Djuan Keila Trent was crowned Miss Kentucky in 2010 and competed in the Miss America competition representing her home state. Last week she published a blog post in which she came out as queer for the first time, publicly.
Djuan writes that she has wanted to find the right words to make her statement, but struggled.
For months, I have been contemplating how I would write this post, how I would position it, when would be the right time to post it. Should I make it funny? Should I make it mysterious? Should I make it serious? Should I pick a special date to do it? Should I build some kind of anticipation around it? Hmmm…ain’t nobody got time for that. I have written and re-written and deleted and restarted this post more times than I care to share, and after all of that I have finally realized: “There ain’t nothin’ to it, but to do it.” So, here we go folks…
I am queer.
Djuan explains that now is the time she chose to make her announcement because Kentucky is going through a struggle of its own that directly affects LGBT citizens, and there aren’t many out public figures speaking out for equality. She writes:
Last week, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that Kentucky’s prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law by treating queer folks “differently in a way that demeans them.” You can imagine the conversation that this ruling has sparked amongst Kentuckians- those who support as well as those who oppose. I have listened to people talk about “the abomination of our nation” and “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” I am not surprised that some people would react this way…I mean, if people didn’t react that way, then there would be no need for a movement, no need to fight for OUR rights (ooh, “our”…that felt good). This is not to say that I approve of the commentary, it’s just to say that I am not surprised. But what has prompted my writing today has been my questioning people’s constant assumption that a) I am hetero and b) I concur with their views and opinion. I would find it rather odd if a man walked up to me and expected me to agree that I should be paid less than my male counterparts. I would be baffled if a white person walked up to me and expected me to agree to use a different water fountain than my white counterparts. I would be baffled with these approaches because it should be seemingly easy for one to look at me and see that I am woman, just as it is also pretty obvious that I am black. But sometimes, I forget to put the “QUEER” stamp on my forehead on my way out the door in the mornings. So, on the mornings that I forget my stamp, I have realized that there is really no way for people to know that I disagree with their views or, even moreso [sic], to know that they are talking about me, unless I actually open my mouth and say it.
While other beauty pageant stars have come out in the past — including Miss South Carolina contestant Analouisa Valencia and Miss California contenders Mollie Thomas and Jenelle Hutcherson — Djuan is the only one who has won her state title and participated in the national competition for Miss America. Not only was she in the Top 10 of the 2011 Miss America competition, but she was the contestants’ choice, meaning her peers voted her into the position.
Although she wasn’t out during her reign as Miss Kentucky, her choice to come out at all is a first in the pageant’s history.
The competition for Miss America has been a non-inclusive one from its creation in 1920s, initially stating that the winner should be “of good health and of the white race.” It wasn’t until the 1940s that women of color began to participate, and 1970 when the first black woman represented her state (Cheryl Brown of Iowa). Although it appears areas of race, disability and ethnic background have been traversed, an out LGBT Miss America contestant has yet to take the stage. More often than not, discussions on sexuality out of the pageant world take on a homophobic tinge, like Carrie Prejean‘s 2009 answer to judge Perez Hilton‘s question about same-sex marriage.
“I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose, same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what–in my country, and in my family, I think I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman.”
But the boos and blowback Carrie Prejean received after making that statement indicates that things could be changing for the Miss Americas of our future, and with Djuan feeling like she not only could but should come out and align herself with the community and our equal rights movement is hopeful.
Outside of being in “good health,” it’s become very clear to the American public that to reign as Miss America, a woman must be a portrait of beauty, grace and femininity; she must fill out a bikini but also portray a special talent. She should be able to walk in heels and elegant gowns while smiling at a crowd and answer questions on politics, religion and American culture on the spot. The idea that a Miss America who might look to find a wife in her future rather than a husband challenges the notion that we’ve come to expect from the contest, although what would it really change about the pageant as a whole? A lesbian, bi or queer Miss America would still walk the same in stilettos and a swimsuit, still beam as bright and be an educated beauty. And yes, America, she could also be feminine.
In a post on her blog yesterday, Djuan shares that she’s received all kinds of accolades and support for her coming out, and thanked her family, friends, The L Word, Ellen Page and the LGBTQ community.
In responding to the feedback I have received, I have often struggled with whether or not “thank you” is the appropriate wording for what I wish to convey. While I am very thankful for the love and support, I also stand very aware that I could have never made the decision to share this decision on my own. I stayed in the closet for a long time because it was safe. As long as the people around me “knew about me”, it was fine because the rest was really no ones business. But, the more I started to see other people come out, the more I felt the pull from within myself. And while living in the closet may have felt safer, let me tell you, it was not easy. Which leads back to my struggle with “thank you”. That struggle comes as a result of my realizing that there were so many other things and people that played a part in helping me get to this comfortable place- it feels selfish to just say “thank you”, as if I did this on my own…
Thank you, Djuan.