In 1979, as a counterculture reaction to the hyper-masculine gay motif of the time, a group of friends in San Francisco donned nun’s habits and formed The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Over the years, the organization spread, some might say like glittery moss, across the land. A D.C. chapter was formed in 2014.
“Our main purposes are to expiate stigmatic guilt and promulgate universal joy,” says Sister Sedusa Paula Tishen, the D.C. abbess. “If someone has made you feel bad about yourself for whatever reason, we want to be a presence to go, ‘You know what? That’s their problem, not yours. The things that you want to do and be are valid,’ and we try to lift that up for people.”
Originally, the organization focused on community service and outreach to those who are marginalized, starting with visiting patients in hospice during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. In recent years the group has shifted its focus to larger issues of LGBTQ inclusion and equality. It’s not unusual to see The DC Sisters, in their trademark bejeweled habits and vivid-white face paint, often adorned with rainbow-colored, glittery facial hair, demonstrating in front of the Supreme Court when LGBTQ cases are being argued, or at social justice rallies and vigils.
There’s a social aspect to the group, as well, which hosts a karaoke night every Mondays at the Green Lantern and a monthly bingo night at Red Bear Brewery, where they collect “tips” to raise money for local LGBTQ nonprofits.
Those interested in joining the sisters should be able to prove their commitment to the organization by regularly attending events and the group’s monthly meetings, which take place at the Shaw Library on the second Tuesday of every month. Only then, says Sister Sedusa, can they begin the process of becoming a sister and creating a unique identity.
“I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted as a name,” Sedusa recalls of her own initiation. “Nothing that really seemed to fit. Sister Helen Wheels had created a website of sister names, and I was looking through it, and I got to one that was ‘Sedusa Mormon.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s funny, but I’m not in Utah, I’m in D.C., so I would be seducing politicians.’ And that’s when it struck me: Sedusa Paula Tishen.”
The DC Sisters will hold a free queer-affirming guided meditation session in Logan Circle Park on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 4 to 6 p.m. For a complete list of upcoming events, visit www.dcsisters.org.