Only days before the Miss Universe preliminary competition on Saturday, Miss Myanmar, Swe Zin Htet, came out as lesbian.
The pageant queen tells People that she timed her coming out to coincide with the pageant to help bring a spotlight to LGBTQ rights in her home country. A place where homosexuality is still a crime.
“I have that platform that, if I say that I’m a lesbian, it will have a big impact on the LGBTQ community back in Burma,” she told the publication through a translator.
This also makes Htet the first openly gay competitor at the Miss Universe competition.
“The difficult thing is that in Burma, LGBTQ people are not accepted,” Htet said, “they are looked down on by other people and are being discriminated against.”
Htet came out in an interview on Nov. 29 with the popular pageant blog Missosology.
“It’s like I just started a new chapter in life,” she said.
She does admit that some of her fans and family knew already.
“At first, they were mad. They didn’t accept me,” Htet recalled about telling her parents. “But later, when they found out more about the LGBTQ community, they started to accept me.”
Htet has been in a relationship with Burmese singer Gae Gae for three years.
Myanmar does have a law preventing same-sex relationships that has a sentence of 10 years to life. Although the Myanmar Times has claimed the “law is not used in practice.”
“We are honoured 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, said. “Miss Universe will always champion women to be proud of who they are.”
Last year, Miss Spain Angela Ponce made headlines as the first transgender contestant.
The Miss Universe finale will take place at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta on Sunday.