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    San Francisco Bay Times Implicated in Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence/ Dodgers Pride Controversy

    Some purported adversaries seem as old as time, such as the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, and now, it seems, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and conservative Catholics. History has a way of repeating itself in these instances. Consider the recent controversy concerning the Sisters and the Dodgers.

    On May 17, 2023, the Dodgers announced that they were disinviting the Sisters to their Pride Night on June 16, when the LGBTQ+ advocacy group was to have received the Community Hero award. Via a tweet, the Dodgers explained that the decision was made “given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evening … We are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees.”

    This sat well with certain Republicans like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who wrote to Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred to mention, in part, that the Sisters organization “features men dressed like Catholic nuns who mock the faith with the motto ‘Go forth and sin some more!'”

    Front Page, San Francisco Bay Times, April 1, 1999

    California State Senator Scott Wiener, in turn, tweeted: “Really sad to see the Dodgers cave to pressure & kick drag queens out of a Pride celebration. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do amazing, life-saving work in the community. We expect more from our sports teams—even the Dodgers.”

    Just five days after rescinding the invitation to the Sisters, the Dodgers posted this apology via Instagram, with the text appearing over a rainbow flag:

                  “After much thoughtful feedback from our diverse communities, honest conversations with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and generous discussions with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their             friends and families.

                  We have asked the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to take their place on the field at our 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night on June 16th. We are pleased to share that they have agreed to receive the gratitude of our collective communities for the lifesaving work that they have done tirelessly for decades.

                  In the weeks ahead, we will continue to work with our LGBTQ+ partners to better educate ourselves, find ways to strengthen the ties that bind and use our platform to support all of our fans who make up the diversity of the Dodgers family.”

    Author and UC Berkeley lecturer Kaya
    Oakes, in a recent article published in Sojourners,
    discusses the reemergence of opposition to “drag nuns”
    in the context of gender-bending iconography,
    including the 17th century carving of St. Wilgefortis
    at the Museum of the Diocese Graz-Seckau in Graz,

    Catholic League Implicates the Bay Times

    During the back-and-forth, Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, published a piece entitled the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (A timeline of anti-Catholic actions committed by these bigots).” In it, he mentions San Francisco Bay Times columnist Sister Dana Van Iquity for the year 1992:

                  “On Parade, a publication of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day Parade and Celebration Committee,   published an article by ‘Sister Dana Van Iquity’ which said the motto of the Sisters is ‘Encroach not on my crotch!’ and ‘Leave my loins alone.’ He described the day’s events, including ‘Dykes on Bikes’ and ‘Dykes with Tikes on Trikes.'”

    Donohue then goes on to mention the San Francisco Bay Times:

                  “On the cover of the April 1, 1999 edition of the San Francisco Bay Times there was a full-page picture of a Sister   superimposed on a cross-like photo with his hands stretched out, imitating Jesus on the Cross.”

    To read Donohue’s complete timeline, go to:

    It suggests that the Catholic League has for decades kept a file and/or list on such matters, comparable to the tactics of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908–1957) during the era of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. The Bay Times cover, until now, was not digitized or prominently mentioned on the internet, and Sister Dana did not even remember the 1992 piece—now 31 years old. A lot of work therefore must have gone into the years-long creation of the timeline, and likely involving others beyond Donohue.

    Grand Mother Vish-Knew (1980)

    History Repeats Itself

    Delving into the history of the Bay Times cover image reveals that it was a poster from the Sisters advertising the 20th Anniversary of their popular Easter in the Park event that was initially held at Collingwood Park in Eureka Valley. The poster shows Grand Mother Vish-Knew, who founded the Sisters in 1979, wearing one of the original authentic nun’s habits that led to the organization’s creation.

    Vish-Knew explains: “I brought the Sisters first five Catholic nun’s habits to San Francisco from my drag troupe in Iowa (‘The Sugar Plum Fairies’). We acquired the habits from the local Catholic convent. We said we were doing a performance of The Sound of Music, but really used them for a drag show. One bored Easter weekend in 1979 my roommate and I donned the habits to have some fun, and it turned into a worldwide spiritual, community service, activist, performance and artist organization of Sisters.”

    At the Cable Car Awards 1982, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence members, including Sister Boom Boom (far left), Sister Chanel (Gilbert Baker in the foreground); and Sisters Missionary Position and Salvation Army (far right) were honored for their community service and philanthropy.

    For the 1999 event, the Sisters asked the city to close down Castro Street, between 17th and 18th Streets, on April 4 of that year from 8 am–8 pm. Openly gay Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno, who were then members of the SF Board of Supervisors, helped lead the public hearing and to pass the resolution authorizing the closure.

    The Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, and other conservative Catholic groups vehemently opposed the event, using the platform to criticize the Sisters in ways that echo Donohue’s recent words. The Catholic League said that its opposition “centers on their obscene assaults on the Eucharist, the very nucleus of Catholicism. That is why we are outraged.” Rightgrrl Co-Founder Carolyn Gargano that year summarized some of the views in opposition to the Sisters ( ). 

    So, were these opponents successful in shutting down the Sisters’ 1999 Easter event? As for the recent effort to prevent the group from being honored at the Dodgers Pride Night, they were not. The controversy, per the latest one, made both local and national headlines—and then the Sisters and event attendees enjoyed a peaceful, well-attended celebration in the Castro.

    Tickets for the Dodgers Pride Night featuring the Sisters, and a drone show at the end, are going very fast. Some are still available, though, as of this writing. For tickets offered through the MLB, go to:

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    Published on June 8, 2023