The Sistory of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
In 1979, the Motherhouse in San Francisco announced the reasons for our existence. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is an Order of post-modern nuns and guards dedicated to the promulgation of universal joy and the expiation of stigmatic guilt. Our ministry is one of public manifestation and habitual perpetration. More joy! No more guilt!
Originally our statement contained the phrase, “Gay Male Nuns.” Our vision and philosophy have broadened, become more inclusive, and more consistent with the other aspects of our mission. We are a queer family. “Queer” means the freedom to be an individual within a close-knit family of individuals: diversity and unity. Membership in the DC Sisters (hereafter: “the Order”) is open to all people. We gladly welcome all who affirm our mission to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt without regard to race, creed, gender identity, ability, political affiliation, class, national origin, immigration status, or sexual orientation. We are as diverse as our community; therefore we must be all-inclusive and non-judgmental when it comes to our membership. Our rules are frequently bent and stretched. Sometimes they must be enforced strictly and other times loosely applied. However, our lengthy screening process for new members became necessary because people were joining with motives incompatible with the mission of the Order.
Members of the Order are, by their very nature, agents of political change. Some members wish to identify only with the social service or spiritual aspects of the Order, but there is no escape from the controversial and political qualities of the membership. Members of the Order plan demonstrations and affect various social issues, or organize parties to raise money for charities. The entire membership participates. While we are active in the political sphere, we do not, as an Order or individually while presenting oneself as a member of the Order, take positions on individual candidates running for office.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence printed the world’s first safer sex pamphlet and organized the first AIDS benefit. When we are asked, “Why are you mocking nuns?” we answer: “We are nuns!” We do all that traditional nuns have done for centuries. Our look might be unique, but our ministry is common. We serve our community. We have raised lots of money for AIDS and other social causes. We visit the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and sometimes disrobe the clothed! We are 21st Century queer nuns.
Freedom of Expression
We believe there should be few restrictions on our artistic creativity. Although rare, at certain events the Order requires all members to wear formal habits, which are can be accessorized with buttons, jewelry, hats, makeup, etc. Most of the time, we are encouraged to develop wild, abstract habits incorporating the white-face makeup and wimple into the appearance. While there are certain restrictions placed on members in process to becoming fully-professed (described below), Fully Professed members in good standing are afforded nearly limitless freedom of expression. We are artists, as well as social activists, and our faces and bodies are our canvases.
Although Fully Professed members are considered members for life, the road to that end is not an easy one. The Order requires its members, especially new ones, to demonstrate commitment to the ideals of the Order, the community at-large, and to the individuals that comprise the Order. As with all nuns, priests, clerics, shamans, brahmins and other holy individuals around the world, there is inherent in their title an immense amount of self-sacrifice. Members may not always agree with each other on a particular direction that the Order is pursuing, but they are expected to work for the good of the group and the community. Many times since the founding of this Order, our members have made personal sacrifices so that the community would reap the full benefits of our efforts. Members have performed mundane but necessary services to the Order, participated in functions that they would not normally care to attend, given up some of their personal freedoms so that the group would flourish, and even participated with the group though they were in severe physical pain. This is what it is to be a nun, what it is to support the community, and what it is to serve the human race.