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News Release

Sept. 8, 2022

Ford co-authors article about gay rodeo, queer communities in rural America

By Edidiong Idong-Bassey, communication assistant

Dr. Elyssa Ford

Dr. Elyssa Ford

Dr. Elyssa Ford, an associate professor of history at Northwest Missouri State University, recently completed a year-long sabbatical during which she authored a research article and book that examine mainstream stereotypes about gay rodeo culture and the existence of queer communities in rural America.

In Ford’s most recent article, titled “How gay rodeos upend assumptions about life in rural America,” she explores how gay rodeo serves as a bridge between rural and queer identities. The article is published by “The Conversation,” a website devoted to news and research by academics.

Ford collaborated with Dr. Rebecca Scofield, an associate professor of history at the University of Idaho, to write the article. The co-authors also have written a book about gay rodeo that is under contract with the University of Washington Press.

“We have these misconceptions that rural areas are not places where you can be gay, it’s maybe not safe if you’re gay or there aren’t gay people in those rural areas, which is, of course, not true,” Ford said. “There’s always been gay people in rural places.”

As an undergraduate student, Ford interned at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas, which inspired her research of rodeo. She also authored a book, “Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion,” that was published in 2020 by the University Press of Kansas.

The most recent article provides a historical overview of gay rodeo, which gay men created in the 1970s to disprove a prevalent notion that they were effeminate or not masculine enough to be identified as men.

Ford and Scofield also discuss in the article how gay rodeo has allowed queer communities to stay connected to their rural backgrounds while creating a hub for them to express their sexualities.

“Gay rodeo creates this space for people who have moved to these urban environments but miss that,” Ford said. “They’re now allowed to do those things with gay rodeo. It’s also created a space for people from rural areas who don’t have a large queer community but then you get to gay rodeo so you’re doing this thing that’s home, but it’s this gay version of home that’s kind of fun and comforting.”

Ford joined Northwest’s faculty in 2011. She is a cultural and social historian, and her academic interests include women’s history and sports history.


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