Logo via Los Angeles Dodgers
Throughout May, the Los Angeles Dodgers have invited, disinvited, and re-invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of queer and trans nuns, to their Pride Night on June 16. Pride Month is only just knocking a jaunty rhythm on our door, but the LGBTQ+ community is already facing exhaustion and backlash for corporations and large organizations attempts at inclusivity.
On May 4, the Dodgers announced that they were inviting multiple guests to their 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night to celebrate Pride Month. One particular group, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, was set to receive the “Community Hero Award” for their outreach and community service within their local LGBTQ+ community.
The Sisters were formed in San Francisco in 1979 by three queer men who happened to have nuns’ habits alongside a desire to “promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt” (translation: to spread joy and offset the guilt that some religious groups try to impose upon queer people). Since their foundation, the Sisters have spread across North America, and even as far as Australia. They have started and participated in a variety of fundraisers, charities, and programs in the name of fighting against HIV/AIDS and STDs, as well as for reproductive rights and safe sex. Overall, their work is to support the surrounding community, including both those who are queer and those who are not. I have already linked it above, but I want to draw specific attention to the history section of the Sisters’ webpage, as it is truly wild what a group of “drag nuns” have been able to do.
The Sisters poke fun at the various religious institutions that preached bigotry against queer people while serving as a faith-adjacent community that queer people can join and find love and support within (albeit an impishly ironic one). Consequently, over the nearly half a century of the Sisters’ existence, they have faced significant controversy and backlash from Christian institutions.
When the Dodgers invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to be honored at their Pride Night this year, the outcry from Christian, particularly Catholic, organizations was not a surprise. Robert Manfred, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB), was on the receiving end of many pointed letters and emails from these groups. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida sent him a letter questioning how the MLB could be considered “inclusive and welcoming” when they are featuring “diabolical parodies of [the Christian] faith.” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, not only calls the Sisters’ work “anti-Catholic hate speech,” but he also compares “these homosexual bigots” dressing as drag nuns to white people performing in blackface.
Not all Christians oppose what the Sisters do, however. A few actual nuns have come out in support of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; a letter from Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry says that while the use of nuns’ clothing makes her uncomfortable, “The choice of clothing, even if offensive to some, can never trump the works of mercy.” Sister Barbara Battista of the Sisters of Providence views the works of the drag nuns as “entertainment” and “as a tribute to sisters and what we do. We live a life of service, and that’s what they do.”
Yet clearly overwhelmed by the concentrated onslaught of “anti-bigotry” bigotry, the Dodgers released a statement on May 17 in which they retracted their invitation to the Sisters. Given the “controversy” and “strong feelings of people who have been offended,” the team decided it would be best to remove the Sisters from the honorees so as not to “distract” from the good work that had been done by and within the LGBTQ+ community this year.
This decision made a lot of Angelenos angry, namely the LGBTQ+ community, but also allies such as the Mayor of Anaheim, Ashleigh Aitken, who took the opportunity to invite the Sisters to the Los Angeles Angels’ Pride Night. The real heavy hitters, though, were LA Pride, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the ACLU of Southern California, all of which withdrew from the Dodgers’ Pride Night and voiced their disappointment in the team.
Likely realizing that a Pride Night without any participants or honorees isn’t worth having, the Dodgers released another statement on May 22 in which they apologized to and re-invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The team pledged to continue to work on educating themselves and supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the coming weeks before the mid-June Pride Night.
Soon afterwards, on May 26, the Dodgers and their pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, tweeted about the relaunch of “Christian Faith and Family Day” at the Dodgers’ Stadium on July 30. Many commenters were displeased by this relaunch, seeing it as a weak attempt to make up for caving to the LGBTQ+ community and “uncaving” to the Christian community.
With all the tension from both sides and beyond, we’ll see how both these events unfold at the Dodgers’ Stadium.
Author: Brenna Connell (She/They)
Copy Editors: Emma Blakely (They/She/He), Bella (She/They)