- September 9, 2016
Erin O’Flaherty will make history this Sunday as the first openly LGBTQ Miss America contestant.
"It was really hard. But ultimately I knew I had to do it," O’Flaherty told USA Today about coming out at age 18. “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.”
O’Flaherty volunteers with the Trevor Project and is including suicide prevention, an issue that continues to adversely affect LGBTQ youth, as part of her social platform for the competition.
“LGBT youth are actually up to eight times as likely to commit suicide as compared to their straight peers if they come from an unaccepting environment,” she said in an interview with Good Morning America. “So I’m really excited to partner with them and I hope it will be a great year of social change.”
According to a recent CDC survey of high school students, 43 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth seriously considered suicide during the previous 12 months, compared to 15 percent of heterosexual youth. Almost 30 percent had tried to take their own lives, compared to just six percent of heterosexual youth. That’s about three times the risk for considering suicide and more than four times the risk for a suicide attempt.
O’Flaherty, now 23, was crowned Miss Missouri in June.
“It’s certainly making history and I’m not sure I set out to do that, but I am the first openly gay Miss Missouri and contestant to head to Miss America so I am excited about that. But, mainly, I’m excited to represent the LGBT community,” O’Flaherty told Good Morning America after her win in June.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re a young person and need to talk to someone, call The Trevor Project’s 24-hour crisis hotline for youth at 1-866-488-7386.
To learn more about supporting LGBTQ youth in their homes, schools and communities, visit www.hrc.org/youth.
Coming out – whether it is as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or allied – matters. When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other.
Whether it's for the first time ever or the first time today, the experience of coming out and living openly covers the full spectrum of human emotion -- from fear to euphoria. Coming out -- whether it is as LGBTQ or allied -- is a deeply personal journey for each individual. Learn more at HRC’s Coming Out Center.