Transgender queen crowned in Thailand as coronavirus limits crowd

By Jiraporn Kuhakan

By Jiraporn Kuhakan

PATTAYA, March 7 (Reuters) - After temperature checks for contestants and with a smaller crowd than last year because of coronavirus fears, Mexico's Valentina Fluchaire was crowned in Thailand as winner of what is billed as the world's biggest transgender pageant on Saturday.

Although Miss International Queen 2020 went ahead, unlike many events cancelled around the world since the coronavirus outbreak emerged in China, the crowd was markedly smaller than in previous years, with many empty seats.

Organisers had advised anyone who felt unwell not to attend. To allay worries, the entire venue in the seaside resort city of Pattaya was disinfected the day before the event by staff in protective suits.

The contestants all had their temperatures taken with hand scanners before being allowed to go on stage in national costumes, swimsuits and glamorous evening gowns.

Fluchaire hailed her victory as a win for all trans-women in Latin America.

"This is for you, I made this for you," she said.

The second and third place went to contestants from Brazil and Thailand.

Thailand was the first country outside China to record an infection with the new coronavirus, but with only 50 cases recorded so far, it is no longer even in the 20 worst affected countries.

With the infection rate slowing in China too, the Chinese contestant hailed efforts to stop the spread of the virus there.

"I'm so proud of my country. It's like a lesson for everyone, for the earth, we can get through it," said the contestant, who gave her name just as Lacey to conceal her identity because of prejudice.

The annual pageant the pageant was in its 15th year. Thailand has built a reputation as a place with a relaxed attitude towards gender and sexual diversity since homosexuality was decriminalised there in 1956.

But activists say LGBT+ people face discrimination and stigma in schools, the workplace and health facilities, and are often rejected by their families. (Editing by Matthew Tostevin)