It all starts out innocent enough. They hone their expertise doing whatever it takes to win a crown. They soak it all in, practice subtle pageant moves in private, bond with their coaches and then take all that skill and know-how with them as they strut across a brightly lit stage in swimsuits. So far, so good. I love it. But then they exit stage right and into the real world, where they invariably end up in a voting booth. While there, I suspect many of them push buttons with their well-manicured hands that deny the basic human rights of their strongest supporters (gay fans) as they elect homophobic government officials in one of the worst gay-bashing states in America: Virginia.
Saddened by politically conservative participants who desashed my joy for pageantry, I turned to the newly crowned Miss New York, Leigh-Taylor Smith, who grew up and competed in Virginia for many years and has traveled to South Africa to educate teens about HIV. She even helped raise money for positoids last spring by participating in the AIDS Walk New York.
“My parents always emphasized the importance in treating all of those around me equally,” said Leigh-Taylor, “and I certainly never want to be judged for who I fall in love with.” She continued, reminiscing about all the help she’s received over the years from gay men, including late-night phone calls laden with advice that went well beyond the four phases of competition.
“At the end of the day, why judge?” pondered Miss New York before wrapping up the sentiment like a pro. “That’s for swimsuit and opening number sequins, not gay men.”
Virginia misses you, Leigh-Taylor.