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Dodgers Reverse Decision To Disinvite The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence From Pride Night And Issue Apology

Three drag performers stand on stage wearing unconventional nun habits. The person on the far right of frame pours what looks like liquor on the stage floor. There's a screen behind them that reads "Get Your Kicks, 30th Anniversary Reunion, Dragstrip 66"
The L.A. Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence open the 30th anniversary of Dragstrip 66 with a blessing.
(Ashley Balderrama
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  • After "thoughtful feedback" the Dodgers have again invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to join to the team on Pride Night, where the group will receive an award on June 16.

  • In a statement, the Sisters said they'd accepted "a full apology and explanation was given to us by the Dodgers staff." They also said:

  • "This affair has been an opportunity for learning with a silver lining. Our group has been strengthened, protected and uplifted to a position where we may now offer our message of hope and joy to far more people than before. With great love and respect, we thank each person and each organization that have spoken up for us. Thank you, and may your hearts be blessed with pure joy."

  • The Los Angeles LGBT Center, among groups that said they would no longer participate in this year's Pride Night game, called the apology and renewed invite "a step in the right direction." And the LGBT Center said they now plan to be at the park to watch the Sisters get their award.

  • The Archdiocese of Los Angeles released its own statement expressing disappointment with the reversal:

  • "The decision to honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith and makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious who are an integral part of our Church is what has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community... The Archdiocese stands against any actions that would disparage and diminish our Christian faith and those who dedicate their lives to Christ."

When the Los Angeles Dodgers announced a decision Wednesday to uninvite the L.A. chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a self-described "Order of 30th Century Nuns" known for decades of charity work and dressing in drag, a backlash ensued.

The mostly LGBTQ+ Sisters were supposed to receive the Community Hero Award at the Dodgers’ 10th annual Pride Night. But the team, facing pressure from conservative and Catholic groups, rescinded the honor.

Since then, L.A. Pride, the Dodger’s main partner for the event, as well as the ACLU of Southern California and the L.A. LGBT Center, have announced they're pulling out of Pride Night in response.

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“As a result and in solidarity with our community, LA Pride will not be participating in this year’s Dodgers Pride Night event,” the organization said in a statement. “Pride is a fight for equality and inclusion for the entire LGBTQ+ community and we’re not going to stop now.”

Sister Electra-Complex, a queer and nonbinary member of the group, says the turn of events has felt “like the wind was taken out of our sails.”

“When we found out that the award had been rescinded … there was a lot of internal confusion and anger,” she said.

“I would like to think that the Dodgers have just made a mistake that they didn’t really think through and that this can be all rectified.”

Why the Dodgers uninvited the group

Pride Night at a Dodgers game is a yearly ritual. It’s a day that’s supposed to be an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ sports fans to enjoy a game together during June. People often get swag, hang out with their friends and enjoy a night sponsored by LGBTQ+ organizations. Honorees get their time in the spotlight. At this year’s event on June 16, the team was going to honor the Sisters for their acts in the community before the game against the San Francisco Giants.

A close up of a blue dodgers baseball cap with the L.A. letters colored in colors for the inclusive pride flag, which has black, brown, and trans flag colors.
A Los Angeles Dodgers hat on LGBTQ+ Pride Night at Dodger Stadium on June 03, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Ronald Martinez
Getty Images)

The Dodgers had announced the award on May 4: “The Los Angeles chapter of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will receive this year’s Community Hero Award for their countless hours of community service, ministry, and outreach to those on the edges, in addition to promoting human rights and respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment.”

But two weeks later, those sentiments disappeared as the local honor became a national issue.

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“Given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees,” the Dodgers said in a statement on May 17.

The controversy began after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a May 15 letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred saying the Dodgers weren’t being welcoming to Christians, and that honoring the Sisters mocks the Catholic faith. (The group has Catholic members and people from a wide variety of faiths.)

The claims stem from disapproval over how the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence conduct themselves. They wear habits, use religious imagery and the term nuns — all while raising funds for community organizations, showing up at funerals and protests to encourage protection of the LGBTQ+ community, and using performance to destigmatize sexuality and gender issues. The Dodger’s rescinding the invitation comes at a time when anti-drag legislation is being passed in multiple states and drag performers are being vilified.

