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The Benevolent Order of Drag Nuns You’ve Never Heard Of – Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

The Benevolent Order of Drag Nuns You’ve Never Heard Of – Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence


The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Colorado chapter promotes joy, combats bigotry, and embraces identity of all kinds.


You might think that an order of drag queens dressed as nuns must be an insult to organized religion. On the contrary, each member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sisters expound upon the moral aspects of organized religion – charity, unconditional love, kindness, and sanctuary – while vanquishing all that make people feel inferior, stigmatized, ashamed, and guilty about living as their authentic selves.

Even the name was interesting – Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Their beautiful makeup and creative costumery mixed with an abundant outpouring of love, positivity, and unapologetic authenticity drew me in.The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have a decades-long history as vibrant civil rights activists. They have 52 chapters in the US, and 24 more across the globe, from Canada to Uruguay; from France to Australia, they spread their joy globally. 

The Golden Nugget Sisters’ Abbey of the Rocky Mountain Cloisters, the Colorado chapter, works to bring advocacy, hope, positivity, and protection against bigots at protests and other pride events. To thwart attacks from the misunderstanding of their intent and purpose, the Sisters assert themselves non-confrontational, by dancing. Nobody can steal their joy. They are a beautiful counter to anger.

Golden Nugget Sisters. Courtesy of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

I interviewed three members of the Golden Nugget Sisters, Sister CasKara and Sister Freya Heritik of AssGuard, and Guard of the Golden Nugget Sisters, Fleur de Lay. I was also able to interview one of the founding Sisters from the 70s, Sister Mary Media of San Francisco. Talking to all of them was nothing short of inspirational. 

Without a doubt, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have changed the lives of many people worldwide, not just their own members. Every one of them shared powerful testimonials about how joining has changed their life by embracing their individuality, sexuality, and creativity. The passion and sincere love for others behind their charity speaks volumes.


SPI’s origins are found in “The Sugar Plum Fairies” drag theater troupe founded in Iowa in 1975 by (later to be known as) Sister Vicious Powerhungry Bitch. The troupe performed in gay bars and while planning their rendition of “The Sound of Music,” one member mentioned that she knew the Mother Superior of a Catholic convent that kept the old habits – the iconic nun outfits we all can recognize – when the nuns passed away. The Mother Superior gave the troupe the habits for the performance and never got them back!

When Sister Vich, as Sister Vicious Powerhungry Bitch is known, and a few friends moved to San Francisco a couple of years later, the habits came along. It wasn’t right away that they fulfilled their destiny. In 1979, out of sheer boredom, they donned the outfits and took to the streets to see what would happen. According to Sister Vich, “The reaction was explosive!” 

Sister Mary Media, another early member, recounts that at that time there was a stereotypical gay male look and persona that some people simply didn’t fit into. The norm was a “fetishized masculinity”, she said, but some didn’t want to submerge their femininity or conform to this idea of what it meant to be gay. They called this norm “castroclones”.

Courtesy of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

During the first Radical Fairy Gathering in Southern Arizona the friends in attendance realized that there was a softer, more spiritual component to being gay. Their calling was, as Sister Mary Media puts it, “to embrace femininity and nature in the great web of life. There is another way of living, being human, being gay.”

It was a spiritual awakening. Paired with the incredible response they got from wearing the habits, they knew they had to form an order of drag nuns. It was so radically different from anything else that it spoke volumes about individuality, self-expression, and creativity. It frees people to be themselves – whether they’re in the habits or just in the presence of Sisters.

They developed a mission to spread joy and be guilt-free. Guilt was ingrained in the gay community, especially by organized religious institutions.“There’s no need to feel guilty for caring.” Sister Mary Media said powerfully. The Sisters formed a way to compassionately care for others and be shamelessly spiritual, without imposing concise beliefs about what it means to be either gay or spiritual. Sisters are free to have their own beliefs. Their vow to “Promulgate Universal Joy and Expiate Stigmatic Guilt” was born.

