Modern queer nuns, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of the Alamo, minister to the community through a “bar ministry.”
By V. Finster
More than 22 people attended “Share Your Status” Pride Open Mic Oct. 24 at Eco Centro in observation of LGBTQ+ History Month.
This is the third year Eco Centro has observed LGBTQ+ History Month, but the first year the center has held Pride Open Mic.
Communications relations Coordinator Dyhanara Rios and grant writer Nicholas Sheffield of Eco Centro organized this year’s event.
Sheffield said having an open mic is a creative way to not only support the community but also to provide students with educational literature.
“I think that in this political climate we’re having a resurgence of fear; it’s important for students to have a safe space,” Sheffield said.
Representatives of six local organizations provided educational resources and shared local social outlets geared toward the LGBTQ+ community.
The organizations are the San Antonio Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of the Alamo Inc.; Esperanza Peace and Justice Center; City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District; The Center; Bae-B-Safe; and Parents, Families, Friends and Allies United with the LGBTQ Community.
Cher Noble and Minerva des People, members of the San Antonio Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, provided safe-sex packets with condoms and a sheet with tips on sexual health.
The Order of Queer Nuns first appeared in San Francisco on Easter Sunday 1979 during the rise of the HIV and AIDS epidemic with a mission to “promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt,” according to the organization’s website.
“We are 21st century nuns in every sense of the word, without the celibacy,” Noble said.
One of the organization’s focus is a “bar ministry,” where members go to local bars dressed as their sister “manifestations,” while handing out the safe-sex packets.
Noble said members purchase their own supplies for the project.
“It’s not a drop in the bucket,” Noble said. “It’s time-consuming.”
Noble said that dressing up and getting out into the community is an interesting way to interact with people that wouldn’t normally happen.
“When you’re out and you’re in face, you have more personal freedom because of the ambiguity of what you are,” Noble said.
“I’ve have very long, meaningful conversations with complete strangers that would not have happened if I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.”
Noble said even though the sisters have been excommunicated from the church because of the attire and iconography used by the order, they are still spiritual caretakers of the queer community.
“If we can go out this fantastical and ridiculous, then people going out just normally as they are, under the umbrella of this being the extreme, will realize they’re fine, they’re normal,” Noble said.
Manifestation is the process of applying the makeup and costume specific to the order.
“When we say we’re manifesting, we’re bringing our sister into existence; we’re bringing her out,” des People said.
Des People said manifestation is personal to each member, and the more makeup she puts on the more outgoing, louder and suggestive her humor gets.
“Minerva gets to be everything I wish I could be in everyday life,” des People said. “Minerva gets to be loud and obnoxious and out there, but at the same time help people in an intimate way.”
Des People said she recalled seeing a documentary on PBS during her formative years about drag nuns like Florence Nightmare in San Francisco at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“The nuns were some of the only people in the community helping those with AIDS, acting as hospice nurses … that always stuck with me,” des People said.
Des People said that when she came out in the early 2000s, she saw the documentary again.
“That’s the kind of life I want to lead; I want to leave this world happier, better and safer than when I was brought up in it,” des People said. “I don’t want anyone to have to feel the fear of being gay that I had.”