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Transsexual wine queen wields tiara for rights

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Transsexual wine queen wields tiara for rights
Photo: Fred Searle
14:15 CEST+02:00
Claudia Schmidt initially seems like a typical 'wine queen' (Weinkönigin). She's got the flowing white dress, long silk gloves and very sparkly tiara - and lit up the otherwise downbeat Greens election party at Berlin's Columbiahalle last Sunday.

But her rather deep voice offered a clue into the Weinkönigin's past - she has not always looked so lady-like. The 47-year-old started life as a boy and only fully ‘came out' as a transsexual five years ago.

Germany's tradition of electing wine queens to mark the grape-picking season dates back to 1932 when Ruth Bachrodt was selected as a wine representative for Pfalz, a wine region near the French border.

Pretty girls in dirndls invariably win these contests, still held across the country. But the competition in Berlin's inner-city Kreuzberg district is a much more inclusive affair.

It has been organized by the local Green Party since 2009 with the stated aim of promoting diversity and, in particular, LGBT issues.

Previous winners include His Majesty Coco I, a transsexual artist from Haiti and 43-year-old lesbian Jana Sabban.

The Local asked Claudia about her role as the Green Party's 2013 Weinkönigin.

How has being a Green Party wine queen helped you promote issues affecting transsexuals?

I was a delegate at the last federal Green Party conference and I am going to attend the next one in October. I mainly speak about problems affecting transsexuals, for example, difficulties with changing your first name and your marital status – so that nobody can deny it when you say: ‘now I am a woman [or now I am a man].'

If you were to flip things round and ask everybody to prove that they are either a man or a woman, then people would stop doubting transsexuals.

Do you see Kreuzberg's wine queen contest as a protest against conventional beauty contests?

It is also a protest. The main focus is on promoting LGBT issues and discrimination against LGBT individuals but if it also acts as protest and exposes the sexism of beauty contests we are happy.

How long have you been aware of your transsexuality?

I came out five years ago. But I've known almost my whole life. I started looking like a woman 12 years ago. At first, I started dressing in women's clothes. But I didn't do it for sexual liberation, I just felt more comfortable. I came out at quite a normal age for people of my generation. Early to mid-40s is normal for transsexuals of my generation.

Did you find it difficult to come out?

The decision to come out was actually quite an easy one. The journey to that point was the difficult part. It took a long time for me to be able to say: ‘I am a woman, not a man'.

I am now 47 - almost 48. I didn't always feel comfortable in my own body. But now I've got all that behind me - the operation and so on. It's a different physical feeling. Everything fits. It feels right.

How did your friends and family react?

All of my friends and family stood by me. That goes for my 95-year old grandmother, my parents, my sister and my three nephews. It was not a problem with my parents. And I've got to know a lot of new people since I came out – most of them through the Green Party.

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