Sadly, because of rampant homophobia and threats of hostility, official “Guards” protect the Sisters at events. In the 1980s Sisters donned clown makeup to protect their identities. A few founders were fired from their jobs just for being openly gay. Masks were created to hide identities and protect against bigoted retaliation. Each Sister’s face reflects their personality. Sisters recognize the importance of protecting themselves with the mask while allowing them to express their creative individuality. In fact, they preferred to interview with me “in face” –  the term used when they have their mask on. 

It is sad that we live in a world where charitable, kind-hearted people have to fear for their safety, yet each Sister reported that when they are “in face” it helps them feel liberated, free to open up, and safe to step outside the box. 


World AIDS Day Solidarity Walk (Sister Minnie Dixon Snyder, Guard Fleur de Lay, Postulant Sister Bae I, and Elleven DiVine). Courtesy of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

SPI was not originally founded as a service organization but when HIV/AIDS started to spread, releasing guilt and spreading joy took on an entirely new meaning. The epidemic directly confronted the Sisters with the profound need for compassionate honesty in their community, as well as in their own ranks. Astounding numbers within the LGBTQ+ community were lost to the disease along with many Sisters. Two Sisters, Sister Reserection and Sister Nightmare, were nurses who witnessed firsthand the novel and mysterious disease called “gay cancer” or GRID – “Gay Related Immune Deficiency” later to be known as HIV/AIDS.

In 1982, the Pride Parade of San Francisco chose “War on VD” (venereal disease) as its theme. The Sisters created the Play Fair Pamphlet to help inform the community on how to protect and respect themselves and their intimate partners. It was so effective, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) along with many other organizations asked to reproduce the pamphlet. Sister Mary Media recalls seeing the pamphlet in people’s houses, on their refrigerators – that’s how he knew the Sisters made a difference.

The Sisters have become a respected and knowledgeable source for both physical and spiritual health. Ministry and education about safe sex also include kits called “Pearl Packs” containing condoms, lube, a dental dam, and links to STD testing sites. The Golden Nugget Sister will connect you with local sites, from Fort Collins to Pueblo, promoting the reality of safe sex education. If you frequent bars in the area, you are likely to run into the Sisters performing “Bar Ministry” by handing out Pearl Packs and spreading their delightful energy to anyone willing to engage. 

SPI now also offers valuable information about Monkeypox, and pretty much any of your private or personal wellbeing needs, on their website. It is the core mission of the Sisters to protect others, be guilt free, embrace their uniqueness, and spread the message of respect for your intimate partners.

Pearls Packs. Photo provided by Sister CasKara.


Sisters all felt called to do more for their Queer community. As Golden Nugget Mistress (or “Corruptor”) of Novices, Sister Freyja, puts it, “You can look fabulous and have fun while you minister to your community.” She grew up in organized religion and her sexuality has been a dividing factor in her family. To her, the Sisters are about planting seeds of happiness and crushing guilt. The idea of this, she said, was like a big hug. She knew she wanted to be a part of it.

Self-love, self-respect, and honesty with yourself are values that have blossomed in her life since becoming a sister. She has seen happiness arise where there was none, light brought to darkness, and meaning has come into her life from helping others in ways that otherwise would not have been possible.

Guard of the Golden Nugget Sisters, Fleur de Lay, was aware of the Sisters, but it wasn’t until he met Sister CasKara at a housewarming party in Colorado that he decided to join.

Courtesy of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

“Their presence is immediately known,” he said, “it draws people in. They make joy contagious.” Once he set his sights on getting involved, he was fully professed as an official Guard.

“I believe intention is everything – what you put out is what you get back,” said Fleur de Lay. He appreciates that the Sisters atone for the sins of organized religion’s tendency to create guilt, stagnation, and oppression. “People don’t change because you say so,” he tells us, “they change because they want to, or because they have no choice.” 

Guards represent the male counterpart to the more feminine Sisters. Guards are like nun-herders, he said, protecting and guiding the flock. He does plan on becoming a professed Sister in a year or so. If he wants to embrace his femininity, he can wear a habit as a Sister. If he wants to embrace his masculinity, he can come as a Guard. They allow for fluidity.

