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Mollie Thomas

Lesbians have moved one step closer to becoming an even stronger presence in mainstream American culture! Two openly gay women, Jenelle Hutcherson, 26, of Long Beach and Mollie Thomas, 19, of West Hollywood were the first openly gay contestants in the 60-year history of the recent Miss USA California state pageant. (Other lesbians forging the new American culture include Ellen DeGeneres, whose daily 3 p.m. show on NBC is Middle-America’s feel-good moment. And Rachel Maddow, with her MSNBC cable news program airing each week-day at 6 p.m.)

Set apart in age, style and background, both Hutcherson and Thomas were approached by pageant recruiters to participate in the beauty contest. Entrepreneur and huckster supreme Donald Trump, who runs the Miss California USA Pageant, had his office phone Hutcherson and invite her to compete on the statewide level.

Openly gay Keith Lewis, co-executive of the state pageant, said "(the pageant) will emphasize individuality and push the envelope even further. This year's event will be bigger and reflect the progressive attitudes of the contestants."

In addition, Hutcherson hopes to be the first ever contestant to have the crown placed on top of a Mohawk. She wore board shorts for the Miss Long Beach pageant and a tuxedo for evening wear. “That Miss California crown would sure look nice atop the ‘hawk,’” Hutcherson said.

Thomas told Huffington Post pre-pageant that she never really had an official “coming out,” saying her family has always been aware, supportive, and progressive. "My family is so open and accepting that I knew very young who I was and who I loved.” She continued, “Initially I wondered if the organizers and other contestants would accept or ostracize me, but I’ve been fine.”

Both women cite a strong desire to work with youth and give back to the LGBT community.

Jenelle Hutcherson

Jenelle Hutcherson

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How times have changed!.

Remember Carrie Prejean, California’s winning contestant in the 2009 Miss America? Openly gay pageant judge Perez Hilton popped Prejean this question, "Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit. Why or why not?"

Answered the sweetly pious Prejean, “Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you very much.”

Prejean's answer was greeted with boos followed by applause. Reactions went viral, stirring up a hornet's nest of controversy. This afforded Trump, the 21st century’s P.T. Barnum*, the opportunity to call a news conference where he delivered his famous shtick: "You're fired."

The reaction to the pageant participation of Mollie and Jenelle has been positive while covering a wide spectrum of attitudes regarding women being involved “in a stupid silly thing like a beauty contest.” Also, while some don't like that the two young women are “selling-out gay sensibilities,” others feel that pageants degrade and sexploit women, promote eating disorders and superficiality. However, no one can dispute the fact that American culture now includes the acceptance of open lesbians into beauty pageants. Congrats, Mollie and Jenelle.

As it turned out, Natalie Pack (Miss Hoag Hospital) was the winner of the state pageant in Indian Wells, on January 7 and will go on to compete in Miss USA, the national pageant. A live ABC broadcast will emanate from Theatre for the Performing Arts in Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on January 14, 2012. All 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico will compete for the prestigious title.

carl matthes

*There is no proof that Phineas Taylor Barnum ever said, "there's a sucker born every minute." He did, however, say that "every crowd has a silver lining," and acknowledged that "the public is wiser than many imagine."

Carl Matthes