By Jiraporn Kuhakan
PATTAYA (Reuters) – After competitor temperature checks and a smaller crowd than last year because of coronavirus fears, Valentina Fluchaire of Mexico was crowned in Thailand as the winner of the world's largest transgender contest on Saturday.
Although Miss International Queen 2020 took place, unlike many canceled events around the world since the coronavirus outbreak in China, the crowd was noticeably smaller than in previous years, with many empty seats.
The organizers had advised anyone who felt bad not to attend. To allay concerns, the entire site in the coastal town of Pattaya was disinfected the day before the event by officials in protective suits.
All participants had their temperatures measured with hand scanners before being allowed to take the stage in national costumes, bathing suits and glamorous evening dresses.
Fluchaire hailed his victory as a victory for all trans women in Latin America.
"This is for you, I did it for you," she said.
Second and third place went to competitors from Brazil and Thailand.
Thailand was the first country outside of China to register an infection with the new coronavirus, but with only 50 cases registered to date, it is no longer even in the 20 most affected countries.
With the infection rate also decreasing in China, the Chinese competitor praised efforts to stop the virus from spreading there.
"I am so proud of my country. It is like a lesson for everyone, for the land, we can go through this," said the competitor, who named Lacey to hide her identity because of prejudices.
The annual contest was in its 15th year. Thailand has built a reputation for a place with a relaxed attitude towards gender and sexual diversity since homosexuality was decriminalized there in 1956.
But activists say that LGBT + people face discrimination and stigma in schools, the workplace and health facilities, and are often rejected by their families.
(Editing by Matthew Tostevin)