On pageant girlfriends.

Dear Coquette,

Three years ago, I met a great girl with whom I’ve been in a relationship ever since.

1. She’s a pageant girl. A serious, Miss-America-contestant pageant girl.

2: We’re both women.

3: Our state is quite conservative, and though she’s never lied about her sexual orientation, she’s been strongly advised to “keep it under wraps.” I’ve been the “best friend” supporting her, even though I would love to be the girlfriend. (I’ve been advised to “lipstick up” when I’m with her, so that no one will suspect.)

In her third year of competing to be Miss ___ (I’ll keep it blank for discretion, just fill in your favorite state in the Bible Belt) she missed the crown, yet again. She’s got one more year before she ages out, and she plans on competing again. Now, I’m no fan of pageants, but I love her, support her, and although Miss America will never be my dream, it is hers. I just don’t know if I can stay in the closet for one more year, all for an organization that I feel is backwards and demeaning and has treated the person I love so poorly. 

We’ve talked about this, but she can’t seem to separate my disdain for the pageant from my support of her goals. Coquette, do I stay with a woman who is putting our relationship on hold for a crown? Or do I refuse to closet myself, and stand out and proud with or without my partner? Give it to me straight, no pun intended. 

Are you kidding me? Buy a video camera and start shooting immediately. Better yet, find the closest thing you’ve got to an Errol Morris in your hometown and start professionally filming your stories. This is fascinating stuff. 

You’ve got all the makings of a socially relevant yet intensely personal documentary here, and the questions you’re asking are a perfect jumping-off point for its narrative. Ultimately, they are ones you can only answer for yourself, but as you do, you and your partner can explore the pressures and prejudices you both face as young lesbians in the American Bible Belt, and of course, the pageant world makes for a rich and ridiculous backdrop.

This should be an easy sell to your girlfriend. Crown or no crown, this is about her pageant legacy, and through a project like this, she would have a unique opportunity to do something poignant in her final year of competition.

The documentary needn’t be exploitative or sensational. Do it right, and it’ll be an examination of the clash between protofeminist and postfeminist values within the inherently heightened circumstances of a beauty pageant. More than that, though, you and your partner will get to dig deep and come to terms with how you’ve chosen to publicly express your sexuality, and how that’s affected your relationship.

I genuinely hope you do this, and I also hope you take your time with it. It’s a noble pursuit that not only justifies staying in the closet for one more year, but turns your moral dilemma into a creative endeavor.


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