Interview with Jay Lovejoy

Phoenix, Arizona on February 16, 2020 | Interviewer: Revulai Detiv

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Revulai Detiv: Hello, my name is Revulai Detiv. I am here with Jay Lovejoy and we’re at the AGRA rodeo. February 16th, 2020. And, to start off, what year were you born?
Jay Lovejoy: 1939.
RD: Where did you grow up?
JL: I grew up in the Chicago area, the suburbs. And my father worked in Chicago and commuted every day. And I lived in the suburbs, in the Chicago area, pretty much in the same small town until I went away to college. I went away to college in Chicago, so I didn't go very far.
RD: What was life like growing up?
JL: Oh, it was a very small town. Everybody knew everybody. One school. And it was very fun. Felt very secure and free to relax and do whatever we wanted to do.
RD: Do you have any favorite memories from childhood?
JL: Um, I think my third-grade teacher knew that I was interested in automobiles from a very early age. And she had a friend in a different town who had an old Rolls Royce, and I got to go over there and take a ride in it.
RD: Oh, wow.
JL: At the age of eight. And going to the same school right through eighth grade. There was no junior high or anything and, actually, even high school, I had to go to the next town over. But we rode on an electric interurban railway to go to high school. So that was kind of unique and kind of fun.
RD: Did your family have any background in ranching or farming?
JL: No, my parents were city folks and moved to the suburbs. We just had a house on a very small piece of property, and we were just transplanted to the suburban life. And it was, like I said, a small town. And not very congested, very relaxing.
RD: What kind of jobs did they do?
JL: Well, there really wasn't much employment. Most of the people commuted to the city for their work. Except the people who, you know, ran the local grocery store and the drugstore and the, you know, to support the people. There was no industry in the town other than the town itself. So, people that had serious careers had to commute somewhere else. Bedroom communities are different, you know.
RD: How do you identify in terms of gender and sexuality?
JL: Well, I'm a gay man. But I didn't really come out until I was maybe twenty-nine years old because it was pretty restricted back then and, you know, it was a private sort of thing. But I came out when—I had gone to work after I graduated from college. I had a management job in the telephone company. But I was subject to the draft at that time. And I went to the army draft because my number was called, but I had a chance to join the Navy and go to officer candidate school instead, so I did that.
RD: Did you face any discrimination?
JL: No, but I really didn't identify as gay ‘til I got out of the Navy anyway. And when I was, you know, away from home, man, I really didn't feel free to come out until I moved to Arizona. Which I did at age 31.
RD: Was your family supportive?
JL: Well, they've always been supportive of me, but we didn't have a real deep discussion about what I was doing or where I was going. But, you know, there was an awareness and they were very supportive. My family's always been very supportive.
RD: That’s good to hear. How did you first become involved in the gay rodeo?
JL: I became involved because I knew it was a group of people that were socializing and having fun, and I knew some people that were members. So, I joined the group. And I was not a very active member at first. But there came a point—we had a problem with a treasurer who absconded with some money and then there was a volunteer who came in and kind of straightened that out. But he didn't want to stick around so I volunteered to be the treasurer of the rodeo association and I became very committed when I realized we could raise a lot of money for charities by having the rodeo, and that we nominated charities to receive our funds. And we went by a vote as to where that money was going.
JL: In fact, while I was the treasurer, we devised a plan of people voting for their charities and apportioning the money of their vote so they could divide it up into 10 percent for each. And that actually became known as the Lovejoy method that we used for a good number of years, well after I was the treasurer. It was a way of deciding who the charities were that got the money that we raised for the rodeo. So, I was quite pleased when that happened. And I saw that if we made twenty thousand dollars at the rodeo and there were 40 people who could decide where that money went, I had a voice in giving five hundred dollars to a charity – that I could give them without writing a check, which I couldn't afford to do on my own. So, I was very pleased with the way the rodeo association was able to do that.
RD: What kind of charities did you donate to?
JL: At first there were a lot of AIDS related charities: Food for AIDS people and we supported the PFLAG Organization. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays was an organization that we direct quite a bit of money to. And they didn't have many other fundraising sources, so they supported us and we supported them. So, I was particularly pleased with that.
RD: That’s good. Did you ever get involved with any of the rodeo events?
JL: No, I didn't. I'm more of a sitting in the stands sort of guy and running the organization and the rodeo events that took place in conjunction with the rodeo. One time I did use my car to bring in the grand marshal of the rodeo, when you have the parade for the festivities for the grand marshal event. I had been doing that, too. But, primarily, lately, I've been involved with running the AGRA booth inside each rodeo where we have information and we sell the T-shirts – the commemorative T-shirts – and we have prizes and raise money by spinning a wheel for luck.
RD: Oh, I think I saw that here.
JL: We've been doing that for a number of years. We raise $1,000 or more, maybe $2,000 doing it. That's been fun.