Sister CasKara found himself wanting to do even more for the community than attending drag shows and pride events. He spoke about a suicidal phase he went through, and how he wished he had had the same network and support he does now. He has found purpose in protests, marches, protecting others, and supporting youth.

Up until the pandemic lockdown, Sister CasKara was a Guard to the Sisters. She was 90% Guard, 10% Sister. During lockdown downtime she started embracing her femininity and experimenting with dressing as a Sister. Now she’s 90% Sister, 10% Guard.

“It’s interesting having random people come up, as their most vulnerable selves, and helping them cope, giving them a shoulder to cry on,” said Sister CasKara. At first glance, it seems an unlikely result of drag nun bar ministry, but the more you learn about the roots of the organization, it makes perfect sense.


Courtesy of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

“We love and support everyone, even if you’re weird. Reach out, even if you’re nervous,” said Sister Freyja, Mistress of Novices. Sister Freya has a big heart and is happy to support new members on their journey. If she’s got a shirt on her back, you can have it. 

To become a Sister or Guard, you need to put in the hours and show up to help the Sisters with their charitable work. Novices attend meetings, like fully professed members, and need to attend a minimum of three events. If this calls to you, let Sister Freyja know that you want to be a Postulant. 

Postulants create a service or educational project to help build a relationship between the Sisters and another group, among other things. This process is self-paced. It can take a few years or just a few months. It’s up to the individual. 

Guards have a very similar process for new members, with different names for the levels. Once you’ve completed your charitable cause and other milestones, all of the fully professed voting members will vote to concur that you have successfully completed all of the requirements. Generally, elevation ceremonies are in public, sometimes as a surprise, to share the experience with the community. The joy spread from this event is surely spectacular!


Boulder Public Library Drag Queen Story Hour. Courtesy of Parasol Patrol.

Five people were initially interested in forming a group of Sisters in Colorado. They held meetings in plain clothes, at first, at bars, restaurants, and bakeries, becoming an official “aspiring” house of SPI. Since being accepted as a full fledged House, the Colorado chapter has been to just about every pride event, from Loveland to Colorado Springs.

The Golden Nugget Sisters have recently recognized their first two people for their contributions to society by “sainting” them at the Broomfield auditorium at an all-ages drag show. Pasha and Eli, co-founders of Parasol Patrol, were commemorated and acknowledged for all the hard work they have done locally and abroad, protecting the community and shielding them from protestors. Not only is Parasol Patrol a non-confrontational line of defense between activists and protesters, but Eli is a Marine veteran. Additionally, Pasha is helping to pass a bill that protects sex workers from being arrested for reporting a crime. As a ‘thank you’, the Golden Nugget Sisters made them the first saints of their chapter.

“They ugly cried,” said Sister CasKara. They thought the Sisters were going to surprise Eli by singing ‘happy birthday’ – they certainly didn’t expect to be made saints.

The Golden Nugget Sisters also work with Denver Cycle Sluts, Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire, Transgender Center of the Rockies, The Center on Colfax, and Castle Rock Pride. There are currently 18 Sisters so far remarkable because they just became a fully professed house in December of 2021. Happy First Birthday, Golden Nugget Sisters!


Aside from ongoing efforts related to members’ initiation projects, the Golden Nugget Sisters are pleased to have a member working on death ministry, helping people cope with losing a loved one. They are reaching out to morgues to coordinate ways to get involved.

Another Sister is working on a homeless resource manual for the essentials, including the Feeding Denver’s Hungry grocery store. Both the Queer community and the underprivileged are dear to the Sister’s hearts.

To celebrate their first birthday, and their first sainting, the Golden Nugget Sisters are planning an Exequatur Sister Convention inviting all North American chapters to Colorado in October 2023 – fingers crossed! It could be absolutely phenomenal. Keep your eyes peeled this fall – you could have over a hundred Sisters headed into your town to celebrate, spread joy, and expiate stigmatic guilt. 

Despite being very much in their infancy, the Golden Nugget Sisters are moving swiftly along to carry the benevolent legacy the original San Francisco Sisters founded over forty years ago. Colorado is all the better for having such genuine loving kindness and community support.

As the Sisters themselves have said, thou hast seen nothing yet!

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