Check Out These Queers on the Range

Monday September 28, 2020

Check Out These Queers on the Range
  (Source:Getty Images)

When people think of gay cowboys, they likely think of "Brokeback Mountain," Ang Lee's Oscar-winning (for script and direction) 2005 film about the tortured relationship between two gay men (who happen to be cowboys) from the 1960s-1980s.

But gay cowboys have been around since the West was settled. As Jana Bommersbach writes in a 2005 article for True West magazine, the "most surprising thing about homosexuality in the Old West is not that it was rare in the rugged, macho world of the cowboy, but that it was so common and so not a big deal."

Nor was the behavior defined as it is today. "It's important to know the history of homosexuality," notes History Department Chairman Peter Boag from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the True West article. "Society didn't really designate people as homosexual or heterosexual through most of the 19th century; it was not really until the 20th century that those identities crystallized."

Some of this had to deal with the fact that there were no women in the Old West. Historian Susan Lee Johnson, who says this homosocial society necessitated "drastically altered divisions of labor in which men took on tasks that womenfolk would have performed back home." 

But for whatever the reason, homosexuality was part of gay cowboy culture then, as it is today. The difference being that today it is defined and is something to be celebrated, as these pics from various Instagrams that show that show queers home on the range, at rodeos, dances and on the ranch.

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