The Miss Universe beauty pageant has featured an openly lesbian contestant for the first time in its sixty-seven year history. Swe Zin Htet competed as Miss Myanmar at the event on Sunday night in Atlanta, Georgia. Although she failed to advance into the top 20, her supporters’ say she has already made history by representing the LGBTQ community on a global stage. The twenty-one-year-old Htet, also known to fans as “Superman,” reportedly came out as gay in an interview posted on a pageant forum, Missosology, just after she arrived in Atlanta for the competition.
“I want the world to accept the LGBTQ+ community and their right to choose their own path and pursuit of happiness,” she is quoted as saying. “We should always have the freedom of choice and promote equality.” The next day, she posted a photo collage on Instagram that was overlaid with a rainbow flag and the word “Proud.”
Swe Zin Htet ‘s revelation is more shocking because of Myanmar’s colonial-era laws against homosexuality – which can come with a lengthy prison sentence.
Although the law is not universally enforced, members of the LGBTQ people in Myanmar still face higher rates of arrests, and those who do not conform to traditional gender ideas are often shunned, reports say.
Fortunately, Htet’s coming out was met with a barrage of support from fans in Myanmar and across the world. After she apologized on Facebook for failing to progress into the latter stages of the competition.
The Miss Universe Organization also expressed its support. “We are honored to give a platform to strong, inspirational women like Miss Universe Myanmar, who are brave enough to share their unique stories with the world,” the group’s president, Paula Shugart, said in a statement. “Miss Universe will always champion women to be proud of who they are.”
Some of the contests are clearly placing greater emphasis on diversity. 2018 saw the Miss Universe competition feature its first-ever transgender contestant. And that’s a good thing moving forward.
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