The Sisters respond to “a new spin on the same old hatred”

For nearly 45 years, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. have been pillars of support in the queer community. Speaking up has always been important.

Last month, the LA-based House of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. found themselves in the middle of a heated community controversy as the LA Dodgers first invited—and then uninvited—this beloved activist organization to participate and be honored in their Pride night. 

“No organization wants to be a hashtag, and no organization wants to be ‘canceled,’” said Guard HOOOO?!, the Master of Archives and fully professed member of the San Francisco Order of The Sisters. “So when a conservative group popped up and complained that The Sisters were mocking religion and that we didn’t deserve to be honored during Pride night, the Dodgers rescinded their invitation and also their offer to honor us with an award that evening. The sad thing was how quickly the Dodgers caved, and how little it took for them to uninvite us.” 

The Sisters took the news in stride, and were quickly heartened by the outpouring of support that came from other LGBTQ+ organizations, including the ACLU, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and even LA Pride—which made the decision to drop out of the Dodgers’ Pride event. 

Unfortunately, said Guard HOOOO?!, many Sisters weren’t surprised that a long-standing LGBTQ activist group would be the target of right-wing attacks (coming from outside California, even) in this day and age. 

“History repeats itself,” said Guard HOOOO?!. “We’re reminded of this constantly in the current climate. When people ask about things like the slew of anti-trans legislation that is being passed and supported these days, we’re reminded that if you’ve been paying attention for long enough, everything old is new again. We’ve seen it with the criminalization of HIV, we’ve seen it with the controversy around LGBTQ+ people adopting children, and we see it now with the backlash against drag shows. People with hate in their heart will always find a way to put a new spin on the same old hatred.” 

But speaking up is important, and central to the mission of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. Although ultimately The Sisters weren’t critically invested in being recognized at a singular sports event, the disinvitation symbolized an ominous cultural shift.

The Sisters said at the time that they were “offended and outraged” by the rescinded invitation, bending to  “pressure” and “misleading information.” 

After meeting with the Sisters and other leading LGBTQ organizations, the Dodgers reversed course, issued an apology, re-invited The Sisters back to their Pride night, and honored the sisters with a Community Hero Award. 

“When it comes down to it, it’s about forgiveness, generosity of spirit, and having a wider reach and bigger tent for people to gather under. So when we were invited back, we agreed,” said Guard HOOOO?!. 

For nearly 45 years, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. have been pillars of support in the queer community. Their founding pre-dates the earliest years of the AIDS crisis, although much of their early work coincided with early AIDS responses. They are revered by the community for their difficult work in the height of the AIDS crisis ministering to people with AIDS in hospice. 

“People were passing away without family or friends in those days,” said Guard HOOOO?!. “Many people who were religious weren’t allowed to receive last rites from the church. And so The Sisters showed up for them. This is work that continues to this day, with people who are in hospice for other reasons, in addition to HIV and AIDS.” 

In the early years of HIV and AIDS, The Sisters were also known for their community education and advocacy work, and for producing educational materials like their “Play Fair!” safer sex guidance, which—unlike many AIDS-related publications at the time—did not shame, promote abstinence-only, or spread fear. 

To this day, The Sisters address issues that come up for LGBTQ communities, such as Covid-19 and mpox. 

“We partner with other organizations to help spread the word about issues our community needs to know about,” said Guard HOOOO?!. “That’s how we keep our legacy alive.” 

About the author

San Francisco AIDS Foundation

San Francisco AIDS Foundation promotes health, wellness and social justice for communities most impacted by HIV through sexual health and substance use services, advocacy, and community partnerships. Each year more than 21,000 people rely on SFAF programs and services, and millions more access SFAF health information online.