OK, where do I start? I suppose at the beginning would be the best place. I first became aware of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence after the shootings in Orlando; they held a memorial walk through the French Quarter in support and remembrance. I was somewhat taken aback, by their costumes, and to be honest a little confused about who or what they were.
Over time as I began to cover more events in the city I started to see them more and more, and my curiosity got the best of me. When I requested an interview with the sisters I wasn't sure what to expect. I had known from friends that they did a lot of fundraising in the LGBT community, and are very proactive. But to really understand them you have to take the time to get to know them, and that's what I did.
Easter of 1979 three men bored with societies restraints went into the streets of San Francisco; Ken Bunch (Sister Vicious PHB), Fred Brungard (Sister Missionary Position) and Baruch Golden. Dressed in full habits they would proceed to walk the streets of San Francisco and on to the nude beach. While we know the city is used to shocking sights, this would really get the attention of the public. The Sister's are located in 51 cities and in Europe, South America and Australia. As stated by Sister Gloree Bee "we are a global order of 21st Century queer nuns".
I would sit down with four members of The Big Easy Sisters; Sister Gloree Bee, Sister Diarhee En Frank, Sister Prim N Proper, and Guard Buddha Bear at GrandPre's and it was an amazing education about not only the sisterhood, but their personal outlook on being a sister.
So, how does one become a sister; well there are three steps that you have to completed, each with different requirements:
"it's like drag, they embellish and exaggerate women, well we do the same thing with being a nun". Sister Prim N Proper
Now these are the basic's rules, the Sisters explained to me that this process is a personal journey, and each sister must decide if they want to be a part of the order. While we view them from the outside; it's important to them that people understand they are not "making fun" or "disrespecting" any religion; for them it's about having fun, raising awareness, being a part of the community, and just expressing themselves. It's also important to the Sister's and the Order that the public know that they are all inclusive and do not discriminate regardless of sexual orientation.
I have come away with a newfound respect for The Big Easy Sisters. Each are individually unique in their approach to the Order, but their pride not only in themselves but the community is without question. One might be apprehensive to approach them, but as Sister Gloree Bee stated "we are about the community, having fun, being ourselves, but come up to us and get to know us". They are without a doubt a strong presence in the community, valuable for the work they do, and just fun to be around. Where ever they go, you will have a great time. And by all means get a picture with as many as you can.
For more information you can contact the Big Easy Sisters at: thebigeasysisters.org and follow them on Facebook at: facebook.com/thebigeasysisters
Images: Are the property of The Big Easy Sisters, Parish of the Muddy Waters, and cannot be used and/or reproduced without written permission.
Source: "Sistory." The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. San Francisco, CA, n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.