Shortly after the Los Angeles Dodgers announced a Pride Month partnership with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a well-known troupe of charitable drag nuns, conservatives mounted a quick backlash against the team.
Led by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and several right-leaning Christian advocacy groups, the backlash spurred the Dodgers to announce on Twitter that the team had rescinded the invitation, saying the Sisters’ inclusion was simply too controversial.
“In the spirit of unity, the Los Angeles Dodgers are proud to host our 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night on June 16th,” the tweet said. “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 ‘sisters’ are men who dress in lewd imitation of Roman Catholic nuns,” Rubio wrote in a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. “The group’s motto, ‘Go and sin some more,’ is a perversion of Jesus’s command to ‘Go, and sin no more.’”
May 17, 2023
In San Francisco, where the kabuki-makeup-wearing Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was founded in 1979, the group is known for producing the Hunky Jesus and Foxy Mary contests on Easter Sunday in Dolores Park and for collecting donations at the gates to the Folsom Street Fair.
Among the city’s LGBTQ+ elected officials, reaction to the Dodgers was swift. Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and state Sen. Scott Wiener were among those who strongly criticized the team, as did Assemblymember Matt Haney, who is straight.
Sister Roma, the “most photographed nun in the world,” was unsparing in her criticism.
“In two short hours, we went from celebrating the fact that they were giving us the Amazing Heroes Awards to basically caving to these pseudo-Christian media outlets and far-right conservative bigots like Marco Rubio,” Roma told The Standard. “It’s just insane to me that, here in California, the Dodgers would so quickly cave to this obvious bullshit rhetoric and hate.”
The fact that it happened in progressive California should send a signal to LGBTQ+ Americans that the reaction against queer visibility is not confined to red states like Florida, she said.
“This doesn’t bode well for the future for anyone who’s queer, trans, has an alternative lifestyle, for women,” Roma added. “People need to realize that these fascists are planning a coup of our entire country.”
San Francisco Pride has worked with the San Francisco Giants to produce large-scale events at Oracle Park. Executive Director Suzanne Ford, a trans woman, defended the Sisters’ work.
“I would like to highlight that they’re excluding a group that has helped countless people in the LGBTQ community in their fundraising efforts,” Ford said. “They’ve fed and housed people for years. That shouldn't get lost in all this.”
In the years since workplace protections were codified and marriage equality became legal nationwide, many LGBTQ+ rights organizations have seen professional sports as one of the few remaining domains of American life where institutional homophobia and LGBTQ+ exclusion remain the norm.
Although Pride Night has increasingly been a staple at American stadiums in June, homophobic incidents are not uncommon. In 2020, an announcer for the Cincinnati Reds was suspended for using an anti-gay slur. And the backlash against transgender athletes in sports has become part of a pretext for a wider crusade against LGBTQ+ visibility more generally.
As it turns out, the Dodgers are set to play the San Francisco Giants on Pride Night. The Dodgers did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.
Astrid Kane can be reached at [email protected]