Published in QVegas August 2008 issue
“Disturbing the comfortable and comforting the disturbed,” reads their Web site (www.sinsitysisters.org). Sister Lola Feminista Womyn of Justice (Christina Hernandez) and Sister Hope N’ Grope, of Safer Sinning (Sybrina Bernabei) agree with this message and participate in delivering it.
“When I approach someone in a bar as a lesbian, I may not have their attention, but when I approach people as a drag-queen nun, people have a tendency to stop and listen,” Sister Lola said.
The Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is the Las Vegas Order of drag-queen male and female nuns who are social activists for the LGBT community. Although the organization is comprised of mostly gay men, Sister Hope said, “The organization is growing, in age diversity, ethnicity and gender.”
The Las Vegas Order is just one of hundreds around the world. The organization began in 1979 with the San Francisco Order, which is often referred to as the “Mother House.”
“The sisters started out 30 years ago as queer-social activists,” Sister Hope said. Although the Orders do not all focus on the same issues, the goal of awareness, education and tackling LGBT issues is shared. “Each Order is an autonomous, unique group with its own Habits, culture and rules … Each Order is a reflection of its own environment,” the World Ordres Web site says (www.thesisters.org).
“(The Las Vegas House) has a focus on HIV and safer sex,” Sister Hope said. “We are trying to help people live with this virus who live here in the city.”
To help the community deal with this virus, Sin Sity Sisters started the Sister AIDS Drug Assistant Program (SADAP) in 2007. The program gives assistance to people with HIV. On average, the Sisters raise approximately $8,000 a month for the program; however, “there are so many people living with this virus in this city, we Sisters need to do more fundraising to be able continue serving our clients,” Sister Lola said.
In order to continue raising money and tackling this issue, the Sisters attend and organize fund raising events each month. In addition, each Sister, in their full drag-queen nun ensemble, goes to a bar and passes out condoms and information on HIV and safer-sex for their “Bar Ministry.”
“The whole situation can make people uncomfortable,” Sister Hope said. “But I just want the gay community to really recognize and understand that my mission as a Sister is to make sure that the community is aware of HIV and has condoms.”
In addition to HIV awareness and SADAP, the Sin Sity Sisters also focus on other issues, both LGBT oriented and not. “We focus on everything we can, from HIV and other GLBT causes to the environment and political issues,” Sister Lola said.
The Sin Sity Sisters just celebrated their third year anniversary, and in just that short period, the Las Vegas Order has been able to accomplish much, push the borders of comfortable and educate the community.
But the big message of the Sisterhood, Sister Hope said, is that “there is no guilt or shame in who you are. Love yourself and be safe while you’re out there.”