Mexican contestant Valentina Fluchaire was crowned Miss International Queen in a beauty pageant for transgender women held in Pattaya, Thailand, on Saturday.
The native of Colima state received the crown from the previous year’s winner, Jazell Barbie Royale, from the United States.
“I have no words. … I have worked so hard to get here. I don’t want to get sentimental, I don’t want to cry,” said Fluchaire, who added that she will wear the crown with “much respect and responsibility” and that she will work to benefit transgender people and other social causes.
She hailed her coronation as a victory for all transgender women in Latin America.
“This is for you. I made this for you,” she said. She won 450,000 baht (US $14,300) for taking home the top prize. There were also awards for Miss Photogenic and Miss National Outfit, among others.
Fluchaire won out over contestants from 21 countries, including such women as Ariella Moura, 22, a finalist from Brazil.
“People are very open to many things in Brazil, but it’s a very big country … and people suffer a lot of sexually motivated discrimination. Many of my friends were killed,” said Moura, who was crowned Miss Trans Brazil in 2019.
“I hope things change,” she said.
Contestants said the competition is an opportunity to speak out about the conditions in which trans people live and to raise their voices against transphobia.
“Having a good attitude shows the people who have no love for us that being a transgender person isn’t a bad thing,” said Ruethaipreeya Nuanglee, 22, the runner-up from Thailand.
“We can’t force people to love us. But I have a better idea. I want to be a voice that effects change in the laws for transgender people,” she said.
Now in its 15th year, the Miss International Queen competition saw a smaller crowd than in previous years due to fears of the coronavirus.
Thailand has garnered a reputation for acceptance toward transgender people and other types of gender diversity, but activists say that LGBTI people still face discrimination in the workplace, schools and health centers, and often from their own families.