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For Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Dodgers whiplash is just part of the ministry

Ask the LA Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence why they decided to join the Order of Drag Nuns, and most of them will tell you it was because they felt THE call.

Sister Tootie Toot (glittering green lips, black beard, emerald cocktail dress) felt like a ton of bricks when she walked into a leather bar where several sisters had gathered.

Sister Unity (tangerine veil, tangerine eye makeup, tangerine fur stole) felt like a mixture of fire, ice and electricity when she came across the initial order of the sisters blessing the crowd during a pride parade in San Francisco.

And Sister Candy Cide of the Immaculate Misconception (long-sleeved black dress, white bib, multiple strands of faux pearls) was struck by the sense of power emanating from a group of visiting drag nuns marching down the street during a LA Pride event.

“I still felt the guilt for letting my parents down because of who I was,” she said. “When I discovered that the sisters’ message was to eliminate stigmatic guilt and fix people’s joy, I thought, ‘I have to do this for myself, and I have to do this for others too.’ ”

Sister Candy Cide of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in Elysian Park.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

With their signature white makeup, oversized gimps (they call them Hoobie Doobies), and oversized lashes, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence turn heads wherever they go. But the band’s national profile soared to new heights recently when the Dodgers announced they would recognize the sisters with a community hero award, rescinded the award after pushback from conservative Catholic groups, then reinstated it — all during a whirlwind of a few days.

The sisters re-accepted the award as Dodgers management pledged to educate themselves better. Instead of bitterness, the sisters offered a blessing:

Bless the games!
May the players be blessed!
Fans be blessed!
Let the beer and hot dogs flow in tasty abundance!

While some may have struggled to forgive the Dodgers, that’s not the sisters’ way, said Sister June Cleavage, a cisgender female member of the group. (The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence welcome people of “all genders, races, romantic alignments, classes, species, phyla, drink preferences, and sexual propensities,” according to their website.)

“You don’t come to this organization without understanding, without compassion, and without having fought these kinds of battles on a smaller scale before,” she said. “I think it comes with the call.”

On a recent spring evening, 11 sisters gathered at Elysian Park in the shadow of Dodger Stadium in full dress to discuss the past, present and future of the nonprofit group following of the recent uproar.

Two photos, one a portrait of a drag nun and the other showing the backs of two drag nuns outdoors.

Sister Vida Vegana alone, left, and with Sister Perkie Dot of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Elysian Park.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

The origins of the sisters date back to 1979, when three homosexuals started running around San Francisco in nun’s garb. What started as a daring joke soon turned more serious when the AIDS crisis hit in the early 80s and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence organized the first fundraisers for AIDS service organizations and published the first pamphlet on safer sex.

Word of the group that married irreverence to service spread, and new chapters sprang up in cities around the world, including Los Angeles in 1995.

The sisters’ mission statement is “the atonement of stigmatic guilt and the enactment of universal joy”, but since their inception they have been branded evil and anti-Catholic and accused by their critics of making fun of nuns. Catholics.

That’s not how they see it.

“We’re not kidding,” Sister Harlot D Lite said (red ribbed mini dress, red tassel earrings, embellished pink makeup). “We value nuns, and we do it in our own way, for our community.”

A drag queen wearing a red dress, beard, face makeup and wimpole headdress strikes a pose outdoors.

Sister Harlot D Lite from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Elysian Park.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

All the sisters work on a voluntary basis and all the money they earn from donations, appearances or events they organize is donated to charities.

“Any dollar that goes to the sisters goes directly to the community,” Sister Candy Side said. “It doesn’t benefit us in any way.”

They also provide individual care for people in need.

We have a heavy responsibility. Let’s live up to that and give people the truth of our hearts along with the glitz and humor.

— Sister unit

Group portrait of the Sisterhood of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of drag nuns, outdoors.

Sister Vida Vegana, left, Sister Loose Clarita, Sister Unity, Sister Kumonawanna Leya, Sister Tootie Toot, Sister June Cleavage, Sister Suga N Spikes, Sister Candy Cide, Sister Bearonce Knows, Sister Harlot D Lite and Sister Perkie Dot of the Sisters of Perpetual indulgence in Elysian Park.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

“At first we were very surprised to find that people liked the joke, but they also took the nun aspect seriously,” Sister Unity said. “And we started thinking, ‘You know, we have a serious responsibility. Let’s live up to that and give people the truth of our hearts along with the glitz and humor. ‘”

Now the sisters call the one-on-one interactions “missionary work” and say they happen all the time. They remembered when Sister Mariposa Patriota, now Sister Emeritus, stood in a corner of West Hollywood amidst the thump of dance music, talking with a young man who had just come out to his parents’ home in County County. ‘Orange. He was crying because it hadn’t gone well. She assured him that he would be fine and that although it was painful now, there was a community of thousands of people ready to support him and be his friends and family.

