Miss Kentucky 2010 Djuan Trent forcefully sums up how she feels about coming out as a gay woman.
"It's not that all of a sudden everyone is gay," she said. "We've been here. We're just speaking up now because there are things that we want and we're not going to get them unless we speak up."
Trent, 27, came out in a blog post on Feb. 20.
"I have written and re-written and deleted and restarted this post more times than I care to share," she wrote, "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."
Trent prefers to describe herself as "queer." Although the term has often been used to deride members of LGTBQ community, an effort is underway to reclaim it.
So far there have been few openly gay women in pageants, but Trent says she looks forward to a day when openly gay contestants win state pageants and ultimately win Miss America. Two contestants in California pageants came out, and an openly gay woman, Analouisa Valencia, competed in, but did not win, the Miss South Carolina title in 2013.
Trent, who grew up in Georgia, said that she knew in elementary school that she was attracted to girls. Still, as an adult she tried to date men until she realized that the process was neither fair to her nor to the men. Some of them suspected her sexual orientation. Her most recent boyfriend is still a good friend who has been encouraging of her coming out, said Trent, who began dating women in 2010.
Many in the pageant community have also supported her, including women with whom she competed.
"Everyone on the Miss Kentucky board has been supportive," Trent said.
Trent was inspired to reveal her homosexuality by Juno actress Ellen Page, who came out in February. Page, who said she was tired of lying by omission, spoke out at the Human Rights Commission Foundation's Time to Thrive national conference in Las Vegas, an event designed to "promote safety, inclusion and well-being for LBGTQ youth." Page said, "We deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise."
Trent called Page's speech "right on the money. I felt like I could really agree with her."
The recent ruling of U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ordering Kentucky to honor same-sex marriages from other states was motivation, too, Trent said. The ruling is being appealed by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.
Trent, a theater performance graduate of Berea College who works in Beshear's Office of Constituent Affairs and for the Apple Store, hopes to some day be married in Kentucky, perhaps on a horse farm or at a state historic site.
"I wanted to be able to inspire other young people to know that they are not alone," Trent said, about her blog post. "In the closet is a very lonely place. Especially in the pageant world, young women are not sure how it will be received."
Trent competed in pageants for a few years for scholarship money — she still has $20,000 of it — and started out inexpensively, with a discounted prom gown and a $40 swimsuit from Victoria's Secret. Some have wondered why Trent, who was a top 10 finalist in the 2011 Miss America pageant, did not come out while she was the reigning Miss Kentucky.
"Whether or not I was out ... I was just as queer then as I am now," she said. "Coming out now is just as effective."
Though she's coming out now, Trent told her mom she was "attracted to women" more than a year ago. Her mother and her younger brother have been accepting, she said.
For young people who have not yet publicly acknowledged their sexual orientation, Trent said, the best thing is to talk to an adult, be it teacher or mentor, or failing that, to keep a journal.
Trent is considering returning to school to study education or business. She said she likes teaching middle school students and hopes to be a mentor, as one of her teachers mentored her.
For now, she said, she is happy that people know her as a woman in full.
"I have always been the same person, always will be the same person," she said. "I really think that America as a whole is moving forward in a wonderful way."