First openly queer woman to compete in Miss USA reveals heartbreaking reason pageant contestants don’t come out

Miss USA: Meet the pageant's first bisexual candidate for over 60 years

This month, bisexual Rachel Slawson was crowned Miss Utah 2020, meaning she will be the first-ever openly queer woman to compete in the Miss USA pageant.

But, writing for The Independent, Slawson has discussed the heartbreaking reason why she is the first contestant to publicly come out. 

She wrote: “After I chose to come out, many people asked why it matters that I’m bisexual. There’s a reason why no one has ever come out during a pageant before.

“Many LGBTQ+ people live much of their life in secrecy, fearful of discrimination.

“Pageantry is historically conservative, and LGBTQ+ people are often found helping backstage, afraid to step out and be seen for who they are. This is unacceptable.”

Miss USA queer woman

(saltyrachel/ Instagram)

The Miss USA pageant was owned by Donald Trump from 1996 to 2015, and is now broadcast by Fox. The show has faced criticism in recent years for its lack of diversity.

Slawson, who also has bipolar disorder and wants to use her platform to dispel mental health stigma, said that “all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, or mental health diagnoses, deserve the same opportunities to be on the stage”. 

She emphasised that no one has any obligation to come out or to be a role model, but said: “As a bisexual woman from Utah, I recognise that some communities have greater need for LGBTQ+ representation, and I felt it was important for young LGBTQ+ people to see that their sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of.”

She added: “If any of my experiences with mental health or my sexuality can save people the years I spent looking for answers, then this will all be worth it.”

The fact that the first openly LGBT+ woman in the Miss USA pageant is representing Utah is even more significant, as the anti-LGBT+ Mormon church dominates politics in the state.

Slawson helped push to make traumatising conversion therapy illegal in Utah, sharing her story with state legislature, and the debunked practice was finally banned last week.