Metro Weekly

The Dodgers Have Undergone a “Baptism of Rainbow-Colored Fire”

The L.A. Dodgers have reversed course and will honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a drag nun troupe, at their Pride Night.

LA. Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – Photo: Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

The Los Angeles Dodgers have re-invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the baseball team’s Pride Night after LGBTQ groups called for a boycott of the event.

The Dodgers had initially invited the L.A. chapter of the Sisters, a volunteer-run drag troupe of “nuns,” to attend the Pride Night celebration scheduled for the team’s June 16 game against the San Francisco Giants.

In a pre-game ceremony, the Dodgers planned to honor the organization with a “Community Hero” award for the group’s various community service projects and fundraising efforts on behalf of worthy organizations.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence has a long history of charitably supporting the LGBTQ community — most notably during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, when official religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, refused to minister to gay men dying from the disease.

Many social conservatives, including right-wing Catholics, take umbrage at the group’s provocative attire, in which members don white makeup and nun’s habits and use tongue-in-cheek, suggestive drag names.

They have labeled the group “anti-Catholic” and claim the group’s events mimicking Catholic Mass rituals or playing off religious themes are offensive.

Taking the criticism from the Right to heart, the Dodgers revoked the award and disinvited the Sisters from Pride Night.

The LGBTQ community was stunned that the team had “caved” to conservative critics.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center, the ACLU of Southern California, and LA Pride soon pulled their participation from the Pride Night event. Openly gay U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia, the former mayor of Long Beach, a city just outside Los Angeles, suggested LGBTQ people boycott the event.

The Dodgers have since reversed course, posting a message to social media re-inviting the Sisters to Pride Night.

“After much thoughtful feedback from our diverse communities, honest conversations within 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,” the organization said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“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.”

Dodgers President Stan Kasten told Outsports that the team had overcorrected by disinviting the Sisters.

“We moved too quickly,” Kasten said. “Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to do a lot more talking, a lot more reading, and most importantly, a lot more listening. We met with the Sisters…, we expressed our apology, asked them to be part of our Pride night, and they have accepted.”

Sister Unity, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, told Metro Weekly that Sister Bearonce Knows — who was serving as an intermediary between the team and the Sisters — first learned of the decision to rescind the invitation on May 17.

According to Knows, that decision was made by two higher-level employees of the Dodgers organization who were seeking to do damage control but who failed to consult the rest of the organization, or seek input from the LGBTQ community, before acting.

“The impression we got through second-hand messages was that, subsequently, things were in turmoil within the organization, and they were contemplating reversing their decision,” Sister Unity says. 

The group’s abbess, Sister Dominia, and Sister Bearonce Knows, were invited to a meeting on May 21 with Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten, other executives from the Dodgers organization, representatives of local LGBTQ organizations, and several pro-LGBTQ politicians.

The Dodgers “admitted they had undone ten years of earning our community’s trust and partnership,” says Sister Unity, with Kasten allegedly telling the two Sisters in attendance, “We fucked up.”

Sister Unity noted that several of the Sisters’ allies insisted on not just an apology, but reparations of some sort — potentially financial — for the harm caused by the negative press and the labeling of the Sisters as “anti-Catholic.”

Those allies noted that the Sisters — which Sister Unity admits are a colorful, outspoken group who at times “jump back and forth between what is taboo or not taboo” — were a stand-in for the larger LGBTQ community, which some people are trying to silence or force to drop from public view.

Those allies also expressed concerns about how the Dodgers might repair the damage caused by the controversy and regain the community’s trust. 

In the end, the Dodgers organization promised to maintain an “ongoing relationship” with the Sisters that would take the form of seeking ongoing consultations and advice from both the group and other local LGBTQ organizations should future controversies arise. Those in attendance believed the Dodgers organization to be sincere in their apology.

The Sisters agreed to return to Pride Night and accept the Community Hero award, accepting the Dodgers’ apology.

“This moment is culturally historic,” says Sister Unity. “Drag artists and trans people are so used to being dismissed. We are regarded as being out on the fringe of normative living. Engaging with drag and trans people is often criticized, even by people within the LGBTQ community. Every Pride season, there will be editorials complaining about the presence of leathermen or drag queens at Pride parades, complaining that they make the community look bad.

“But this time, it’s different. Not only did our community have our back, but leading organizations went to bat for us with ferocity that I’d never seen.

“They pushed back against claims that we are an anti-Catholic organization, using arguments that even we’d never used to defend ourselves, out loud, to the Dodgers and the public. Nationally recognized institutions responded compassionately and in a welcoming way.”

Sister Unity understands that some in the LGBTQ community may continue to be standoffish toward the team.

“I don’t ask anyone to let go of their skepticism,” she says. “Harm has been done. If people don’t want to go to the game, I’m not going to force them.”

However, she noted, the Dodgers organization — and all the individuals who work within it, some of whom are LGBTQ themselves — have gone through a “baptism of rainbow-colored fire” and appear to have learned valuable lessons.

“I think the Dodgers’ experience is worth listening to and learning from by other companies still engaging in performative allyship. We can hold up the Dodgers as a model for other organizations looking to be sincere about forming a relationship with their LGBTQ clients and customers,” she says.

“The Dodgers, in a sense, came out of the closet to be our allies. Just being an ally, taking a night to put on rainbow colors brings one out of the closet, and forces one to face the reactions from others who may disagree or disapprove of their actions.

“I welcome the Dodgers out of the closet,” Sister Unity concluded. “And if they need any help extracting the wire hangers from their wig, I have nimble fingers.”

For more information on the L.A. Dodgers Pride Night celebration, click here.

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