Mother and son Ces and Andre Drilon share a laugh: “We’re much closer now than before,” he says on how their relationship has changed. “Honesty between loved ones just strengthens the relationship.”
Photos by Jun Mendoza
Ces Drilon and son Andre on his coming out as bisexual, androgyny and love
CRAZY QUILT - Tanya T. Lara (The Philippine Star) - September 16, 2018 - 12:00am

‘I identify as a male or sometimes I’m gender fluid, which means it varies over time,’ says Andre Drilon.

When Andre Drilon came out as bisexual to his mother Ces Drilon last year, they were in a ramen house in the middle of dinner. Ces, who had never before run out of follow-up questions in all her years as a broadcast journalist and news anchor, was a little shocked and could only manage, ““Really? Okay…” and they proceeded to talk about other things.

In retrospect, she says, “I never knew that he had an identity crisis. He just told me out of the blue. ‘Mom, I’m bisexual.’” Then she adds with a laugh, “Di ko na alam ang sasabihin ko. I should have engaged him, I should have asked, ‘Do you know about condoms?’”

Andre, of course, did. 

But let’s be clear about the gender identity first: bisexuals are attracted to both men and women, not just people of the same sex as homosexuals are. As Andre puts it, “Bisexuals inhabit a stranger role in LGBTQ because they’re neither one side nor the other. Other people think it’s a step down from being gay.”

Today, for many people still, there’s just straight and gay, but in reality gender identity is as extremely fluid and personal as it is political.

He says, “I think gender identity is natural. I identify as a male or sometimes I’m gender fluid, which means it varies over time. I don’t always inhabit the gender of a boy, so it’s non-binary, it’s neither male nor female. The LGBTQ community can be sensitive about these terms, so it’s better to be not just tolerant but also careful and curious about the nuances of gender identity.”

Andre explains further, “When you talk about gender, it’s not the same as sexuality.”

“Fashion for me is for self-reflection as much as it is about showing myself to the public,” says Andre. Clothes by Jaggy Glarino; photo by Christian King

Now Ces has follow-up questions sitting in front of me with her son, “But are you attracted to boys or girls?”

“I’m attracted to both, that’s what a bisexual is.”

“But would you have a sexual relationship with another male?”

“Yes.”

The 25-year-old Andre does have a girlfriend currently. Picture them together: Andre wearing a skirt and the girlfriend, a model who at one point shaved her head, in a cuddle.

In the picture he shows me, they both look androgynous. 

Last year when he was featured by Preview in a video, Andre says he got a lot of backlash.  “The problem was that Preview mistakenly called me straight even though I mentioned in the interview that I was bisexual. I felt very bad about the backlash and didn’t read all the comments until months later because it was very painful. They were saying that I was privileged, that I just enjoyed dressing up in my ivory tower, and I didn’t know the difficulty of being gay, that I was a fake gay. It was terrible. So I wrote a response in an article in L’Officiel Philippines.”

Ces says, “They said that if he was just another guy wearing a skirt in a kanto walang papansin sa kanya.”

“They assumed that because I’m Ces Drilon’s son, I didn’t encounter any problems, that when you’re rich and privileged, your problems matter less. The difficulty was not being accepted by either the straight or gay community. I felt very much without my own people, without support. I felt separated from people who should’ve been my compatriots and fighting the same fight I did,” he says.

Ces and Andre Drilon: “Before, I would be asked, what would your reaction be if one of your boys turned out to be gay? I would say I would support him,” says Ces. “My fear was it would be difficult for any gay son, but now it’s different, people are more open.”

From then on, he was known as the “Skirt Guy.” Wearing skirts not as a gay male but as an androgynous person started as a school project on nonviolence in Ateneo. Andre had been studying Gandhi, whose nonviolent independence movement against British rule had morphed into a movement for tolerance and nonviolence to all.

“The first time I saw Andre wearing a skirt for the project, I didn’t think anything of it,” says Ces. “I told him I had better skirts than that! He was choosing from the pile that I was selling in a garage sale in BGC.”

