This Miss America Contestant Is Making History in the Best Way Possible

For the first time in Miss America's history, an openly gay contestant will compete for the crown. Erin O'Flaherty, who was crowned Miss Missouri in June, is the first openly lesbian woman to hold the state title and to make it to the national contest that takes place on Sept. 11, according to the Associated Press; she is not the first to compete for a state title, however.

In an interview with Good Morning America, the 23-year-old said, "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 continued by emphasizing how important her victory is for all members of the community: "We're underrepresented in public in positions of influence. So I'm excited to take that on and I hope that my presence will help with visibility for the community."

Other women have competed in the pageant and come out after the fact. In 2014, the former Miss Kentucky placed in the top 10 during the 2011 competition and later came out by posting a photo of herself and her girlfriend.

O'Flaherty is also running on a platform to prevent suicide, especially among gay teens. She has partnered with the leading crisis hotline for LGBT youth, The Trevor Project, to raise awareness of the issue.

Josh Randle, the Miss Universe chief operating officer, also expressed his enthusiasm for O'Flaherty's entry. Randle told the AP, "Miss America has provided a voice for women from all walks of life, and, this year, we welcome our first openly gay contestant." Despite the pageant's many criticisms, its willingness to reflect the evolution of the American public is a step in the right direction.