RD: Do you have any favorite memories running AGRA?
JL: Um, I think being the treasurer for a couple of years when we had two rodeos and we had rodeo finals in Phoenix where I was the treasurer for those events. That's the most important events, as far as I’m concerned. But lately, I've just been one of the team that's running the booth. But at one point, I was with a group that we were selected to be the grand marshal. We had four friends that kind of hung out together pretty much all the time and Claudi B designated us the “Golden Girls” and recommended that we be the grand marshal for the rodeo back in, I believe, 2010. And we enjoyed that very much. That's a big highlight of my time with AGRA.
RD: What did you like about being the treasurer during that period of time?
JL: I think it was just that that was my talent. I was a business and economics graduate with a master’s in finance, and my job experience was with the Greyhound Corporation where I was internal auditor and eventually system controller. So, I knew how to run the treasury without problem.
RD: It’s good that they had you there to do that.
JL: Well, that's why I volunteered to do that sort of thing. That was my talent. And that was where to apply it. I had very little experience riding horses.
RD: What are some of your favorite events in the rodeo?
JL: Well, I think I enjoy the camp events, just because they're fun. But I'm very excited when some of the men and women ride the horses very fast and do the events where they're going around barrels or weaving between poles and stuff like that – just seeing them control their horses very carefully and at great speed. It's a speed event. So, I think that's the most exciting.
RD: Do you think the larger LGBTQ community supports the gay rodeo?
JL: I think they do. I would like to see more of the general community here. We try to promote the rodeo. I wish we could promote it a little more. We're in competition with other events. You know, there's so much going on in Phoenix, Arizona, in January and February when we have beautiful weather and people want to come from different parts of the country to enjoy it. But we do get a good crowd out. And one thing, as I say, I wish we would promote it a little more to get people out. We try to give out a few free tickets, and we used to go to the different bars and have a promotion, you know, we’re all there in our cowboy outfits, saying, “The rodeo’s in two weeks!” or “The rodeo is in one week!” We do as much as we can to promote it.
RD: That’s great.
JL: Here comes the next one! [People talking in the background]
RD: Have you ever experienced any homophobia or harassment?
JL: In my life?
RD: Yeah.
JL: Uh, I have a bad memory of being in Dayton, Ohio, and having rocks thrown at me. Walking down the street, you know, with a group of friends to go from the hotel where we were staying to a bar. And people were aware that we were having too much fun and we had to get ahead of that stone throwing crowd. That's the worst discrimination I think I've seen. I've been really pretty lucky in my career. Nobody ever caused me any discrimination, but I had to play it kind of cool.
RD: That’s good.
JL: Yeah. Undercover.
RD: Have you experienced any protests or anything at the gay rodeo?
JL: I have seen people protesting, not so much at the gay rodeo, but other gay events where they come with their microphones and say, you know, “God doesn't like gay people,” and things like that. But that's a very small minority and I tend to just kind of laugh that off.
RD: That’s a good way to deal with that.
JL: Yeah, that's their problem, not mine.
RD: Exactly!
RD: Are you active in any religious community?
JL: No, I'm not. I'm not. I belong to the American Humanist Society.
RD: Has that influenced…
JL: No, I just read their newsletter, and pledge, and know there's other people that think the way I think. And I'm comfortable with that.
RD: I guess, would you consider yourself a cowboy?
JL: No. I could get dressed up like a cowboy, but I'm not a cowboy.
RD: What do you think defines a cowboy?
JL: Somebody who likes to live on a ranch and have animals around to take care of. The most animals I ever took care of was a cat – two cats. That's enough. I'm really a city boy or suburban boy at heart and the rodeo’s just fun.
RD: How has your experience been with the AGRA growing over time?
JL: Oh, I think it's been very positive. There's always a couple of things that they decide I don't agree with but, on a majority, I can just go along. I don't mind that they don't agree with me 100 percent of the time. I can live with that.
RD: Do you want to speak any more to that?
JL: No, I think that covers it. I think that covers it.
RD: Do you have any other favorite memories of being at the rodeo?
JL: I think just being with a big crowd of people that are out for having fun is good. The crowd that we have standing outside, and just milling around, and saying, “Hi,” and people you haven't seen in a year sometimes say, “Hello” – things like that. It's kind of fun to go and watch the events, then come out and have a drink and look up old friends. That's the thing. I wouldn't miss it; I wouldn't miss it. I've been a member for a long time. I'm still wearing this badge they gave me a few years ago for 30 years. And I expect to be a member for the rest of my life.
RD: That’s great.
JL: That's a pretty good endorsement, isn't it?
RD: Oh, for sure!
JL: I believe in lifetime memberships.
RD: Let’s see… Is there anything else you’d like to go over?
JL: I think we kind of covered it. Thank you very much. I enjoyed it and I hope your project works out very well.
RD: Thanks.