Via the Associated Press:
After competing in pageants for generations in the closet or working behind the scenes, gays and lesbians finally get to see one of their own take one of pageantry’s biggest stages. Miss Missouri, Erin O’ Flaherty, will compete for the Miss America crown this weekend as the first openly lesbian contestant.
“Behind the scenes, we’ve been well-represented, but I’m the first openly gay title holder, so I’m very excited,” she told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “I knew going in that I had the opportunity to make history. Now I get to be more visible to the community and meet more people.”
Lesbians have been more visible in pageants lately. Djuan Trent competed in the Miss America pageant as Miss Kentucky in 2011, when she finished in the top 10. She came out as a lesbian in 2014.
Patricia Yurena, two-time winner of the Miss Spain contest and a runner up in the 2013 Miss Universe competition, announced in 2014 that she is a lesbian, posting a photo of her and her girlfriend cuddling, titling it “Romeo and Juliet.”
In 2012, two openly lesbian contestants, Jenelle Hutcherson and Mollie Thomas, competed in the Miss California USA pageant but did not advance to the national Miss USA pageant competition. O’Flaherty is the first Miss America contestant to win a state title after coming out; Trent came out after competing.
O’Flaherty is competing on the platform of teen suicide prevention, an issue of critical importance to the LGBT community.