Miss Myanmar Swe Zin Htet bravely came out as a lesbian just days before stepping on the stage for the final of Miss Universe on Sunday in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I came to a full realization about my sexual orientation over a long period of time,” Htet, who strongly supports gay rights and plans to open a foundation to support LGBTQ+, said. “I want the world to accept the LGBTQ+ community and their right to choose their own path and pursuit of happiness. Love is the most powerful thing and people fall in love with human beings, not gender. We should always have the freedom of choice and promote equality.”
Myanmar, also known as Burma, reportedly has no anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ people from violence and persecution. Some can be sentenced for up to life in prison for being in a same-sex relationship.
“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,” Htet told People through 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.”
Htet, who earned the nickname “Superman” from her fans, recalls the time she discovered she was attracted to women at around 15 or 16 years old.
The singer-actress said it was “kind of difficult” to come to terms with her sexual orientation, “but after a period of time I felt I was a lesbian and kind of accepted it.”
Opening up to her parents five years ago also was not easy. She said, “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.”
Meanwhile, Miss Universe welcomed Htet’s coming out with open arms.
“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,” president of The Miss Universe Organization, Paula Shugart, told People. “Miss Universe will always champion women to be proud of who they are.”