FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
*Should* I be a Sister?
Ah! Now there's the million dollar question. Many people, year after year, find joy and deeper meaning in their lives by giving back to the world through different forms of volunteerism. However, the choice to specifically become a Sister is a special one. It is the choice to align yourself with the legacy of radical visibility, advocacy, and "big tent" style inclusion the Sisters have trail-blazed, worldwide, for over thirty years. The choice to take life-long vows of community service is a huge one, but if this the path for you, it's one of the most rewarding ones you'll ever experience - a true "joyous over commitment."
I want the Sisters to come to my Charity Event! Will you?
Are you an HIV/AIDS Organization?
We joyously support many different causes, and thus, partner with many local, non-profit 501(c)(3) charities whose missions are in line with ours. Many of these include HIV/AIDS service organizations, LGBT youth outreach projects, homeless/hunger relief efforts, and more.
Are all Sisters HIV+?
No. Some are, and some are not. We do not presume, do not judge, and strive for a world that does the same. However, many Sisters in our ongoing history have lived or are living with the virus, or have had the virus effect their own lives or those of our loved ones. This makes our fight for prevention, education, research - and a cure - a very personal one.
How long does it take to do your makeup?
One of the most common answers to this is, "How long do I have?" On average, it takes a Sister about an hour to get into Habit, from shower to cab. Some Sisters can get ready in as little as 20 minutes, some need several hours.
Why do you mock nuns?
We are not mocking nuns, we are nuns. We are very dedicated to our calling and our vows reflect our commitment to our community. If you look at the work traditional nuns do, and then look at the work we do, you will find many similarities. They minister to their community. We minister to our community. They raise funds for the needy. We raise funds for the needy. They are educators. We are educators. See any significant differences? The list goes on and on...
When Mother Theresa took her convent to India, she and her Sisters started wearing saris so that they would fit in better in their new community. In a similar manner, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence dress in a manner that fits in with our community.
Aren’t you all gay white men?
The original Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were exclusively gay male nuns. Over time, we have become more inclusive. Our members are men, women and transpeople; gay, straight and bisexual; Latino, Black, Asian and white. We believe that if you have a calling and are willing to do the work, you can be a Sister.
What do you believe in?
Although the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. is not a religious group, spiritual practices are welcomed and discussed. Many of our ceremonies (and even our name) can be traced back to the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, much of Roman Catholicism was "adapted" from much earlier "pagan" practices. Our ritual is also heavily tainted with goddess worship, transcendental meditation, radical fairy-ism and self-empowerment. Each Sister has her own belief system and spirituality.
If we were to pick a belief that all Sisters share, it would be found in the vows that we all take. Namely, we vow to promulgate universal joy, expiate stigmatic guilt and serve the community.
Do you dress like this all the time?
There are many of us who would love to devote our time to nothing but our Sistering. However, we do not have the deep pockets of the Church bankrolling our efforts. Many of us have full-time jobs that pay the bills and support our Sistering. Besides, can you imagine how horrible your skin would be if you left a pound of make up on it for ten or twelve hours every day?
Where do you get all your jewelry / make up / clothes?
Without giving away too many of our secrets, we shop in the same stores that most everyone else does. Many of us are on a budget, so we look for the best value for the lowest price. The base make up we wear is nothing more than simple clown white, available from most theatrical make up stores. None of the money that we raise goes to us getting our uniform (if you want to call it that), makeup or any of our accessories, that all comes out of our own pocket.
The tri-pointed pirate hat we wear is called a wimple. The original Sisters wore modified bras. The fabric that is attached to the wimple is called a veil. Novice Sisters are only allowed to wear white veils; chances are, if the nun you're chatting with is wearing only a white veil, she's in training. Each Order has their own unique wimple: by looking at the wimple, you can often tell where a Sister is from.
Sisters do not wear "costumes". As with more traditional nuns, our attire is called a habit. And what an expensive habit it can be: with the exception of the wimple, each Sister pays for her own make up, jewelry, dresses, shoes and etc. Add that to cab fare, cocktail money and other expenses and being a Sister can involve a lot of pecuniary sacrifice.
Forms of Address
When you see a Sister on the street, it is always polite to say, "Hello Sister." We generally prefer not to be called "guys," "dudes" or other vulgar names. "Ladies," while not correct, is acceptable. If you are unsure of a Sister's name, check for her name tag. If there is none to be found, you can always get away with just calling her "Sister." Or you could ask: Sisters are often all too happy to introduce themselves.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. as a group can be referred to by many names. We are an "organization" or a "corporation," an "Order" or a "House" (as in "the Magic City Order"), or even a "Convent." The order in San Francisco is referred to as the "Mother House" because the Sisters originated in San Francisco.
Touching a Sister
In general, Sisters are outgoing and gregarious. However, as with anyone else, it's always a good idea to ask Sister before you start feeling her up (Rule Number One: Ask First!). When hugging a Sister or putting your arm around her, please remember that we are often wearing several yards of fabric (the veil) pinned to our wimples. The wimple, in turn, is fastened to our heads. Pulling on the veil causes Sister's head to also pull back not always the most pleasant sensation. Putting your arm(s) under Sister's veil will insure that a good time is had by all.
Very few Sisters dislike having their pictures taken. In fact, if you ask a Sister if you can take her picture and she says no, you should question whether or not she's a real Sister. There are some times when Sisters would prefer that you not take their picture, those rare moments when we happen to be eating, for example. Also, we're often working when we're out and about, so please try to understand if Sister says that she's in the middle of something and don’t have time to pose.
If you're planning on making a profit from the picture that you just took of a Sister, it's always good manners to ask first. If you offer to donate some of that profit to the Sisters or to the charity of your
Choice, it is very likely that the Sister in question won't object. As we are a non-profit organization, it is our sincere desire that images of us not be used in for-profit purposes.
Many people think that the name of our Order comes from the fact that we're always indulging, or satisfying desires. While that is a part of it, our name also comes from a practice of the Catholic Church, specifically, the granting of indulgences.
To overly simplify Catholic Doctrine, when one commits a sin, there can be three consequences: the guilt from the commission of the sin, the eternal punishment for the sin and the temporal punishment due for committing the sin. Through the Sacrament of Penance or what is more
Commonly known as Confession, one can obtain absolution; this removes the guilt and the eternal punishment. However, the penitent is still responsible for the temporal punishment “spending time in Purgatory” associated with the confessed sins.
One of the ways of removing the temporal punishment due from committing a sin is obtaining an indulgence. Over simplifying again, the Catholic Church believes that the superabundant merits of Christ and the saints have been deposited into the "treasury" of the Church and this allows the Church to grant those merits to those who have sincerely atoned for their sins. Human nature being what it is, the granting of indulgences has been abused by the clergy as a way of making money; some priests took to exchanging worldly gold for those heavenly merits. In fact, the rampant selling of indulgences was one of the things that led Martin Luther to write his Ninety-Five Theses, On the Power of Indulgences; the document that many believe sparked the Protestant Reformation. The Church has since taken various measures to prevent the abuses of this practice.
There are various types of indulgences. A "perpetual indulgence" is an indulgence that can be given at any time, as opposed to a "temporal indulgence" which can only be given during certain times. Indulgences can also be classified as "real" or "personal," "universal" or "local" and "plenary" or "partial". Not surprisingly, the Catholics have a lot of rules about indulgences.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence believe that simply being in our presence is enough to absolve you of the punishment for your (supposed) sins. Of course, our name also implies that we're always gratifying our desires and that's not too far off from the truth either.