by Tim Camerato for Valley News, from VTDigger.org
WILDER — Working as a ballet teacher in 2007, Alanna Mayer had no experience as a pageant contestant.
Unlike many of the women who stood with her on stage at the Mrs. America competition, she didn’t grow up in the pageant world and had never competed. Mayer was actually there as part of a bet with a ballet student. If she signed up for Mrs. America, the student was supposed to take part in a similar contest. But when sign-ups came, Mayer found herself the only one to follow through.
To her surprise, Mayer won the Vermont state contest, and went on to win Mrs. Congeniality at the national competition that year.
“That was nine years ago, and I always thought maybe some year I would do it again,” she said.
Mayer, 42, is competing again this year and took home the Mrs. Vermont title for a second time in February, but her life and purpose are very different. She came out in 2008, divorced her husband of 13 years and married her longtime friend, Tracy, in 2010. Now, she’s hoping to bring attention to marriage equality by becoming the first woman in a same-sex marriage to represent a state at the Mrs. America pageant.
“It’s a hard decision to come out,” Mayer said. She worried about hurting her husband and children, and was unsure of how her social circle would react.
“All of those experiences have been good,” however, she said, and attributed the acceptance of her friends and colleagues to living in Vermont.
After coming out, Mayer also began to fight for same-sex marriage, and was in Washington, D.C. when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, making it legal nationwide.
“Although same-sex marriage is legalized federally, there are still a lot of battles we’re facing,” Mayer said.
She’s watched as states have begun to implement “religious freedom” laws that could allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples. And she has become concerned about how few states protect LGBT people in the workplace.
It’s with those battles in mind that she’s decided to compete again, hoping to increase awareness of the trials same-sex couples still face across the country.
“If one little girl can look at me and say, ‘I can love who I love and still be pretty,’ that’s powerful,” Mayer said.
Read the whole article on VTDigger.org