Sister Rose and her Fabulous Campaign for Equality in Paris

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have been fighting for the LBGTQ community for over 30 years. Originally from San Francisco, the Sisterhood now has convents all over the globe. Sister Rose of all Buds opens up about what’s going on with the fight in Paris.

I first met Sister Rose on Twitter. She had a couple thousand followers so I saw her posts a lot on my feed, and I quickly became obsessed. I never met anyone so dedicated to activism, who kept it so real, and who was funny when they did it.
After following her for months online, I finally decided to message her. We started to chat, and little by little we became friends.

If someone as fabulous as me can go outside, with ten pounds of makeup on, extravagant outfits, and heels bigger than any dick in this world, then anyone else can too.

Talking to her opened up a whole new world to me. She told about the Situationist movement, a 20th-century anti-authoritarian movement that wrote and fought against capitalism. And she told me about the Sisterhood of Perpetual Indulgence, an order that mirrors the catholic nunhood; using the same terminology and imagery, but with style. Like ten pounds of makeup and ten-inch heels style. And wit. Satire and making caricatures are central to their philosophy.

Sister Rose by Adlan Mansri

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Sister Rose by Adlan Mansri

© HEREYOUARE

When Sister Rose asked if I wanted to watch her give a speech at two of her best friend’s gay marriage, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to learn more.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence first began in San Francisco in 1979. Taken from their website, their mission statement says that they are a “leading-edge order of Queer Nuns…devoted to community service, ministry, and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment…we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency, and guilt that chain the human spirit.”

The order now has convents all across the US and the globe, in places like Germany, Colombia, Canada, Australia and of course, France.

Sister Rose by Adlan Mansri

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Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Sister Rose of all Buds–I’ve been a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence at the Paris Convent for a little over ten years now. I’m a daily activist. I campaign fiercely and with humor. My happiness is rooted in my rage and it’s my main source of motivation. I fight for a joyous sexuality, sexual education, medical cannabis, open borders, hospitality for migrants, and protecting the rights and dignity of those infected and affected. I fight against AIDS, the racist war on drugs, bad taste, and all forms of discrimination.

How do you personally fight for LGBTQ rights in Paris?

I fight by going out in the streets, by planting myself in public space. If someone as fabulous as me can go outside, with ten pounds of makeup on, extravagant outfits, and heels bigger than any dick in this world, then anyone else can too. Beside us, a girl with purple hair or a veiled woman goes by unnoticed. It’s a way to open up the public space. To say, “you have the right to exist, to be who you are, to be who you want. If I don’t have to contain myself, then neither do you.” Usually, we do have to kind of break into people’s lives. Like they’ll be all comfortable on the metro or dining outside on a terrace, and boom, we pop up in a shower of sequins, and we exist, we question, we joke around, we listen; and then, just as quickly as we slipped in, we are gone. We’re probably one of the last situationist movements around.

Sister Rose by Adlan Mansri

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Why, in 2017, is it important to fight for LGBTQ rights in Paris?

It’s important not to just fight in Paris, but everywhere. I mean, you have to fight for it all the time, no matter where you are. Like Alice Walker would say: “Activism is the rent I pay to live on this planet.” It’s so important to fight, to reflect, to never give up. Right now, the gays need to be seen as humans. Sexism and lesbophobia have become far too normal, and it’s embedded in the community. Bisexuals are treated like shit, no one believes them, and the media insults them.

I really think the answer to this problem is education, the exchange of information, and the study and analysis of what exactly is discrimination and oppression, which are really very similar.

As for Trans people, well, fuck. It’s awful. The politicians just show how lazy and incompetent they are. Every now and then the Socialistes [Ed. The Socialist Party] will make a little fuss to change a comma in some bill that changes nothing and they’ll claim they’ve done something. It’s a pretty crummy way to be. The change of gender marker in the administration records is a nameless violence with its obligation of sterilization, not to mention an ultra-medicalized transition path, infantilizing even contemptuous.

We’re in 2017, and still, transgenders and gay couples are being insulted in the streets. In your opinion, why do people still have fear?

