History was made in the pageant world when Arielle Keil was crowned Miss Intercontinental New Zealand 2020, making her the first transgender person and Filipino to win the coveted title. Undergoing gender reassignment surgery earlier this year, Keil became the first post-op trans women to win and compete in the Miss New Zealand beauty pageant. But her victory didn’t come easy. Keil’s remarkable journey, which led to her win, resulted from unfortunate years of neglect and disownment from her family.
Keil’s definition of family
In 2017, when Keil came out and revealed to her family about her hormone treatment, they immediately disowned her. Despite this tragic bump in the road, Keil never shied away from expressing her true self. If anything, this fueled her fire. She continuously reached her goals and has literally made history, and that’s pretty commendable.
Unfortunately, not many in the queer community can bounce back as quickly as Keil did.
The disownment or rejection of a person after coming out isn’t uncommon. The Pew Research Center has done a number of surveys that show 39% of LGBTQ+ adults have been rejected by a family member or close friend due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. But Keil has a few words of wisdom for those who are experiencing similar things, “ If you no longer have ties to your blood family, go out into your local queer safe spaces, make friends, and build a family.”
Blood may be thicker than water – but family isn’t just about blood. It’s about loyalty and who accepts and loves you for your genuine self. Keil makes this clear when discussing that her chosen family is just as important as her blood one, “Like so many other queer people, my chosen family has pulled me through extremely dark places and put a roof over my head when I had nowhere to stay. Find your tribe, stick with them, love, and cherish them and no matter what happens you will never feel alone.”
Although her coming out initially resulted in disownment from her family, they have apparently turned a new leaf, especially her father. Being on her own and finding her grounding as an independent person earned her father’s respect. Overcoming adversity and setting her mind on her ultimate goals have turned her father into a proud man.
Paving the Way For the Trans Community
After her groundbreaking win, Keil spoke to Metro UK, “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?” Keil’s choice to come out derived from her own self-love; Even though she was aware of what her family’s reaction would be.
The salient decision was clear for her. Spending her developmental years as a gender she didn’t identify with, she refused to waste the rest of her life in the wrong body.
Warriors like Keil give those in the queer community a beacon of hope. She is just one of many who prove that success has no gender or sexual orientation limitation. The progression of the queer community continues to thrive, and thanks to Keil, they just took another huge leap forward; And we love to see it.