First Gay Miss America Contestant Wants to Be Role Model: ‘Femme Lesbians Are Underrepresented’ in LGBT Community

Penny Starr
By Penny Starr | June 27, 2016 | 12:51 PM EDT

Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty, the first lesbian to compete for the Miss America crown (AP Photo)

Erin O’Flaherty was crowned Miss Missouri on Jan. 18, a win that makes her the first lesbian to compete for the Miss America crown. Last week, Cosmopolitan magazine posted an interview with the beauty queen, which mostly focused on her sexual orientation and its role in her life and in the competition.

In the interview, Cosmopolitan asked O’Flaherty: “As Miss Missouri, do you feel like you can be a role model for other young women in the LGBT community?”

“I hope so — that's really my goal here,” O’Flaherty said. “Growing up, I was very feminine. 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.  

“It took many years of struggle to figure out who I was,” the 23-year-old O’Flaherty said. “Femme lesbians are underrepresented in the LGBT community.

“They certainly exist, but many find it very hard to be accepted,” she said. “Often, they are confused with being heterosexual.” 

O’Flaherty said that she has been able “connect with other femme lesbians” and that she is “proud” to be a part of the LBGT community. 

Cosmopolitan, known for its focus on sex, trumpeted O’Flaherty’s success.

“Now, O'Flaherty wants to use her year as Miss Missouri to break boundaries, serve as a role model (not to mention prove that an out and proud lesbian pageant queen is as worthy of her tiara as anyone else) and advocate for suicide prevention,” the article stated.

“It became my mission to spread this message — suicide is the second leading cause of death in individuals between the ages of 14 and 25, and the 11th leading cause of death, overall,” OFlaherty said, telling the magazine she lost a friend to suicide at age 13. 

“And LGBT youth are actually eight times more likely to try to commit suicide compared to their straight peers,” she said. 

The 2017 Miss America will be crowned on Sept. 11, 2016.

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