Who Are We ; A  Sistory

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI), also called Order of Perpetual Indulgence (OPI) is a charity, protest, and street performance organization that uses drag and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance and satirizes issues of gender and morality. At their inception in 1979, a small group of gay men in San Francisco began wearing the attire of nuns in visible situations using high camp to draw attention to social conflicts and problems in the Castro District.


The Sisters have grown throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, and South America, and are currently organized as an international network of orders, which are mostly non-profit charity organizations that raise money for AIDS, LGBT-related causes, and mainstream community service organizations, while promoting safer sex and educating others about the harmful effects of drug use and other risky behaviors. In San Francisco alone where they continue to be the most active, between 1979 and 2007 the Sisters are credited with raising over $1 million for various causes, or almost $40,000 on average per year.[1]


An Introduction: 

In the Beginning - 1979

A long, long time ago, in 1976, far away in the land of Oz (Iowa), a convent of Roman Catholic nuns lent some retired habits to The Sugar Plum Fairies performing their version of The Sound of Music. One year later, one of our Founders Sister Vicious Power Hungry Bitch (Ken Bunch) moved to San Francisco (1977) and brought those habits to the streets of the Castro district...


 Easter Weekend, during the time of the "Castro Clone," being extremely bored with the conformist atmosphere three men went out into the streets to challenge the world: Ken Bunch (Sister Vicious PHB), Fred Brungard (Sister Missionary Position) and Baruch Golden. They went in full, traditional habits through the streets of our city and down to the nude beach. One even carried a machine gun (for protection). They were met with shock and amazement, but captured everyone's interest. Their next appearance was at a softball game where their pompon routine all but stole the show. In the fall of 1979, Sister Hysterectoria (Edmund Garron) and Reverend Mother (Bill Graham) went to the first International Faerie gathering and encountered even more men with the calling. Our 4 Founders, Sister Vicious PHB, Reverend Mother, Missionary Position and Hysterectoria-Agnes convened their friends, chose our name (The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence) and composed our mission statement: to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt.

A Growing Convent - 1980s

In September 1981 we produced the first ever fundraiser for the Gay Olympics (now called The gay Games), a baseball game between the Sisters (playing in our habits) and the Gay Men's chorus. We got them drunk in the 8th inning and scored 40 runs beating them! 


On Christmas Eve, 1981, the Sisters were cited for "peddling without a license" on the corner of 18th and Castro. "Sisters don't peddle," insisted Sister Missionary Position, "we receive donations and give tokens of joy. It's just coincidental that it happens at the same time." 


The Sisters produced the world's first fundraiser benefit for an AIDS organization. It was a dog show on Castro Street with the recording artist Sylvester serving as a judge. 

The Sisters go to City Hall, well Almost - 1982

Pushing the political envelope, Sister Boom Boom ran under the 'Nun of the Above' ticket in the race for Supervisor of San Francisco. Her iconic campaign poster featured the dome of City Hall with Boom Boom on a witches broom flying above and her purple exhaust spelling out "Surrender Diane", meaning the Mayor Dianne Feinstein. Amidst all of the brouhaha about whether or not she should be allowed to run, she campaigned hard, spoke eloquently, and won over 23,000 votes. Frightfully close to winning. The City subsequently passed "The Boom Boom" law forcing future candidates to use their birth names.

Play Fair - 1982

San Francisco's health scene had hit crisis levels during this year. STD's were spreading at a pandemic rate and the "gay cancer" was contaminating everyone with fear and prejudice. Registered nurses Sister Florence Nightmare and Sister Roz Erection joined with a team of Sisters and medical professionals to create Play Fair!, the first safer sex pamphlet anywhere in the world to use plain sex-positive language, practical advice, and humor. It was so well received that it went through a second printing within just a few months. It was paid for, in part by sex party benefits and the sale of ashes from the burned down Barracks Bath House.

"When I see the Sisters I just see red!" - 1982

A meeting with Mayor Dianne Feinstein had her screaming "When I see the Sisters I just see red!" So we planned our Red Party on May Day (International Communist holiday) at the White Russian hall which brought controversy. The woman managing the center was the daughter of the head general to the czar in the 1917 bolshevik revolution. We learned that "white" and "red" are like oil and vinegar!


Today there are many Red Dress parties produced by SPI Orders in the U.S. Tho everyone who attended the Red Party in 1982 wore some form of red costume (not necessarily a dress), This first party in San Francisco was not the inspiration for the current Red Dress Party fundraisers. The Red Dress Party inspiration was from the Las Vegas SPI Order, and their Sister Loosey.

"Fighting for our Lives" - 1983

The first AIDS Candlelight vigil in 1983 was orchestrated by the Sisters, led by the banner "Fighting for our Lives," which was painted on her apartment floor by Sister Vicious PHB. One of the many speakers to the weeping and angry crowd was Sister Florence Nightmare. She was not only a health care professional, but advocate for PWAs and was herself HIV positive. Her article "Well and Good," in the Sentinel, combined observations of a man living with AIDS and practical insights of a medical professional. She and her "friend" (don't we mean lover?) appeared on the August 8 cover of Newsweek which earned her the moniker "AIDS poster boy". The article, about gays and AIDS, was the first time that the topics were handled in a fairly unbiased manner and that the entire nation was able to come face to face with AIDS.

