She grew up in a traditional Filipino household which raised her to believe that she would rot in hell for wanting to be a woman.
A 26-year-old recently made history by becoming the first trans and Filipino woman to be crowned Miss Intercontinental New Zealand. Arielle Keil achieved the highly coveted title after overcoming several personal struggles, including being disowned by her own family when she came out to them. Born in Davao City, Philippines, Keil emigrated to New Zealand as a toddler where she grew up in a traditional Filipino household which raised her to believe that she would rot in hell for wanting to be a woman. Despite her family firmly holding onto stereotypical gender norms, Keil chose to live life unapologetically and embrace her true self.
"Coming out as a gay man was nowhere near as terrifying as coming out as a transgender woman," she told Metro. "Your whole life changes and so does the way people will see you forever. I knew that being openly transgender meant that a lot of the world is going to think I'm some sick freak of nature but I always think of this when making decisions – 'when I'm 70 and on my deathbed, is this something I'm going to regret doing or not doing?' The answer was crystal clear. I'd already spent the formative years of my life as the wrong gender, I didn't want to waste my twenties in the wrong body either."
"This way of thinking really helped me come out to my parents because I knew that whatever their reaction was, this was something I needed to do for myself," she added. When her parents found out Keil was undergoing hormone treatment, they gave her two options: either leave home or stop the treatment. That night Keil packed her belongings into a black rubbish bag and walked out, reports the Daily Mail. "My parents kicked me out of home and didn’t take it well and it hurt me at the time but I had to understand it was a difficult time for all of us," she said.
"My life turned upside down when I transitioned... but I would rather go through hell as a woman than have an easy life as a man. Whatever the universe wants to throw at me - do it," Keil added. Her family has since accepted her as she is and she now has a steady relationship with them. "The silver lining is that my dad now fully accepts me as his daughter and I can see on his face that he is proud of me, like genuinely proud of me!"
Speaking of beauty pageants, the fashionista said that while the concept of the competitions may seem a little outdated in 2020, there's a lot more to them. "People think it's world peace and fake smiles but the women who compete are beautiful on the inside. They're out doing stuff in their communities. They're educated. For me, they're like badass and I always wanted to be like that," said Keil. "The pageant was an amazing experience! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for the longest time so to actually live out my dream has been amazing!"
"I would say to any Filipinos going on a similar journey to stay true to themselves always. Don’t ever let people’s opinions dilute your soul as a person. You only have one life, live it on your terms," she added. Addressing the backlash New Zealand faced after introducing a number of new curriculum guidelines that enable school children to choose their own gender and pronouns, Keil pointed out that it's not something anyone should worry about. "They're not asking you to transition with them, it won't change your daily life. You won't lose anything by being kind, loving, and supportive," she said.