Sister Unity recalls making a confession in a gay bar bathroom to a beefy leather daddy who was worried about her boyfriend. Sister June Cleavage recently spent 30 minutes at the sisters’ annual white-robed party holding the hand of a volunteer who was mourning her recently deceased mother.

A drag nun in white face paint, wimpole, and elaborate orange robe and cape.

Sister Unity of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in Elysian Park.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

Some sisters believe the anonymity of white makeup allows people to open up to them.

“It’s a mask, and sometimes people are more comfortable talking to a mask than to a real person’s face,” Sister Candy Cide said.

Sister Loose Clarita, whose iridescent striped makeup resembles the Mexican flag, said the sisters play with the jester or clown archetype.

“Unless you have a phobia, you know the clown won’t hurt you. It’s the jerk, the one that has no value,” she said. “And it allows us to access other people in the dark places that they might be afraid to go.”

Joining the Sisters isn’t as easy as picking a big name and putting on makeup. The process usually takes at least 18 months.

A drag nun in a peach outfit with colorful face paint stands outside looking up.

Sister Loose Clarita of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in Elysian Park.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

It begins with the aspirant stage, when a person declares their interest in becoming a sister, chooses a name, and begins to attend meetings.

If all goes well, three months later she enters the postulant stage, where she can begin to wear makeup but does not yet receive a veil.

Six months later, she will move into the novice stage, during which she dons the Hoobie Doobie and is expected to attend events and meetings, but must wear a white veil at events.

To become a full sister, each novice must carry out a project, such as producing an event or organizing a safe-sex campaign. A sister wrote a cookbook and donated the proceeds to an AIDS service organization. Another held a story hour for the sisters at an LGBTQ+ space in Torrance, where the sisters read to children in English and Spanish.

“What I tell people is that every step is kind of like, ‘Does your crazy match our crazy? “Sister Kumonawanna Leya said. “And also, ‘Are you here for work in addition to frivolity?’ Because it’s work. »

Side-by-side photos of a drag nun in red, her hands clasped in prayer, and a close-up of brooches on the nun's chest.

Sister Kumonawanna Leya of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Elysian Park in Los Angeles.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

The sisters are used to attracting attention, but many agree that the recent whiplash has taken an emotional toll.

When media suggested that the Dodgers initially rescinded the award because the baseball team’s fan base was largely Latino and Catholic, Sister Bearonce Knows, a longtime fan of the team, was upset. “I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s Me,'” she said. “So, what are you talking about?

Sister Tootie said that for many sisters, the initial snub brought back painful experiences from the past.

“My first reaction was here, here we go again – same old, same old,” she said. “As mostly queer and gay people, we are used to disappointment and things being taken from us. Many of us have experienced this with our families, friends and communities.

But many sisters said the experience had an upside, too, even before the Dodgers apologized.

“I’m a gay Mexican living in the United States of America, so I’m still scared,” Sister Bearonce said. “This particular situation doesn’t change that for me, but most of all I felt supported, not only by our own community, but also by people outside of our community.”

A drag nun in a green robe and boots sits on a rock outdoors.

Sister Tootie Toot of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Elysian Park.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

Sister Tootie agreed. “At first I was sad, but when I saw the outpouring of love that came out of it, it brought me back to life,” she said.

Sister Unity has been touched by all the support from LGBTQ+ organizations, which haven’t always been universally welcoming to those who flirt.

“I think it’s a cultural shift in the LGBTQ community,” she said.

But for Sister Candy Cide, the most significant support she received came from her birth family.

Years ago, she had trouble dating her parents.

Over the past week, however, her mother called to share that she was shocked to hear people saying terrible things about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. She knew it was a wonderful group and that Candy was a wonderful person.

It was further proof that for a transvestite nun, miracles can happen.

Three nuns drag in wimpoles outdoors.

Sister Bearonce Knows, left, Sister Harlot D Lite and Sister Candy Cide of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Elysian Park.

(Erik Carter / For The Time)

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