She's known to fans as "Superman," and not for nothing. Swe Zin Htet of Myanmar just became the first openly gay Miss Universe contestant at a time when same-sex relations are illegal in her home country, People reports. "I have that platform that, if I say that I'm a lesbian, it will have a big impact on the LGBTQ community" back home, she says 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." But Htet, who has been dating the female singer Gae Gae for three years, remains positive: "I want the world to accept the LGBTQ+ community and their right to choose their own path and pursuit of happiness," she told the Missology blog last month.
Htet says she first experience same-sex attraction as a teenager and came out to her parents roughly five years ago—not an easy experience. "At first, they were mad. They didn't accept me," says the actress and singer. "But later, when they found out more about the LGBTQ community, they started to accept me." A law against "unnatural" sex acts remains on the books in Myanmar and could put people away for 10 years to life, the Myanmar Times reported in 2018. "Despite the fact the law is not used in practice, its existence casts a long shadow over LGBT people across Myanmar," the paper says. Htet, a devoted Buddhist, also advocates against child labor and child abuse. The Miss Universe pageant can be seen tonight at 7pm on Fox. (Read more LGBT stories.)