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How gay Filipino seafarer Andy Flores comes out onboard

How gay Filipino seafarer Andy Flores comes out onboard

gay Filipino seafarer

How is it like being openly gay working with a full male crew? Andy Flores, “The Seafairy”, shares how he found acceptance as as a gay Filipino seafarer onboard.

Andy Flores, 34, wondered, what am I doing here? Surrounded by truck-sized intermodal containers and a crew of men busy working with heavy machinery, he was staring at his future of hard manual labor befit “real” men. But instead of having cold feet, he faced his first day on the job with a strong resolve, “I can handle this.” And so in 2009, at 21, Andy officially became a seaman joining the all-male crew of the Danish cargo ship Maersk.

When Andy was young, his father would berate him for being malamya, a weakling. At school, he was bullied for his effeminate behavior. “I had to make an effort to be manly. I even had a girlfriend.” When a seaman friend of his sister’s suggested that he should work on ships, he dove in even if he really wanted to be an interior designer. “My parents thought it was going to make me a real man,” shares Andy in our online interview in his room onboard somewhere in Argentina.

Born in Tacloban, Andy is the only boy of four siblings. “I grew up on a farm. My parents are farmers. I was close to them although my father was very strict.” To become a seafarer, he took up Marine Transportation. “I eventually came to love it. I wanted to give my family a good future.”  

gay Filipino seafarer Andy Flores
Andy Flores is a 3rd officer (as of writing) at a Maersk container ship.

He did an on-the-job training onboard Maersk where he did manual tasks including mopping the floor and cleaning the toilets. “I tried to hide my identity. But sometimes, I couldn’t avoid screaming in a high-pitched voice that some crew mates would ask me, bakla ka ano?”

After graduating, he applied for absorption and was hired as third officer skipping the lowest position. In his job interview with the shipping company, he was asked if he was gay. “I told them I didn’t know.” To his relief, they assured him that their employees’ sexuality didn’t matter to the company. That they value inclusivity.

“I tried to hide my identity. But sometimes, I couldn’t avoid screaming in a high-pitched voice that some crew mates would ask me, bakla ka ano?”

Andy “The Seafairy” Flores, a Filipino gay seafarer

gay Filipino seafarer The SeaFairy
Andy Flores is an openly gay Filipino seafarer known online as the Seafairy.

Coming out as gay onboard

Once onboard, Andy decided to come clean about himself and he was overwhelmed by the  positive reaction of his 20 crew mates, even their captain. To his surprise, his parents were equally accepting. “I was relieved and happy.”

With his newfound freedom, the ship became his platform for self-expression while still doing his tasks efficiently that even occupational disasters didn’t deter him. He recalls an incident where an engine explosion happened and he had to put out the fire. “I thought it was the end of me. It was scary.”  As third officer, he maintained the firefighting equipment, prepared custom documents, and checked expired medicines and life saving appliances. Five years later, he was promoted to second officer making him responsible for the ship navigation, navigational equipment and publications.

“In this profession, there are three months without  income. I used to spend without thinking, but I realized I really needed to save.”

Andy “The Seafairy” Flores, a Filipino gay seafarer

Andy Flores, The Seafairy, gay Filipino seafarer

He works under a 5-month voyage contract and spends two to three months in the Philippines. ”It is all about performance. They can kick you out anytime if you don’t perform well.”  Because of this, Andy has learned to take care of his finances. “In this profession, there are three months without  income. I used to spend without thinking, but I realized I really needed to save.”

Falling in love with a fellow seafarer

Andy admits  that getting involved with someone on the ship is inevitable. He had a relationship with one of his shipmates and they were open about it. “We would request to be together on one ship. But it eventually didn’t last. I realized that I wanted a serious relationship.”

He reveals that even if he sometimes dons women’s clothes, he has never experienced any form of discrimination or harassment from his crew mates. But there was one instance when a non-crew member tried to harass him. “The ship was docked that time. He was part of the loading team going up the ship. He grabbed me and tried to kiss me.” Andy told the captain and the man was barred from entering the ship again.

“My viewers told me they were inspired by my life story.”

Andy “The Seafairy” Flores, a Filipino gay seafarer
Andy Flores, The Seafairy, Filipino gay seafarer with his crewmates.
Andy is accepted and protected by his fellow seafarers.

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The vlogging sailor

In 2021, he joined the world of online vlogging, detailing his life at sea and his followers steadily grew in numbers. “My viewers told me they were inspired by my life story.” Even his crew mates watch his videos and are very supportive. “They  even suggest kilig skits. Of course they are scripted. I sometimes ask their girlfriends if it is ok.” 

At first his parents were shocked watching him cross-dress and playfully flirt with the male crew. “After I came out, they didn’t ask me about my life as a gay person. So we had a heart to heart talk. Now, they ask me about my love life, even introducing me to some suitors and giving me advice.“

Every time he gets homesick, Andy spends his time in his cabin watching online videos. He also bonds with his crew mates watching films together, playing ping-pong, bingo games and singing with the karaoke.

We have a sisterhood of sea fairies. We want to show that your gender can’t stop you from having a job you want.”

Andy “The Seafairy” Flores, a Filipino gay seafarer

gay Filipino seafarer crossdresser
In addition to his funny skits, Andy, a gay Filipino seafarer vlogs about work and life at sea in his social media channels.

Sisterhood of Filipino sea fairies

Andy is not the only openly gay Filipino seafarer. There are a few of them on social media and they make an effort to virtually support each other. “We have a sisterhood of sea fairies. We want to show that your gender can’t stop you from having a job you want.”

Life at sea has changed Andy’s life by setting him free. For 14 years, his job has turned into a passion. He even sees himself becoming a captain someday. At the moment, he is setting his eyes on being promoted to first officer. 

Just like the Nereids or the sea nymphs in Greek mythology who protect sailors in the high seas, Andy has proven that he can be as gentle as a fairy but firm and tough as a real sailor. Passionate and sedulous, always giving his best to take care of the crew and navigate the ship to safety. 

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