Arielle Keil grew up in a traditional Filipino household where her family stuck to gender norms.
Coming out as a trans woman wasn’t easy for her. She started transitioning in 2017, and initially, her relatives did not support her.
But eventually, they came round and now the 26-year-old has the backing of her family, including her very proud dad. She underwent gender reassignment surgery earlier this year.
Arielle, who was born in Davao City, Philippines, but grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, was recently crowned Miss Intercontinental New Zealand 2020, becoming the first trans and Filipino woman to achieve the position in a beauty pageant.
‘Coming out as a gay man was nowhere near as terrifying as coming out as a transgender woman,’ she told Metro.co.uk.
‘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.’
Though she now has a steady relationship with her family, at first it was difficult for them to grasp her new identity.
In fact, the family kicked her out when they found out. But soon, they accepted Arielle again.
She added: ‘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.
‘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!’
Recently, Arielle, who is also studying creative advertising in her fashion design bachelor’s degree, shared her story on Facebook and had lots of support.
In a trend where people share how ‘it started, versus how it’s going’, Arielle showed a picture of herself pre-transition.
In the second column, she showed herself now, as a pageant queen. The post received thousands of likes and shares.
Arielle knows the beauty pageant industry can be challenging but is looking forward to her career.
She said: ‘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!’
She also has words of advice to other Filipinos who might also have issues with their assigned gender.
She added: ‘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!’
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