Just as Filipino and Malaysian fans are in a lowkey word war with each other over who really won the Best Costume award at the Ms. Universe 2019 pageant, other people are looking towards Ms. Myanmar Swe Zin Htet and her openly gay status.

How did people find out Ms. Myanmar was gay?

According to a report from Dailypedia, Swe Zin Htet revealed her queer status in an interview with Missosology, which is a forum for pageant enthusiasts and professionals.

While Ms. Myanmar didn’t even get into the top 20, LGBTQ+ pageant followers and supporters all over the world applauded her for her courage, and were glad that she was brave enough to not only represent her country, but also gay people.

She said in the interview, “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. 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.” 

She also posted a photo on her Instagram account a day after the interview.

Who is Swe Zin Htet?

According to online reports, she is a 22-year-old Burmese model. She won the Ms. Myanmar title and represented the country in the Ms. Univers 2019 pageant. She did not get into the semifinal round of the competition.

Before Swe came out, another contestant in 2013 also declared that she was gay. Ms. Spain, Patricia Yurena Rodriguez, said that she was also a lesbian, but she only did so after the competition. Ms. Myanmar said she was a lesbian before the pageant started.

In 2018, Spain’s Angela Ponce was the first transgender woman who joined the pageant.

She said in an interview with People magazine, “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 (Myanmar). 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.”

According to a report from Rappler, Swe’s parents were very angry at first when she came out to them as gay, but eventually understood her when they learned more about the gay community.

A report from People also said that she has been in a relationship with Burmese singer Gae Gae for three years.

Ms. Universe pageant supports Ms. Myanmar

According to the same report, the Ms. Universe Organization president Paula Shugart said in an email interview with People that, “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. Miss Universe will always champion women to be proud of who they are.”

Pageant fans around the world have shown their support for Swe, saying that she is “superman” for her declaration, and for being in the pageant scene since she was sixteen years old.

Homosexuality is a crime in Myanmar

In her home country of Myanmar, though, she may face some problems due to her declaration.

Being gay in Myanmar is punishable by law, and there is widespread discrimination.