|Supervisor Bevan Dufty in a suit in the front row, and Treasurer Jose Cisneros in the back row jumped in with the Sisters for their group portrait at the opening.
Throughout January, Magnet has started the year off with a holy mackerel ‚ÄúUnder a Full Moon: 30 Years of Perpetual Indulgence,‚ÄĚ an exhibit of memorabilia regarding activism and community work from the archives of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The display recalls the history, work, and style of the Sisters.
Our website, TheSisters.org describes the creation of this 501c3 nonprofit benefit corporation. ‚ÄúA long, long time ago - let‚Äôs say 1976 - in a place very far away (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), a convent of Roman Catholic nuns lent some retired habits to a group of men performing their version of The Sound of Music.‚ÄĚ Actually that‚Äôs not exactly true. In reality, these pranksters conned the Mother Superior out of dead nuns‚Äô habits in order to dress up on Halloween, and never returned them. Three years later, those habits reappeared at SF‚Äôs Lands End (a notorious gay nude cruising beach). The onlookers were shocked and amazed as these obviously male nuns suddenly began appearing all over town. A year later, the new Order was named the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, with its few members wearing the first habits designed by Sister Hysterectoria, based on the combination of ‚ÄúFlemish 14th century ladies-in-waiting hoods and a French cloister‚Äôs wimple.‚ÄĚ A City grant provided the funds for those first habits and wimples, known affectionately as ‚Äúear brassieres,‚ÄĚ because they looked like overstuffed bras under their veils.
Among the items on Magnet‚Äôs gallery wall is a framed copy of ‚ÄúPlay Fair!‚ÄĚ, the first safer sex pamphlet to use plain, streetwise, sex-positive language, practical advice, and gay humor. The second printing was funded in part by sex party benefits and the sale of ashes from the burned down Barracks Bathhouse. A more recent edition was authored by yours truly and illustrated through the genius of Sister Reyna Terror.
Also in browsing, note a ‚ÄúDog Show in the Castro poster,‚ÄĚ c. 1982, from the annual canine contest the nuns used to put on. One year the emcee was award-winning actress Shirley MacLaine. Also while checking out posters, examine the satiric 1992 ‚ÄúSister Sam Wants You‚ÄĚ recruitment poster for the Queer Army and Holy War against Vatican/fundamentalist homophobia ‚Äď there you will spy a young, white-faced Sister Dana in the center of the back row. These items are but a few of the awesome archives awaiting your attention.
Magnet Executive Director Steven Gibson spoke to the gloriously gathered ‚Äúcongregation,‚ÄĚ gushing, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm so excited tonight to be under a full moon to celebrate 30 years of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. and some of their archives from the very beginning.‚ÄĚ He pointed out archivist Sister Mary Juanita High and other Sisters such as Sister Maryly Onward who helped organize the show in just a matter of weeks. Sr. Mary Juanita noted that an upcoming show will build upon this one ‚Äď with many more artifacts and nunly history for all to enjoy. One will be exhibited at the James Hormel Center
Supervisor Bevan Dufty said, ‚ÄúEvery step that I get to take as a public official, I feel like the spirit of the Sisters is with us.‚ÄĚ Pointing to the Sister Boom Boom poster from the 1982 SF Supervisors race, when she ran under the ‚ÄúNun of the Above‚ÄĚ ticket (pulling together over 23,000 votes), Dufty joked, ‚ÄúWe are going to take the poster of Sister Boom Boom on his broom threatening ‚ÄėSurrender, Dianne,‚Äô and loan it to Leon Panetta so he can scare Dianne Feinstein into voting for him.‚ÄĚ Dufty thanked Sister Mary Timothy for recently exposing his daughter to glitter for the first time. Dufty reiterated, ‚ÄúI love The Sisters so so much and feel like they are with me at all times.‚ÄĚ He said he wanted to get on Fox News and tell America the real story of The Sisters ‚Äúin terms of giving to the queer community and being spiritual and giving back to others in general.‚ÄĚ He concluded, ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think there is anything in this world that matches what The Sisters do.‚ÄĚ
Dufty stood next to City Treasurer Jose Cisneros and kidded, ‚ÄúAre you going to open up the Treasury to The Sisters, just like the Vatican does?‚ÄĚ
Cisneros cracked, ‚ÄúIf only we COULD open up the Vatican treasury,‚ÄĚ and added, ‚ÄúI just want to echo everything Bevan said and really thank The Sisters for 30 years of marvelous work; but I must say, after 12 years of Catholic school for myself, some of these images are really giving me flashbacks!‚ÄĚ
The process of becoming a full-fledged Sister is approximately a one year journey. One starts out as an aspirant (aspiring to possibly, hopefully join The Order one day); then is voted upon to advance to postulant as a member but without voting rights and without the privilege of looking like a nun (postulants are encouraged to do gender-bending drag however); then novice-hood, when a novice still has no rights but can wear whiteface and makeup and wear a white veil, indicating he or she (SPI, Inc. is fully inclusive of all stripes and genders of the LGBTQQIStr8 world) is taking the next stride towards full profession. Each step requires the majority of The Sisters voting on each candidate‚Äôs qualifications ‚Äď both their shortcomings and virtues. The final goal is to become fully professed with full voting rights, wearing any color or texture of veil, wandering sans chaperone in the streets (and bars, for ministry and such), and able to speak to the press and others regarding the Sisterhood and our civil rights issues.
There are currently 49 chapters (or Orders, as we like to call them) worldwide in over nine different countries. The latest Order is in Birmingham, Alabama (but unfortunately their headpieces from the back look like the KKK, so they are busy redesigning their wimples). There are now Orders in Thailand, North and South America, New Zealand, Australia, and much of Europe.
‚ÄúHere‚Äôs to 30 more years,‚ÄĚ bubbled Gibson, offering a toast and asking everyone to lift a glass to the health of The Sisters. Watch for the big, dazzling events leading up to our 30th anniversary on Easter weekend. Meanwhile, come to Magnet during January and get your very own SISTORY lesson! You will be NUN too disappointed!!!