Olivia Harvey
December 09, 2019 10:00 am

During Sunday night, December 8th’s Miss Universe 2019 pageant, the first openly gay contestant competed for the crown. Swe Zin Htet, the current reigning Miss Myanmar, decided just days before the show to come out and use her platform to advocate for the LGTBQ+ community back in her home country, which is also called Burma, while competing for the Miss Universe title.

Paras Griffin, Stringer, Getty Images

In Burma, homosexuality is still treated as a crime. Htet timed her coming out with the Miss Universe pageant in order to draw attention to the inequality that affects the LGBTQ+ community in Burma and beyond.

Htet publicly came out as gay during an interview with the Missology beauty blog on November 29th, saying that it took her a while to come to terms with her sexual orientation. Once she did, however, she realized she could use her public status to promote equality.

Although Htet has been receiving mixed reactions to her coming out, those involved in the Miss Universe pageant, as well as her fellow competitors, have been wholeheartedly supportive.

“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,” Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, told People.com. “Miss Universe will always champion women to be proud of who they are.”

Though Miss Myanmar did not take home the title of Miss Universe—the crown was ultimately placed upon the head of Miss South Africa (Zozibini Tunzi)—Swe Zin Htet will no doubt continue to make an impact as the first openly-gay Miss Universe contender and will remain a role model for those in marginalized LGBTQ+ communities around the world.

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