When Saskia von Bargen looks at old photos of herself, she sees a child who looks like a boy – and who always liked to play with girls and put on clothes. At the age of five, the child declared that it was a girl – even if it had been classified as a boy at birth.

“It quickly became clear to my parents that this was not a phase,” says the 19-year-old, who lives with her parents and three younger sisters in Friedrichsfehn in Ammerland, Lower Saxony.

When she was eleven, she took hormone blockers to prevent male puberty. Two years later she got female hormones and at 13 she came out at school. When she was of legal age, she had sex reassignment surgery. Saskia sees herself as an ambassador for the issue of transgender people. For this reason, she also applied to the current “Miss Germany” election. She was among the last ten candidates, and the final will be held at Europa-Park in Rust on March 4th.

Radical turn four years ago

“Miss Germany” elections have been held for almost 100 years. Until a few years ago, women also showed off their beauty on the catwalk in swimwear, among other things. In 2019, the Oldenburg company that organizes the annual elections took a radical turn. Since then, the personality and the “missions” of the participants have been in the foreground under the motto “Who moves the sash”. “You should be an inspiration,” says Jil Andert from Miss Germany Studios about the candidates. According to the company, 15,000 women applied for the current season.

He used to be asked about height and weight when applying, but that doesn’t happen anymore, and the catwalk is also a thing of the past. “The outside doesn’t matter anymore,” assures Andert. The company parted ways with previous advertising partners such as suppliers of wedding dresses or fashion jewellery. New cooperation partners who stand for sustainability are being sought. For the first time this year, a grant of 25,000 euros will be paid out to the winner, which she can use for her “mission”.

Sociologist: Something completely new is needed

The Freiburg sociologist Nina Degele still considers the “Miss Germany” format to be outdated. It is a “warming up of the traditional that has fallen out of time,” she emphasizes. She explains that the Miss elections are still arousing interest: “It’s changing a lot and faster and faster, so stability straws are the last resort for many.” The professor is certain: “The format should be abolished and replaced by something completely different.”

Saskia von Bargen, on the other hand, sees the format as a “perfect platform” for herself. “I want to tell my story,” says the 19-year-old, who is training to be a retail clerk in a fashion house. “I want to educate outsiders about what it means to be a trans woman.” She openly says that something went wrong with her first operation. She has therefore undergone a total of twelve surgical procedures. “That was really intense.” Nevertheless, she would choose to do it again and again: “I had wanted this my whole life.”

Her parents accepted from the start that she didn’t want to live as a boy and later supported her. She should wear boys’ clothes at school so as not to be bullied. At home and on vacation, however, she was allowed to wear whatever she wanted. She chose the name Saskia herself.

In secondary school, on the other hand, it was not always easy. “It bordered on bullying,” says the woman from Lower Saxony. But when she finally came out, things got better: “They accepted it.” She has never had to experience bullying or attacks on the street: no one can tell by looking at her that she was assigned a different gender at birth.

Last year, a trans woman made it to the final. Saskia is now hoping for the title. The finalists include a chimney sweep who works for women in the trades and a midwife who wants to found a birth center. “It’s challenging to compare individual, completely different missions in the course of the award,” says Jil Andert, who sits on the jury. It is therefore being considered whether several prizes will be awarded in different categories in the future. Replacing the well-known brand name “Miss Germany” – but that is not up for debate.