Sistory of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc.

A blow-by-blow account of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence® is a leading-edge Order of queer nuns. Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.

1976-07-01 23:49:03

Ken Bunch Moves to San Francisco

Ken Bunch, who will later become Sister Vicious, PHB, (Vish) leaves Iowa City, Iowa, for the gay Mecca of San Francisco. Among the many treasures she brings to the City, are three nuns habits "borrowed" from a convent in Cedar Rapids.

1978-11-13 00:00:00

Harvey Milk Assassinated

Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Mosconi are gunned down in City Hall by Supervisor Dan White, a self-avowed Christian.

1979-04-14 00:00:00

First Manifestation

Once upon a time in a galaxy right here on Earth, three men venture into the Castro in nun's habits creating the "first manifestation" and a legend was born.

1979-06-24 07:07:05

First Gay Pride Flag Flown

Gilbert Baker, who later became Sister Chanel 2001, creates the Rainbow Flag for the Gay Freedom Day Parade, which consisted of eight colors: Hot Pink (sexuality), Red (life), Orange (healing), Yellow (sunlight), Green (nature), Turqoise (magic/art), Blue (serenity/harmony) and violet (spirit).

1979-12-31 00:00:00

Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries

This was the first gathering of Radical Faeiries called for by Harry Hay, who not only started the Radical Faeries but also the Mattachine Society in 1950 and said by some to be the grandfather of the modern LGBT rights movement. Attended by Edmund Garron (Sister Hysterectoria), and many others, who would return to San Francisco and begin building the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

1980-03-02 00:00:00

Wimple and Habits Produced

The Sisters visited the San Francisco Costume Bank for the final fitting of their habits, having completed fitting of their new wimples on Feb. 29. Fourteen habits were being produced in this first run. Designed by Sister Hysterectoria, the headgear is based on a group of Flemish Nuns from the 16th century and looks like upside brassieres (to this day many Sisters refer to them as ear boobs).

1980-03-30 00:00:00

First Public Event: Three Mile Island Anniversary

The Sisters made their first public appearance at a march and rally in San Francisco against nuclear power on the first anniversary of the Three Mile Island disaster. Some organizers warned us not to participate. We were politically incorrect and drag queens, they said. We did in fact participate, jumping between the giant Mutant Sponges from the Farralon Islands and some Haight Street hippies pushing a coffin marked Capitalism. Carrying the banner created by Sister Secuba, the Sisters performed their "Rosary in Time of Nuclear Peril," a meditation on The Five Sorrowful Nuclear Realities: The U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki, Karen Silkwood killed in Oklahoma, the Chernobyl disaster in Russia, and Three Mile Island. This was alternated with cheerful black and white pompom routines. That first official outing established the range of the ministry of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, from silly satire to thoughtful spirituality to political button-pushing.

1980-06-29 10:09:55

First Gay Pride

Sisters on a Muni bus on their way to the group's first San Francisco Gay pride where they marched behind the Order's banner. They had just left the convent where Sisters Vish, Mish, Revernd Mother and Agnes lived on Ashbury.

1980-07-27 00:00:00

Constitution Ratified

Fifteen Sisters signed their name to the first Constitution and Rules of Order "...under a full moon" providing the Order with its statement of purpose, membership structure, and leadership roles.

1980-10-17 20:00:00

First Fundraising Event

The Sisters teamed up with Metropolitan Community Church in the Castro to hold a bingo to benefit gay refugees from Cuba who had been abandoned in the Castro by the churches that were supposed to be sponsoring them.

1981-12-24 00:00:00

Sisters Nearly Arrested

Attempted arrest of Sisters at 18th and Castro for the crime of "peddling" causes mini riot. Offering greeting cards in exchange for donations does NOT constitute peddling! Well, that's our story and we are sticking to it.

1982-02-14 20:25:36

Sisters As Cheerleders

Sisters cheerleading squad performed pom-pom routines to the University of Iowa school fight song at "Score!", a fundraiser for the Gay Olympics/Gay Games held at Kezar Pavilion on the edge of Golden Gate Park and attended by 5,000. Oh, and Sisters also played hoops, beating the Gay Men's Chorus in a game, proving that Sisters know how to handle a ball.

