in the Valley
by J. Greenberg
D. L. Shields is
a true man of the west. He's been competing in rodeos since the age
of 15, but little did he know that one day he'd be directing a rodeo
himself: the Sierra Stampede -- Sacramento's annual gay rodeo.
That's right: Sacramento
has a gay rodeo. Surprised? D.L. says you shouldn't be.
The Sierra Stampede
is dedicated to keeping the time-honored traditions of the rodeo alive
it's not afraid to add a few of its own -- such as "camp events"
like goat dressing, steer decorating, and wild drag race.
This unique blend
of "wild" and "west" draws thousands - both gay
and straight - to Sacramento each July. From in the closet
of the chute, the gay and lesbian community has come a long way in just
a few generations.
a former Assemblyman from Orange County, now calls the Valley home,
and says tolerance isn't just good social policy - it's good business.
He cites a study by the Brookings Institution that found the leading
indicator of a metropolitan area's high-technology success is a large
gay population. Sacramento may not be the next Silicon Valley
midtown is coming alive as it's coming out, with many shops along J
and R Streets owned and operated by gay and lesbian merchants.
Gay and lesbian
businesses have also found a home in "Lavender Heights," a
corridor along 21st Street. One of its anchors is the Lavender Library,
a lending library serving Sacramento's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
-- or LGBT -- communities.
In five short years,
and almost entirely through doantions, the Library has acquired a collection
of more than 10,000 books and other items -- many dating back to the
1950s. It was a much mroe repressive era, says author Ann Bannon, but
despite the political climate,she had stories that needed to come out
Her first novel
became the second best-selling paperback of 1957 -- thanks at least
in part to readers who judged the book solely by its cover
of the lurid artwork, her sweet college romance between two women was
seen by some as "sleaze."
Though her books
were set in the Bohemian world of Greenwich Village, Ann wrote all but
one of them while living in California. In the mid-60s she turned from
fiction to academia, eventually becoming a dean at CSUS. But her work
lived on through reprints and translations. Now Ann is finally ready
to add another chapter to her characters' lives. And like her, they've
left the Big Apple for the Big Valley.
It's the same setting
where, come July, cowboys and cowgirls throughout the West will flock
to the Sierra Stampede - to bust broncs
as well as stereotypes.