Matt Livadary is kicking down stereotypes. The first-time documentarian decided to cut his teeth filming the feature Queens & Cowboys about the participants of The International Gay Rodeo Association. Who’da thunk a straight boy from the big city could make an activist film about queer cowboy culture? As he quickly figured out, we all have a lot to learn. Livadary chatted with Queerty about his inspiration for the project, getting drunk with drag queens and the secret Cowboy Code.
Why would an urban straight guy make a film about gay cowboys?
Honestly, documentaries never entered my mind. I was originally doing research for a scripted show. I found the world of rodeo to be incredibly homogenous, until I was in Colorado and I sat next to a lesbian couple. They informed me that they rarely come to straight Rodeo events. This is where I learned about niche rodeo scenes: Black rodeo, Mexican rodeo but, more importantly, the gay rodeo. Upon further investigation I decided that a documentary would be far more meaningful than a scripted show. So I quit my job and went on a three-year journey.
I was shocked at how many gay people live in the rural west. That alone opened up my understanding about the community in a wider way. And there are so many that live in these little tiny towns, that are not out and this rodeo is the only safe place where they can go and be themselves. It’s a total throwback, but it’s a way for the more urban gays to perhaps remember their history and honor it. The cowboy code has a powerful message that everyone should learn about and live by.
[Laughs] The cowboy code is really just simple rules to live by. Basically be kind to others. Be true to your word. Work hard, be honest and help those who need it. And, seriously I when I was out shooting I was almost suspicious as to how wonderful everyone was. I was a complete stranger with a camera and yet I was always picked up at the airport, had a place to sleep and was fed. It blew me away how supportive everyone was.
You talk a lot about breaking down stereotypes, how does this film do that?
Well the cowboy is so iconic. This film sort of restarts those traditions to include a wider array of people: women, gays, trans people. It even challenges stereotypes within the gay community. More often than not my gay friends are like, “wait…there’s a gay rodeo?” So this film is an opportunity to show gay people living with country western values.
At my second rodeo in Alvarado, Texas there was a moonshine competition. And this drag queen named Sharbie was taking me around and getting me completely loaded. The next day I was hungover and this dude named Brett comes up and starts talking to me like he knew me intimately. And I’m thinking, Oh fuck, what did I do last night? Then I finally realized Brett was Sharbie without her drag on.
Watch the trailer for the film below and donate to the Queens & Cowboys Indiegogo campaign for completion funds here.