One of the principle contestants in this weekend’s Miss America pageant, Erin O’Flaherty, wants those watching to understand that (a), she was raised on a farm; (b) she has experience as a judhe of livestock, and (c), that she’s an avide supporter of suicide prevention. But what’s causing headlines around the world is that she’s an out-and-proud lesbian.
As far as anyone knows, O’Flaherty’s stance makes her the first in the pageant’s history to announce that her sexual orientation is gay. The 23-year-old Missourian is being both decried and heralded as a trailblazer among the roster of pageant participants, and does much to undo the criticism that contestants are exploited on an archaic, straight-focused platform that sets a standard for women and their behavior, as well as their attire.
According to press reports, Steve Mendelsohn, the deputy executive director of the Trevor Project, which works to end suicide among LGBTQ youth, O’Flaherty is “changing the conversation and proving to people that you can be who you are. The pageant is really about the beauty of individuals. And individuals come in all identities.”
O’Flaherty acknowledged the controversy in a phone interview Tuesday when she made overtures to an understanding that gay role models are useful, while also regretting that they are still necessary.
O’Flaherty said, “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.”
Last modified: August 22, 2017