1982-05-01 00:00:00

The Red Party

The genesis to this fundraiser and an ode to communist iconography is when someone mentioned the Sisters to then-mayor Diane Feinstein she pounded her desk and exclaimed, "I don't know, whenever I see the Sisters I just SEE RED!" That May Day the first Red Party was held.

1982-06-12 00:00:00

Sister Boom Boom for Supervisor

Sister Boom Boom ran for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors with agitprop campaigning tactics bringing humor and raising issues she felt were being ignored in the race. She won 23,124 votes with her occupation listed as "Nun of the Above". Five supervisors were elected; she placed eighth.[4] After she started campaigning for mayor in 1983 against incumbent Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco passed a law requiring candidates to use only their legal names on the ballot. This was commonly called the "Sister Boom Boom law".

1982-07-01 00:00:00

Play Fair, 1st Edition

Under the guidance of Sister Florence Nightmare, RN, the SIsters produce the world's first plain language, sex-positive pamphlet to address the rise in sexually transmitted diseases.

1982-07-18 00:00:00

Board of Directors Created

Motion passed to elect a Board of Directors: Sr. Viola Tricolor, President; Sr. Salvation Armee, Vice President; Sr. Mary Media, Secretary; Sr. Adhanarsivara, Treasurer -sets first Board meeting for June 21,1982 at the Convent.

1983-07-01 20:06:15

First AIDS Candlelight Vigil

Sister Florence Nightmare, RN, helps the Sisters organize the first AIDS candle light vigil in the world and march under the banner "Fighting for our Lives" created by Sister Vish PHB. The vigil started at the Castro and ended at city hall.

1983-08-08 20:06:15

AIDS Gets A Face

Sister Florence Nightmare, RN (aka: Bobbi Campbell) becomes the "AIDS poster boy" when he appears on the cover of Newsweek magazine with his lover.

1984-07-13 22:42:41

Exorcism of Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly

"We are here to exorcise lies and prejudice," shouted Sister Boom Boom, who wrote a theatrical-ritual exorcism of Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly which was performed in Union Square the Friday before the 1984 Democratic National Convention. As part of the ritual, a Sister dressed as Schlafly was held down as another spoke to the crowd, and other Sisters pulled out rubber snakes from the mock-Schlafly's clothing. Also taking place was Jerry Falwell's Family Forum, hosted by the Moral Majority whose major planks focused on condemning homosexuality, pornography and abortion. A Sister dressed as Falwell was undressed during the performance to reveal fishnet stockings and a corset. About 2,000 exorcism fans showed up, along with 50 reporters from around the world, who were searching for the real San Francisco.

1984-08-20 00:00:00

Sisters Protest Republican Convention

Sisters travel to Dallas to protest and Republican convention and its nomination of Ronald Reagan as its presidential candidate.

1985-01-10 00:00:00

Sister Boom Boom Announces Nuptials to Sister Mystie

Sister Boom Boom announces nuptials to Sister Mystie. People Magazine picks up story.

1987-09-18 06:23:48

Pope's Visit to San Francisco Protested

Pope John Paul II visits San Francisco and the Sisters, as well many activists, were ready to protest the Church's stance on homosexuality, as well as other social issues. The Sisters proudly earned a spot on the Papal List of Heretics as a result of its dedicated opposition to the Pope and the Catholic Church's condemnation of homosexuality. A Herb Caen column in the San Francisco Chronicle a few days after the visit noted that the Monterey Archdiocese Papal Visit Office was the same as the telephone number for Sister Blanche de Roote. Her machine message: “This message is to inform you that the pope’s visit to America has been aborted. I believe he was struck by lightning.”

1989-10-31 08:41:54

Sisters Manage Halloween in the Castro

On Halloween night in 1989, two weeks after San Francisco was devastated by the 6.9 (Richter scale) Loma Prieta earthquake, the Sisters performed street theater and used donation buckets to collect thousands of dollars for the mayor's Earthquake Relief Fund from the Halloween crowds that poured into The Castro for the massive street party. For the next year and every after that until 1994, the Sisters formally added donation gates, a stage and structure to safely manage the event until the event was unsafe without official city support. In 1995, the Sisters hosted a costume-mandatory dance, HallowQueen, in a SoMa gay nightclub – which raised over $6,000 for charities – as a way of helping to move the event out of the mostly residential neighborhood.

