While in Wyoming, I checked the Wyoming Equality website to find someone to interview. That is when I learned of Rendezvous. This is Wyoming’s Pride Festival. It is a big camp out in the middle of the high desert. My eyes lit up. Camping + Queers = Super Fun Time!
After visiting Laramie, I headed into the woods. I got lost in the maze of dirt roads. Twilight turned to dark and I kept driving, the van bouncing over rocks and sand humps. Eventually, I found my way to Rendezvous. It was dark, but I could see lights in the distance. I came upon a glowing tent with a rainbow flag blowing in the ever-present Wyoming wind. I was home.
I parked the van and joined the party. Here, in the middle of the woods, were hundreds of LGBTs enjoying a live show. There was an incredible guitar player on stage. I nervously walked to the back of the audience and stood amongst the crowd. It was not long before folks came over and started to introduce themselves. A cute boy put some beads around my neck. Everybody asked where I was from, “Wyoming? Denver?” I told them I was from Massachusetts, driving around the country, making a documentary about gay rights and just happen to be traveling through Wyoming at the right time. After the show, parties broke out in camps all over the place. I was invited to Camp Voodoo, where I met a bunch of awesome guys. They were so friendly and adopted me for the weekend. It was a wild party and a great night.
The next day, I conducted three interviews. The night before I had met Pat Steadman, an openly-gay state senator from Denver, Colorado. I interview him and my new friend Anthony Aragon, the Board Chair of Equal Rights Colorado. Both Pat and Anthony told me about the incredible advances that had been made in Colorado in the past five years. They now have protections in employment and housing for LGBT individuals as well as hate-crimes protections. There is even a new law giving relationship recognition. It turned out that Pat, a gay activist turned state senator, had wrote and managed to push through all of this pro-LGBT legislation. It was an incredible stroke of luck to meet Pat and Anthony in the middle of the woods in Wyoming!
The third interview was with Joe Corrigan, Chair of Wyoming Equality. Joe told me what it is like to be gay in the Equality State (Wyoming is nicknamed the Equality State because it was the first state to give women the right to vote.) Joe talked about the work that Equality Wyoming is doing and the progress that is being made in this state. He remembered when he heard about Matthew Shepard being killed and what that would mean for Wyoming.
After our interview, Joe let me drive his ATV. He led the way on his partner’s ATV as we raced through the high desert. This was AMAZING. I had so much fun. Joe is the man! He then fed me steak and sent me out on another ATV ride with Larry. Thanks guys!!
That evening my new friend David, performed as NuClia Waste, the triple-breasted, green-haired, drag queen. This was a fabulous show! If you are in Denver, check out www.NucliaWaste.com and catch a show. You will not be disappointed.
I had a blast at Rendezvous. It was one of my favorite experience of the journey so far. I met a group of great guys that made me feel right at home. I can’t wait to go back next year!
In my conversation with folks from Wyoming over the weekend, I have heard again and again that this is a “live and let live” kind of state. I believe that. It seems like a lot the people I talked to here are out in their communities. Folks know they are gay, but don’t much care. It is a private matter that doesn’t concern the other folks in town. Live and Let Live. Someone should have told Matthew Shepard’s killers that. They do NOT represent Wyoming.
Wyoming calls itself, “forever West”. That seems to be true. The cowboy hats, the land, the gun racks, the pickups; everything here makes me feel like I am in the West. It feels good. I love this state.
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