"Ruining It for Everyone" - 1980s

The Sisters continued to raise tempers, eyebrows, and funds throughout the early eighties, stacking up multiple letters to the editor in protest of them. But their popularity increased. They could be found at many events, fairs and fundraisers spreading joy and cheer, postcards and t-shirts.


The Sisters around the world then and now have been accused of "ruining it for everyone" with irreverent wit and our... Bold appearance and antics. 

Exorcism of Jerry Falwell & Phyllis Schlafly - 1984

The beginning of this video has a few seconds of one of our basketball game fundraisers. The rest is our "Exorcism of Jerry Falwell & Phyllis Schlafly". Falwell was the founder of the Moral Majority, a Christian fundamentalist political organization dedicated to the opposition of LGBT rights. In 1984 the Democratic Convention was held in San Francisco and we produced this Exorcism during the Convention in front of 100 international media in Union Square. The MC (who did most of the speaking) was Sister Boom Boom who composed a brilliant script. Years later we discovered that the 1992 Republican Presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan, was in the audience and who later said "I really enjoyed it" as he was laughing.

San Francisco Sisters  flew in habit to Dallas and were met at the airport by TV cameras. We met with Dallas Police officers in the police headquarters. They said "we are assigned to protect you while you are here. Now tell us what your plans are." We performed the 2nd Exorcism of Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Shlafley in Deally Plaza where President Kennedy had been assassinated. The Exorcism was the same day that the Olympic athletes were scheduled to have a parade thru downtown, so the parade route was cordoned off and hundreds of thousands of spectators were there to watch. To go from the Exorcism site to the hotel where we were to protest the Republican policies(lack of) on AIDS, we had to travel thru the parade route ,retracing the exact route of the Kennedy Presidential motorcade from the assassination site. We did so on a flatbed truck with a 20 motorcycle police escort on empty streets, and were the first thing these hundreds of thousands of spectators saw before the parade even began!!!!!

FUCKING FIERCE!

Exorcism of Pope John Paul 2 and Sainting of Harvey Milk - 1987

The Sisters went all out to greet the Pope during his visit in 1987. We convened a press conference on the plaza in front of St. Mary's Cathedral with hundreds of members of the international press present. Sister Vicious PHB marched up to the front of the cathedral posting demands on their huge doors with Lee Press On Nails. Martin Luther would have been proud! Live TV cameras carried our full-on exorcism of the Pope in Union Square and cut away just as the Pope was landing in a helicopter at the Golden Gate Bridge. JACKPOT! That, and a few other actions and antics, landed us the prestigious honor of being placed on the Papal List of Heretics. (Way to go gals!) 

Sisters take the World

The first order outside the US was founded in 1981 in Australia. In the early 90s however the Sisters began to expand elsewhere. 


1990 - Sisters Vicious PHB, Psychedelia and Sister X traveled to Vancouver, Canada to minister to the athletes at the Gay Games. Sisters X, Vicious PHB, and Psychedelia went forth into Europe to spread the Word and form Missions. Our visit to Paris resulted in the formation of the first Order by Mother Rita. The Australians sent a missionary to London in August forming the first British Order. Our three Sisters travelled on to Berlin and were present in habit at the Brandenburg Gate the day Germany unified.


1991 - By June, the Sisters brought the large show/performance art piece, "Dimanche D'Indulge," to Paris to celebrate the investiture of the Paris Order where we delivered our Exequitor officially recognizing them. This was also where "The Condom Saviour Consecration and Vow" first premiered and has been performed many times since.


1992 -  The first German Order in Heidelberg/ Mannheim, Germany was found by Erzmutter Johanna.

STOP the Violence Campaign - 1991

 In San Francisco, Sister 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.

Sexy Partnerships - 1992

The Sisters start one of the sexiest alliances by working at the Folsom Street Fair and Up Your Alley Fair helping the organizers by acting as door divas for two of California's largest events and probably the worlds largest fetish events. Folsom Street Fair and Up Your Alley Fair attracts ten of thousands of participants and raises thousands for charity in the process.

"We all go, or we don't go!" - 1993

Sisters attended the Creating Change Conference in Los Angeles demanding the inclusion of Transgender issues and speakers in the March On Washington and Stonewall 25th Anniversary in New York. This is the first time anyone had demanded Transgender inclusion. The 1993 March On Washington officially discouraged drag so we flew to DC in drag and marched in drag with pride. In contrast to the organizers, the crowds couldn’t get enough!

Nuns of the Above - 1996

Now, in a time where there are more than twenty convents worldwide, the Sisters create and have brought to Washington, DC four quilt panels, 24' by 24', commemorating over thirty "Nuns of the Above" as part of the Names Project Quilt. We know that there are more Sisters whose names have escaped us as much as their lives escaped them, but their energy and love live on through us.

United Nuns Privy Council - 2006

As the Order grows, The United Nuns Privy Council UNPC is founded by Sister Hellen Wheels as a inter-order committee for establishing new Houses in the US and Canada. All exequatured Houses are invited to participate. since then the order has grown quickly over the US and Canada.

Where are We Now?

Abby of the Lone Star - 2010

On September 29th, 2010 the Abbey of The Lone Star was founded as an Aspiring House to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

DFW Sisters Exequatur - 2011

on October 17th, 2011 the Abbey of the Lone Star officially became the Dallas Fort Worth House of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. 

Join Us!

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