decided I would keep going and complete in San Francisco.

I was having to deal with injuries: a twisted ankle, plantar fasciitis in both feet that required monthly injections in my heels, hips and shoulders that were out of alignment and knees that were a mess. In July at a practice, I took an untipped (sharp) horn to the groin and ended up with a puncture and soreness.

Soon the San Francisco rodeo would arrive and I would have to cowgirl up. With ankles taped up tight, my rodeo family and dear friends from SoCal cheering me on—I won first place for Women’s Chute Dogging for the rodeo and took the belt buckle for my event. I even earned an invitation to compete at IGRA (International Gay Rodeo Association) World Finals in Ft. Worth in October 2011. It was almost unheard of for a rookie to be invited to compete at Finals, and yet there I was in Ft. Worth, competing against the top 13 women from the US and Canada in Women’s Chute Dogging. These were all women that had been doing this for years and knew each other well. During my first go on Saturday, and after the 750 lb steer dragged me around for a bit but I wouldn’t let go and hung on tight, these women looked at Travis and asked, “Who IS this girl?! Where’d she come from?”

I took 3rd place for Sunday and earned a Finals medal. I came home exhausted, bruised, banged up and feeling like a million bucks! I felt, in my heart, that I had finally earned the right to call myself a cowgirl.

I rodeo because I am passionate about it and I’m good at it. I don’t ride but I’m a “roughie”. I compete with rough stock. It’s tough. It’s mentally and physically all about wresting a 700 lb animal with horns to the ground in a certain way, in under 60 seconds, and that steer doesn’t want to play with you in the first place. My body has paid the price for my passion: bruises, cuts, deep tissue bruises, out of alignment hips, shoulders and spine, a puncture to the groin and a weakened ankle that became fractured in November. But, I can’t wait to do it again. In rodeo, it’s not IF you’ll get hurt, but WHEN. I accept that. My mother accepts it too. When I first told her what I was learning to do, she hung up the phone on me. Then she called me right back, crying and yelling. I am her only surviving child and she couldn’t wrap her head around the idea of me voluntarily getting into the arena to wrestle a steer. It was only after she watched me competing that she gave me her blessing and told me before she left for home, “OK, I guess you can be a cowgirl.” Now, she tells everyone, “My daughter is a champion steer wrestler. Oh yes, she competes in the gay rodeo! She’s a cowgirl, ya know!”

Dont miss the Best Buck in The Bay Festival and Rodeo 2012

Driscoll Ranches, La Honda CA

September 15-16

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  • Karen Mitchell says:

    That is right! Love this gal, and proud to watch her determination at work. The partnership her and her wife has is amazing, and the way they see life as just a challenge to overcome, or just plain old mud on your boots is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • D. Trujillo says:

    Thank you, Robin and Co. for the opportunity to share my experience, love of rodeo and let other women know it exists! Rodeo is definately NOT for everyone but those interested in more information or how to join a local chapter and compete in an accepting environment for all LGBT, pls seek it out!

  • Sharon e. Trujillo says:

    Hmmmmmmm…to the best of my recollection-inbetween ALL the crying+yelling+what the hell….she actually compared the sport to football…i KNEW! this little girl is going to do this R-E-G-A-R-D-L-E-S-S of whatever I think….then again,she always does!!!!!!! So, what else was a mother to do…not talk to her???oh yay,i did that too! In the end-you MUST accept what they want to do…she already had the boots! I love you lil’ miss cowgirl. x

  • Andrew says:

    Gay Rodeo involves the gratuitious abuse and bullying of helpless animals. as a gay man who cares about animals, I’m very disturbed and embarrassed that other LGBTs, who have battled oppression and abuse themselves, would turn around and treat those weaker than us the same, for “entertainment” and money. It’s even more curious that gay women would be involved in this cruelty, as women generally are more conscious of animal welfare and the parallels between the oppression of certain groups of humans and of certain animals (even the International Gay Rodeo Association recognizes this – see “Women’s Outreach Committee Meeting” on page 43 of IGRA’s convention minutes at

    Fortunately, there is growing awareness of the social problems with gay rodeo within our community, and sponsors/supporters such as SF’s Marlena’s Bar and Winery-SF, and Paws & Hearts Pet-Assisted Therapy in Palm Springs have sworn off their support of rodeo. IGRA’s 4/15 board meeting minutes even acknowledge declining sponsorship and public image, and canceled rodeos.

    For more information, please go to

  • pcuvie says:

    Why would anyone participate in cruelty to animals? D. Trujillo-James answer is simply “why not.” She acknowledeges that the animal does not want to participate, as the animal “doesn’t want to play with you in the first place,” and yet takes great pleasure in manhandling these unwilling participants. What D. Trujillo-James considers fun and willingly participates in the animal considers abuse and is simply trying to get away and avoid being manhandled. As gays and lesbians are a group of people who have historically been treated by others as if their lives were meaningless it is hard for me to understand how a gay or lesbian person would want to hold that same mentality towards other animals who don’t see their own lives as meaningless.

  • D. Trujillo says:

    Thank you again, Robin and Epochalips for allowing ME to share MY story! Excited to be a part of what is looking to be the BIGGEST, LOUDEST and MOST successful Best Buck in the Bay Rodeo and Festival in our 20 years of serving the local LGBT community and sharing our love of the western culture to those that want to be a part of it! If you LOVE rodeo, want to make your own opinion and not have someone bully you into their viewpoint or want to show your support to the many LOUD and PROUD Sponsors-come on down!! If you don’t like rodeo-go do what makes you happy. Cuz’ I’ll be with my rodeo family, wrestling steers BECAUSE I CAN! GOD BLESS THE USA AND GOD BLESS COWBOYS AND COWGIRLS!!