The first openly gay contestant will compete on Sunday in the 95th national beauty contest that will be held in Atlantic City.
Miss Misouri, Erin O’Flaherty, wants fans to know a few things about her. She was raised on a farm; she is a trained livestock judge; and she supports suicide-prevention programs.
Ms. O’Flaherty’s place on the stage suggests a new message: that lesbians as participants and spectators have the same opportunities for enjoyment as heterosexuals.
In June, after being crowned Miss Missouri, she said she struggled with her sexuality growing up as a self-described “feminine girl” in Florence, S.C.
“Knowing I might be gay but also being very feminine was kind of confusing for me because I didn’t fit into the stereotypical category I had in my head for a woman in the LGBT community,” she told. “It took many years of struggle to figure out who I was.”
“I want to get the conversation away from my sexuality, and I hope that by the end of the year that will be the conversation we are having,” she said. “I think other people tend to focus on it, but it is one small part of who I am and the work that I do. It is just as important for people to realize I am not one dimensional”, she added.