The issue grew when Catholic League president Bill Donohue got involved. He sent a letter arguing that honoring the group is on the same level as honoring a white person who wears blackface.

Donohue posted the MLB commissioner’s email online, urging people to contact him. The league is a national group based in New York that focuses on Catholic civil rights (separate from the Catholic Church). It has criticized the Sisters for decades, and according to GLAAD, Donohue has a track record of anti-LGBTQ+ remarks. Other groups, such as the L.A. Archdiocese and CatholicVote, also denounced the decision to honor the Sisters.

Who the Sisters are

A group of people with light and medium skin tones huddled together and smiling for a photo in a convention hall. Some of the people have white face paint on with a nun's headpiece on.  Others are wearing everyday clothing.
The L.A. chapter at RuPaul's DragCon in 2023.
(Courtesy of Sister Electra-Complex)

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which started in 1979, first set up shop in San Francisco. As the ‘sistory’ goes, a group went in second-hand habits (previously the property of a Catholic convent in Iowa) and walked through the streets of the city down to a nude beach.

Through the decades, chapters have spread across the nation. L.A.’s chapter began in 1995. While it's been portrayed as a men-only group, there are members of multiple genders and expressions.

Each chapter has the same, simple mission: “to make people happy, stamp out guilt brought on by a judgmental society and help various organizations and charities.”

The Sisters support food banks, raise money, and show up at community events. (They were recently at Drag March L.A., RuPaul's DragCon and at the reemergence of an old club called Dragstrip 66.) They’re very common faces at LGBTQ+ happenings, including the AIDS Lifecycle.

“We are a charity organization and we are human rights activists,” the L.A. Sisters said in a statement on May 17. “Our mission is to uplift our community and all marginalized groups, especially the ones ignored by larger organizations, spiritually oriented or otherwise.”

The visuals of the group are based on performance and the critiquing of religion. With the habits, the members paint their faces all white and wear accessories with religious imagery. They also use specific names, such as Sister Electra-Complex, which she says is reference to a “faulty heteronormative” theory of gender. It’s deliberately provocative — as the group says on its website, it has continued to “raise tempers, eyebrows and funds.”

Often during Pride and other holidays, you’ll see the Sisters indulge in sexualized displays linked to religion — efforts to break down stigmatization — like wearing revealing leather-strapped clothing, and having a “hunky Jesus” contest on Easter.

Two people stand next to each other in front of a sign and smile for a photo. They have their arms up and legs kicked out. On the left, the person has a medium skin tone with short hair and jewelary and is wearing a colorful dress. On the right is a person wearing a nun's hat with white facepaint on. They are wearing a black and white shirt.
Sister Electra-Complex at DragCon with one of the attendees.
(Courtesy of Sister Electra-Complex)

“There was discrimination by a lot of religions, as well as conservative discrimination around HIV and AIDS in the early nineties,” Sister Electra-Complex said. “The nun image, as like a caregiver, was something that we held onto really strongly because we were working during that time period in supporting folks who were experiencing HIV and AIDS.

“We don't necessarily see it as anti-Catholic or anti-religious in any way,” they said. “A nun or religious imagery is really to show the lifelong dedication that a Sister takes when we take our vows.”

The L.A. group has about 40 members who support organizations with funds and volunteer work, including the L.A. Youth Network and the TransLatin@ Coalition. The Sisters' contributions have won them recognition from the city of L.A. and the California State Assembly, according to the group's website.

What happens next

Response to the Dodgers’ decision was swift.

Within hours, Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said she wouldn’t attend Pride Night. And after some called on L.A. Pride to end its partnership with Pride Night, the organization dropped out Thursday evening.

We reached out to the MLB and the Dodgers to ask if they are considering changing course. They have not responded. If reinvited, Sister Electra-Complex says it will be up to the group to decide whether to go.

Congressmember Robert Garcia, who was previously the mayor of Long Beach, tweeted that he hopes “we all will boycott” Pride Night. However, the sisters aren’t calling for one at this time. The L.A. LGBT Center, along with other local figures, are calling on the Dodgers to cancel the night unless the team reverses the decision.

“Our work speaks for us,” the L.A. Sisters wrote in a statement. “While we may no longer appear on Dodgers Pride Night, we will be out on the streets of Los Angeles continuing to serve and uplift our community.”

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