I helped support the production of the first safer-sex pamphlet in San Francisco as part of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I grew up in a nonreligious and nonspiritual home, but while in college began exploring personal spirituality. This led eventually to becoming a gay male nun and to meeting SPI sisters. When I moved to San Francisco, I joined the order and was involved until not too long before I moved away.
The early history of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (before my time) included protesting nuclear power in the wake of Three Mile Island and fundraising for gay refugees from the Mariel boatlift. While I was a member we raised money to produce Play Fair! as well as continuing to do benefit fundraising in the community. We were involved in antiwar protests against US involvement in Central America and rarely missed an opportunity to subvert archetypes with a goal of releasing people from shame and guilt and “promulgating universal joy.” Some of us were involved in gatherings of the radical faeries.
Today the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence around the world include members of all genders, but at that time in San Francisco it was all men. And today most members wear “white face,” a practice I disliked back then when only a few did it and dislike even more today. Some sisters, when they put on the habit (and makeup), became larger than life and bloomed into wonderfully strange flowers. A few of us became more focused and contained. The reasons for becoming nuns were individual to each, but I felt there were three major elements reflected in varying degrees by each of us: drag, politics, and spirituality.
My interest in drag has always been minimal (and it’s all drag: we’re born naked), but critical engagement with politics and spirituality continue to be important to me.