Transsexual wine queen wields tiara for rights

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.

Transsexual wine queen wields tiara for rights
Photo: Fred Searle

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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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.