When did Wyoming start referring to itself as the Cowboy State instead of the Equality State, nicknames which evoke very different identities and self-images? Cowboys bring to mind the wild west with each person a law unto themselves, fighting for survival against the elements and resentful of any governmental limits.
Equality State evokes a much different world, one where we all rely on each other for mutual benefit. This credo is the one that actually built our fine state. We have, from our founding, relied on the federal government and each other. Wyoming was the desolate Indian country people had to traverse to reach the promised land of the west coast. The federal government built forts to protect people, surveyed the land, gave people the opportunity to own land, then built dams and canals to bring life-giving water to it.
Homesteaders worked together to build lives in this desert mindful only of the character of people, nothing more. We were proud to be the first in the nation to recognize the right of women to vote and of the title Equality State.
We quickly failed that proud ideal, though. We segregated our schools, white miners murdered Chinese workers. We failed to learn the lesson when Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered because folks who don’t fit the church decreed "normal" sexuality are still ostracized, ridiculed (even by a U.S. Senator) and can be fired or refused housing just for being themselves. People who can claim multiple generation Wyoming citizenship face daily discrimination today because of the color of their skin.
Although I am proud to be a citizen of Wyoming, one of a very diverse citizenry, the University of Wyoming football team "guy on a bronco" logo does not define me. I am a member of a community that pulls together and works for equality for everyone as symbolized by the Great Seal of our state.
Wyoming ranked among the lowest in the nation in the 2017 Human Rights Campaign ranking. We have a long way to go to live up to being, truly, The Equality State.