Andre wore a skirt to school to see how people would react, how they would confront him or if they’d react at all.  Then the social experiment became broader as he took it outside the campus and into the streets and nightspots of Makati, where he was catcalled, laughed at and at one club, “someone grabbed my balls. It felt very demeaning. In retrospect I should have yelled out but when I turned around I didn’t know who it was. There’s a lot of things I’ve found out wearing skirts — one is how to sit properly because I’ve inadvertently revealed myself many times because I didn’t know how to tuck the skirt under my legs.

“One time, I had a floral skirt and the biggest challenge was how to make it masculine. I had what’s called a f*ckboy haircut, which is a basketball haircut with one shaved tiny line. I also wore very masculine tops along with the skirts. At the time it was my way of challenging what the skirt was; now I’m challenging what gender is in a nonviolent way. I value negative opinions as much as I value positive opinions.

“As long as you engage people, things change for the better. Even if someone whistles at me on the street or disrespects me, maybe when they see someone like me again they might think, oh, it’s not that strange.”

In the early 1990s, when Ces Drilon gave birth to her youngest son Andre, she was busy building a career in TV broadcasting. Andre has three older brothers — Ory, Miko and Gian.

Ces and her boys in August 2012 when second son Miko last visited the Philippines. From left are Gian, Andre, Miko and Ory.

She remembers how hard it was juggling work and family life, how she would drive the children to school with her hair still wet before going to the TV station, how she would try every night to see them before they went to bed.

“The saddest part, unforgivable really, was that with my son Gian, when he was about seven, I would read Charlotte’s Web to him and never got to finish it. I would read a few pages and then the book would slip from my hands and I would fall asleep. When Gian watched the movie when he was in college, he was crying because it was only then that he found out how the story ended. And he wrote me a letter about that.”

When Andre was around the same age, at seven, he was once lying on his mother’s lap in the car and said, “Mama, my life is so empty.”

Ces thought, “My God, what do I do?”

So they took up diving. “I wanted an activity that we could all do together, except Miko who had asthma and ironically he’s in the US Navy now.”

Andre says, “Sometimes as a kid, I would guilt trip her so she would bring me to her work trips like one time in Leyte.”

Ces took Andre with her to the airport so she could spend some more time with him before flying. “Andre was crying and right there and then I bought him a ticket. He just had the clothes he was wearing. Good thing I had a friend there, I deposited him with her.”

In 2004, when Andre was 10, Ces and Rock Drilon separated. She says, “I went to CEFAM in Ateneo for counseling. I told the counselor, ‘I’m not here to save my marriage, I want to separate cleanly and with the least damage to the kids.’ The counselor said, talk to the children together. When we told them we were going to separate, Andre said, ‘I knew it!’ It was obvious by then that we were unhappy.”

Skirt guy: “As long as you engage people, things change for the better. Even if someone whistles at me on the street or disrespects me, maybe when they see someone like me again, they would think, oh, it’s not that strange.”

Andre says, “At the time I was upset because I noticed that they had grown apart, but now I’m happy for them. My parents always told me I was a very observant child.”

Andre has always been close to his mother, he was the one that accompanied her shopping while his brothers complained about being dragged to the mall.  “We’re much closer than before,” he says on how their relationship has changed. “Honesty between loved ones just strengthens the relationship. Sometimes it may cause a little distance but that’s always temporary. Anything built over dishonesty is doomed over the long term.”

Ces agrees, “I’m so proud that despite my inadequacies my sons turned out to be good people — that for me is the best compliment. I remember talking to my eldest son’s teacher and I asked how he was doing in school, and she said he was a very good human being. And I love that his brothers are looking out for Andre while he’s still finding himself.”

She says her dream for Andre is for him to  “find what it is that he really wants to do for the rest of his life.”

He says, “I want to find financial stability in the chaos of all my interests, the biggest of which are fashion and photography — I love doing portraiture.” He also translates Japanese documents to English, and writes copy for regional businesses in Japan.”

Asked if she ever cried when he came out to her, she says, “Never. You just love and accept your children.”

*  *  *

Visit the author’s travel blog at www.findingmywy.net/ Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @iamtanyalara.

ANDRE DRILON CES DRILON FASHION
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