Trans woman among Miss Germany finalists

Deutsche Welle

Posted at Mar 01 2023 12:58 PM

About 15,000 women nationwide applied to become the next Miss Germany, according to the competition's organizers.

The 10 finalists were revealed on Tuesday, and one of them is making headlines: 19-year-old Saskia von Bargen, a trans woman who lives with her parents and three younger sisters in the village of Friedrichsfehn, Lower Saxony.

Von Bargen knew from the age of 5 that she was a girl. She preferred playing with girls and wearing dresses. "Already early on my parents realized that this was not just a phase," says the 19-year-old, who praises her parents for being supportive from the start. At school, however, things were not always easy; she wore boys' clothes to avoid bullying.

At age 11, von Bargen started taking puberty blockers, followed by feminizing hormone therapy two years later. This is also when she came out at school, which made life easier for her and she started feeling more accepted. When von Bargen was of age, she underwent gender surgery. Saskia is her chosen name.

Miss Germany revamps its image

Winning a beauty pageant used to be associated with having good looks and the ability to walk like a runway model.

But Miss Germany Studios, the company that organizes the national pageant, has radically changed the judging criteria in an attempt to revamp the contest's image.

Since 2019, candidates no longer prance on the catwalk in a bikini. Height and weight are also no longer important. In fact, appearances play absolutely no role, according to Jil Andert from Miss Germany Studios. The women rather have to demonstrate strong personality skills and "are meant to be a source of inspiration," Andert told German press agency dpa.

But sociologist Nina Degele from the Freiburg University is left unimpressed by the competition's makeover and considers the Miss Germany format outdated. In order to be relevant, she believes "the format would have to be abolished and replaced by something completely different."

The trans ambassador

Von Bargen said the Miss Germany pageant was the "perfect platform" for her to tell her story. A retail trainee in a fashion store, von Bargen wants to educate people about what it's like to be a trans woman. She talks openly about things that went wrong in her first surgery. In total, she underwent 12 surgical procedures. Despite the hardship, she doesn't regret it.

She applied to the competition so she could promote awareness of transgender issues. She sees herself as an ambassador for the cause. If she wins, she will have €25,000 ($26,500) at her disposal.

Von Bargen is not the first trans woman to come so far in a Miss Germany pageant. Last year, Gadou, a trans woman from Hannover, also from Lower Saxony, made it to the finals.

But von Bargen is hoping to be the first trans woman to win. The finals will take place on Saturday at the Europa-Park in Rust, in southwestern Germany.

Other finalists include an energy consultant who wants to promote women in a male-dominated field and a midwife who aspires to start her own birth center.

The Miss Germany competition, which was held for the first time in 1927 but forbidden by the Nazis, is not to be confused with Miss Universe Germany, where an official candidate for the Miss Universe pageant is selected.

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