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First openly gay Miss America contestant to compete in pageant

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The first openly lesbian contestant will compete in the Miss America pageant when it begins Tuesday night.

Erin O'Flaherty (Twitter/Miss Missouri)

Erin O’Flaherty, who was crowned Miss Missouri, will run on the platform of suicide prevention. (Twitter/Miss Missouri)

Erin O’Flaherty, who was named Miss Missouri, will vie along with 51 other women for the coveted crown. She is running on the platform of suicide prevention, an issue that that is especially prominent in the lives of LGBT youth.

“I do think it is a big deal to come into Miss America being open, because the visibility for the LGBT community is what we need right now,” O’Flaherty said in a recent interview with Cosmopolitan. “It is pretty unheard of to be a gay woman in the Miss America system.”

Lesbians have been more visible in pageants lately. Djuan Trent competed in the Miss America pageant as Miss Kentucky in 2011, when she finished in the top 10. She came out as a lesbian in 2014.

Patricia Yurena, two-time winner of the Miss Spain contest and a runner up in the 2013 Miss Universe competition, announced in 2014 that she is a lesbian, posting a photo of her and her girlfriend cuddling, titling it “Romeo and Juliet.”

The 2017 Miss America will again take place at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, where its been held since its start in 1921.

The preliminary rounds of Miss American 2017 run from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8, and the winner will be crowned Sept. 11.