Swe Zin Htet of Myanmar: First openly lesbian Ms. Universe candidate
Among the many candidates that participated in the recent Miss Universe 2019, 21-year old Swe Zin Htet of Myanmar stands out for being the first openly lesbian Miss Universe contestant.
Htet had come out a few days earlier before the pageant. Her coming out is significant since same-sex sexual activity in Myanmar is illegal and the LGBTQ community do not have legal protections.
Swe Zin Htet’s coming out is a statement
In an exclusive interview, Htet told beauty blog Missology: “I came to a full realization about my sexual orientation over a long period of time. I knew I was [part of the LGBTQ] way back in 2015.”
“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 said.
Moreover, she told People magazine her timing for coming out was deliberate: “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.”
“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,” she said.
She further told People that exploring her sexuality was difficult: “But after a period of time, I felt I was a lesbian and kind of accepted it.”
When she told her parents five years ago, ““At first, they were mad. They didn’t accept me. But later, when they found out more about the LGBTQ community, they started to accept me.”
Some facts about Myanmar’s Swe Zin Htet
Born around late 1990s, Swe Zin Htet grew up in rural Magwe. At home, she said: “I read Buddha scripts, do meditation, chanting and I make sure that our Buddha shrine is well-maintained at home.”
Even at a young age, she was providing income for her family by joining beauty contests and through singing.
She became a Burmese model and was crowned Miss Universe Myanmar 2019, the seventh since it was established.
Previously, she had won Miss Supranational Myanmar 2016 and went on to the top ten and won Miss Personality title at Miss Supranational 2016.
She has many fans, who have given her the nickname, “Superman.” Htet is also a singer and an actress.
People magazine noted that Htet is in a relationship with Gae Gae, a famous Burmese singer, for three years now.
Support for this candidate’s LGBTQ announcement
Htet said she hopes to change anti-LGBTQ attitudes in Myanmar through her public coming out and future advocacy.
“Not a lot of people know about it,” she told People. “It’s like I just started a new chapter in life,”
After her announcement, she was given support by her fellow contestants, pageant organizers, and the LGBTQ community in Burma.
“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,” said Paula Shugart, president of The Miss Universe Organization.
“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,” Htet said.
She added: “Love is the basic thing. It’s more about loving each another person, no matter who that person is. It’s coming from the heart.”