1991-08-01 00:00:00

Stop The Violence Campaign Is Born

Sister Roma! Roma! introduced her STOP the Violence Campaign in reaction to the rise of violence in the streets, especially hate crimes. A window placard system was devised to mark safe homes to run to in the instance of an attack or the threat of an attack. The Order distributed window signs and whistles in the various neighborhoods and districts of the city as well as on college campuses.

1991-12-01 20:12:01

Manchester BBC Interview

For World AIDS Day the BBC in Manchester, UK, flew Sisters Vicious PHB and X-Plosion to their studios for a live, national interview that at the time was quite controversial.

1992-02-14 00:00:00

Queer Army Formed

Sisters Bufadora and Flatulina Grande lead the forming of the Queer Army and enlisted the energy of angry people for the Holy Wars against homophobia in the church and the government. Draft cards were distributed and there was no excuse not to enlist. One of the first actions of our pink-camouflaged army was to distribute condoms on USF campus on February 14. The campus had already denied permission for the distribution on the Catholic College campus. Police escorted Sisters off of the campus and held the student collaborators on charges. The next mobilization was against Rev. Coal and his gospel of hate at the Capitol Christian Center (CCC) in Sacramento, the largest fundamentalist church in the State. CCC was sending members in to The Castro to harass our community on our own turf. Sister Flatulina Grande, having escaped Sacramento just over a year earlier, took great offense and organized a visit to CCC on Easter Sunday with the Queer Army in tow in addition to Sacramento activists and Queer Nation. Together we numbered 100 plus demonstrators chanting outside of the CCC’s Easter Morning services, finally drawing security and parishioners from the inner sanctum. While most of the congregation hid behind Bibles and spewed hate, one choir member, a teenager, came and joined the demonstration, outing himself in the process. Sister Lost and Found, as he was later named, came to the Sisters for help after both his church and his family rejected him. Tragically the State of Nebraska forced him back to a foster home despite his wishes to stay with his current gay fathers. He took his own life rather than live in foster care.

1993-04-25 16:30:50

1993 March on Washington

The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights has been called the largest gathering for civil rights in our nation’s history with organizers estimating that well over one million people attended. This was a time when there was a glimmer at the end of the tunnel for LGBT civil rights. There were promising medications on the horizon to treat HIV/AIDS, Clinton had been elected President promising to be a major advocate for LGBT rights and it appeared that soon the ban on LGBT citizens serving in the military would be over (of course, this wouldn’t be true for some time with the introduction of, “Don’t ask, don’t tell”). Some of those marching were Sisters who met up at the Washington Monument and got in behind the ACT-UP contingent. Two of our Sisters, X and Vish participated in some of the planning meetings for the march that were held around the country. In the early planning stages, transgenders were not going to be a part of the march. Sisters Vish and X fought hard for the inclusion of the transgendered community in this watershed event for LGBT civil rights.

1996-10-11 02:55:54

Sister AIDS Quilt Panels Displayed in DC

Sisters Sistah, Risqué and Kitty Catalyst create and send to Washington, DC, four, 12’ by 12’, quilt section panels, commemorating over 30 "Nuns of the Above" as part of the Names Project Quilt display . It was the last time that all of the quilt, at the time covering the entire National Mall, could be displayed as it has grown into the world’s largest piece of folk art. When the four panels are combined they create a giant sun with the Order's tenets, “Expiate Stigmatic Guilt,” “Promulgate Universal Joy,” “Habitual Perpetuation,” and “Public Manifestation,” are displayed. Each ray shows the names of the Nuns of the Above. The panels were designed so that no matter where they were displayed they would always point to the Castro, "the center of the gay universe.” At the Washington, DC, display, the large sun was placed in the first row on the side facing the US Capitol. When then Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper visited the quilt, the organizers cordoned off several 24’ by 24’ sections for viewing. The entryway for the couple led directly to the Nuns of the Above quilt. Tipper was enthralled until she read the names and realized the sections commemorated queer activist drag nuns.

1997-01-07 23:28:14

Sister Phyllis Stein Elected President

Sister Phyliss Stein, the Fragrant, elected President of the Order by the general membership.

1999-01-05 11:13:09

Sister Camille Elected President

Sister Camille Leon elected president of the Order by the general membership.

