Uncloseting The Sister Within

Posted: 12/06/2012 by erichblayde in Uncategorized

“Oh! Big news hunni!”
“Ooh! Do tell!”
“I joined the Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence!”
“The what now?”
“They’re, well, queer nuns – after a fashion”
“But you’re a man!”
“Well we’re queer drag nuns”
“But you can’t be a nun!”
“Why?”
“You’re not a catholic anymore”
“You expected queer drag nuns to be catholic?”
“That’s just…odd. I love you and all but this just seems wrong somehow”
“Why?”
“Don’t misunderstand me, I am a proud queer, and I love queer people, but that just seems perverse and wrong”

Trying to explain the Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence to those who have never contemplated the existence of a glitter covered, white-faced, queer nun can (in some instances) be a lot harder than I originally thought. For the most part the task of telling friends and family of my choice to enter Vancouver’s Abbey Of The Long Cedar Canoe was a very simple conversation following a fairly specific general pattern:

“Guess what?”
“What?!”
“I joined the Sisters!”
“YAY!!!” *happy dancing and high fiving”
-end conversation-

However as evidenced at the start of this entry some folks seemingly couldn’t accept that there existed an organization of 21st century queer nuns, nevermind that anyone outside of the completely insane would want to join their ranks. The person with whom that particular conversation occurred has since managed to convey to me that they still wish to be friendly with me, but that the subject of the Sisters was something that made them incredibly uncomfortable and they would appreciate me not telling them of my exploits as a queer nun.

The fascinating issue with this discussion is that the person taking issue with my being a nun is not nor has ever been, religious. Meanwhile, the staunch catholic mother of two, go-to-mass-every-Sunday friend has supported me wholeheartedly (although she has had to do a little bit of adjusting), as has the friend who makes like Mt St Helens every time someone even mentions God or religion. On the whole my wonderful circles have been what I always knew they were, amazing, supportive and all around fantabulous.

This is not to say that the Sisters don’t make folks squick like mad some days. Like all unclosetings, I have had to choose my words very carefully and be mindful of the subject matter (after all, religious iconography is the cause of more strife than any other disease, goverment, idea, etc) But with my habit of respecting peoples individual sensitivities and phrasing myself in a way that is the most comfortable for each person, teaching people about the sisters has been an easy task for the most part. Many people are already familiar with the wild drag phenomenon that is the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and are, if not wildly enthused, at least semi educated and fully supportive.

The thing that still gets me every time however, is trying to convey to people that the Sisters are far more than just an image. They are an institution with a long and storied past.

So here, without further ado, is a little Sistory for you.

The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence have been in existence since 1979 as an organization seeking only to raise funds for worthy charities, rid the world of the guilt it feels, and bring a little joy to everyday life. The image of the Sisters, in their wild wimples, white faces and genderfuck drag, is synonymous with pride parades, AIDS fundraising, and hunky Jesus contests to a large portion of the gay population. What many don’t know is that the Sisters were some of the first to minister to the first patients affected by HIV/AIDS, stepping in when regular nurses refused to care for infected men in San Fransisco. Their religious iconography and mission to free the world from stigmatic guilt earned them a place on the papal list of heretics. They were also credited with assisting the San Fransisco police department in stopping a riot on the nightof the Prop 8 vote. Their arms are open to all who wish to join them, no matter gender, race, creed or religion, not just a select few they deem appropriate.

So here you are world. For some of you, this blog may be your first introduction to a member of the sisters, for some it is just an affirmation that the beauty on the outside of the wonderful wimpled people is the same on the inside. And for some, for some it might be a total measure of everything you disagree with…

But I ask you, in the end, is joy not the thing we all strive for?

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Comments
  1. Helenmary H. says:

    Um, I actually rated this a 5 but I’m having some computer issues tonight…

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