Miss Myanmar, Swe Zin Htet has come out as a gay woman following her competition at the 2019 Miss Universe.
21-year-old Swe Zin Htet came out publicly just days before taking part in the pageant at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, December 8, 2019.
Htet, who won her Miss Myanmar title in May 2019, came out as a lesbian in an interview with the beauty blog Missosology a week before the Miss Universe finals.
‘I came to a full realization about my sexual orientation over a long period of time. I knew I was “one of them” way back in 2015,’ she said.
Coming out publicly isn’t easy, she said, but she wants to use her platform to help LGBTQ people in Myanmar.
‘It is personally quite challenging but I feel that I have a greater voice and the best position to promote this cause. Some pageant fans know about it and they still support me but this is the first time I am able to talk about it in public,
‘I believe that not all countries allow same-sex marriage. I want the world to accept the LGBTQ+ community and their right to choose their own path and pursuit of happiness,’ she went on.
‘Love is the most powerful thing and people fall in love with human beings, not gender.’
Speaking about the importance of advocacy, she said: ‘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 People via a translator.
‘The difficult thing is that in Burma, LGBTQ people are not accepted… they are looked down on by other people and are being discriminated against.’
LGBTQ people in Myanmar do not have equal rights and I want to change that. I feel like if I am open about my sexuality others will open up, too,’ Htet told Glamour.
The Miss Universe organization has voiced support for Htet.
‘We are honored 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, told People. ‘Miss Universe will always champion women to be proud of who they are.’
Meanwhile, it is illegal to engage in gay sex in Myanmar, According to Al Jazeera, Section 377 punishes gay sex with up to 10 years in prison.