1999-03-29 20:15:08

Catholics Demand City Deny Sisters Easter Permit

Despite the fact that the Sisters have held its anniversay party for years on its founding day, Easter, Catholics demand that the city deny it a permit to close several blocks in the Castro for its celebration.

1999-12-05 20:29:38

20th Anniversay: Two Decades of Decadence

This spring, a new citywide debate over religious and secular traditions was sparked by the announcement that the Castro would be cordoned off on Easter Sunday so the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence could celebrate their 20th anniversary with ... a picnic and stage show. Catholic San Francisco and the gay Catholic group Dignity are counseling tolerance, but as the daily editorial pages will attest, some of the city's devout Catholics (including actual nuns) are offended by the flamboyant drag-queen sisters and their naughty party plans, which include Easter Bonnet and Basket contests and a Hunky Jesus competition. Tasteless? Sure. But overlooking the obvious fact that the church has offended plenty of people in its day, it's important to note that the Sisters are an international charitable institution that takes care of the needy and the infirm, just like other nuns... It begins at noon on Castro between 17th and 18th streets, S.F. -- SF Weekly 1999, photo by Nancy McNally

2001-10-09 17:14:03

Sister Saki Elected President

Sister Saki Tumi elected President of the Order by the general membership.

2003-01-14 20:37:10

Sister Gina Elected President

Sister Gina Tonic, the Sparkling, elected President of the Order by the general membership.

2003-06-23 15:07:14

We Gotta Give'em Pope!

Celebrating the 2003 Pride theme, the Sisters paraded the slogan, "We gotta give'em Pope," by displaying our own Pope Dementia in a cage where he could just barely reach out to fondle our young acolyte. The float also included a masked figure looking a lot like a Texas political cowboy who was straddling a cock-rocket, showing the public that we had, indeed, finally found those nasty, "Weapons of Ass Destruction." Some of the Sisters thought the giant cock rocket was kind of crude, but felt better about displaying it when pictures of the float appeared on many conservative websites and newspapers throughout the country.

2003-07-08 10:33:53

Sister Edith Elected President

Sister Edith Myflesh elected President of the Order by the general membership.

2004-02-12 07:49:34

Dozens of Same-Sex Couples Marry

Dozens of same-sex couples are married when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom instructs city officials to issue marriage licenses. The excitement is short-lived, however, and on March 11, the California Supreme Court orders the city to stop marrying gay couples after nearly 4,000 have received licenses.

2007-10-07 09:16:34

Sisters Attend Mass at Most Holy Redeemer

Sisters maeJoy B Withu and Delta Goodhand attend Mass at the Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro and receive Communion from the visiting Archbishop, George H. Niederauer. Even though the congregation was welcoming to the Sisters, the visit caused quite the storm amongst conservative Catholics around the country.

2009-04-10 00:00:00

30 Years Under a Full Moon

The 30th anniversary of the Sisters was a four-day affair with an opening of an exhibit of the Sisters at the James C. Hormel Center at the San Francisco Library. On the next night there was a special celebration at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The next saw the Unholy Saturday bus tour around the city with Sisters from around the world. Sunday, was Easter in the Park with the Nun World Order with the traditional Sister Easter Bonnet and Hunky Jesus contests.

2009-06-06 00:00:00

First Project Nunway

The Sisters presented Project Nunway as part of a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts benefit called Big Idea Night. Inspired by the ecclesiastical fashion show in Fellini's Roma (1972), the show, "Ritual and Redemption" featured inspired creations by local designers modeled by the Sisters. This annual event has spawned similar events produced by Sister Houses all over the country

2009-09-08 09:16:34

Sister Maudlin Elected President

Sister Maudlin Mascara is elected President of the Order by the general membership.

2010-06-08 11:04:26

Sister Titania Elected President

Sister Titania Humperpickle elected President of the Order by the general membership.

2010-12-04 05:27:43

Project Nunway III: Armegeddon

Project Nunway moves from YMCA to Beatbox and continues the over-the-top, Fellini-esque costume party that defines this event.

2011-12-13 23:43:04

Sister Risque Elected President

Sister Risque of the Sissytine Chapel elected president of the Order by the general membership.

Sistory of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc.

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