Last winter, former Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent nervously penned a nearly 1,500-word blog post that will be remembered for one simple sentence: “I am queer.”
Trent joined Renee Shaw on Connections this weekend to talk about her life and how a recent federal judge’s ruling inspired her to come out.
The Georgia native and Berea College graduate is believed to be the first known lesbian to compete nationally in the Miss America program, as she did in the 2011 pageant. During her year as Miss Kentucky, Trent served as spokesperson for the state agriculture department’s Kentucky Proud program, and she advocated on behalf of the homeless.
Although she’s known since fourth grade that she was gay, and had revealed her sexuality to a few friends and family members, Trent says coming out publicly was a big step. Days before she announced it on her blog, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ruled that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. (The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit is reviewing Heyburn’s decision.) That inspired Trent to make her public statement on February 20.
“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… I have realized that there is really no way for people to know that I disagree with their views or, even more so, to know that they are talking about me, unless I actually open my mouth and say it.”
In her Connections interview, Trent explains that visibility is crucial to the fight for LGBTQ rights and overall equality. She admires TV anchor Robin Roberts and actress Raven-Symone for recently revealing their sexuality. “Seeing someone who looks like you, who is doing something that you want to do, or who identifies in a way that you identify is very powerful, because being in the closet – in any closet, it doesn’t just have to be about your sexuality – it’s a tough place to be and you can feel very alone.”
Trent hopes her status can help her make a difference on the issue of same-sex marriage. In March she was named an honorary co-chair of the advocacy group Southerners for Freedom to Marry.