Erin O’Flaherty, the first openly gay contestant in the history of the Miss America pageant, spoke to USA Today about her choice to come out at 18. “It was really hard. But ultimately I knew I had to do it,” the now 23-year-old beauty queen said. “My family was absolutely nothing but supportive, and I knew that when I decided to come out and when I was ready, it would be that way. So my coming out was actually much easier than millions of people,” she said.
O’Flaherty, knowing that she’s been very lucky to have such a support system, which many other LGBT youth lack, decided to make suicide prevention her platform for the Miss America pageant. She was personally confronted with the issue when a close friend of hers committed suicide at 13, which is why she is supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for at-risk youth. “LGBT youth are up to eight times more likely to attempt suicide if they come from an unaccepting environment, so the work the Trevor Project is doing is really important.” On Sunday night, we will know whether O’Flaherty becomes the first openly gay Miss America, when the winner is crowned in Atlantic City.
Read the full story at USA Today.