Because we’re always afraid! Aren’t you afraid? Seriously, make a list of everything you’re afraid of in your life. It’s a lot, isn’t it? From things like being afraid of the dark, not knowing what you’re doing in life… I think we can understand that some people were just raised with certain systems of beliefs that when they come into contact with this kind of stuff, they fall into this crazy fear and violence towards the unknown. I really think the answer to this problem is education, the exchange of information, and the study and analysis of what exactly is discrimination and oppression, which are really very similar.

Sister Rose by Adlan Mansri

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What are some of the safe places for LGBTQ in Paris?

I really don’t think there are any completely safe spaces like there are some places that would be safe for some people, but not for others. But to name a few there’s the Mutinerie, the Tango (La Boîte à Frissons), and there’s the House of Moda that really puts effort into throwing accessible events, or in support of associations like BAAM or Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence! But honestly, I don’t go out that much, so I’m not the best one to say where you should go, but I will say this. There’s something interesting about the LGBTQ community that’s always been true. It’s that they’ve always known how to use urban space to their advantage, to find the lesser known places, to know where to slip off to create a safe space–the alley alongside the Seine by the Tuileries, for example, on Sunday afternoon has been a sort of real-life Grindr spot, but more pleasant. And along the wharves, there was Tata Beach where people were getting it on at night. And to this day, the gardens at the Louvre are still popping off, and even it’s a pretty sexual spot, it’s also a place to just hang out and meet up, where the shy guys like to hang out, or the immigrants, or people who’ve been bounced out of a bar for not looking white enough, or trendy enough.

Sister Rose by Adlan Mansri

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We’ve seen that in Chechnya, LGBTQ people are being killed and sent to camps. Do you think that here in Paris we’re safe from that?

You know, there’s one thing humans really aren’t well known for, and that’s their memory. So it’s not even surprising to realize that we’ve forgotten what happened a century ago [Ed. in reference to the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany] and that we’re happily doing it all over again. I’m no scaremonger though, and I try not to worry about what may happen tomorrow. But seeing how humans never disappoint when it comes to the horrible things they can do, how quickly they’re ready to go to war, and how many people are just completely bloodthirsty, I prefer to cover my ass and continue fighting for a society that’s more open, more welcoming, and more curious about others.

I understand all too well that politicians always have something more important to do than intervene in a country that is killing off gays the way the Nazis did not too long ago

But to come back to Chechnya, the relative indifference that we’ve seen here, to me, is telling. Like, oh, it’s no big deal after all, just a couple of faggots, just a couple of dikes. Obviously, it was much more important to get rid of Les Contrats Aidés [Ed. the subsidized employment contracts].“You have to understand, there are diplomacy and politics at stake.” I understand all too well that politicians always have something more important to do than intervene in a country that is killing off gays the way the Nazis did not too long ago. Recently, since people have been protesting against the new labor law, the government has decided to blow more smoke about LGBTQ rights, talking about the ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) movements that the socialists are backing. The Interior Ministry, who just loves posing for photos with the LMPT (anti-gay conservative party), goes on the news to say that ART is a “civilizational remodeling” and that it “could cause problems.” Even though ART is available in pretty much all the neighboring countries of France and thousands of French people have been going to Belgium, Spain, Denmark, for years and years, and they’re still talking to us about a troublesome “remodeling”. The slippery rhetoric between “civilization” and “nation” is really worrisome with the extreme right-wingers and from reactionaries of all sides.

Sister Rose by Adlan Mansri

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In order to support LGBT people, is it necessary to campaign?

To say that we exist, that we are diverse, that we are many, that we are everywhere, yes, I think that’s a big part of it. In France, we’re controlled by this myth of a Republic that is one and indivisible. As if everyone living in the territory were exactly the same. I think that this thought is extremely toxic. We are all different, unique, and marvelous. To affirm our place in this kaleidoscope, to say that this is how we live in the city, it’s an act of campaigning. But it’s no longer enough to say “I am, therefore I fight.” There is a side of true activism that we really can’t forget about.

Do you think Paris can become a frontrunner in the fight for LGBTQ rights? Do you think things are evolving positively or negatively here?

Over the past couple of years, I feel like we’re entering a sort of new wave of activism, but it’s still not enough yet. Doing something like December 1, the national day of the fight against AIDS, where 200 people showed up, it’s still obvious that AIDS doesn’t really interest many people. When the mayor of Paris tries to do something, it’s just smoke in the wind. I’m honestly surprised that city hall hasn’t turned into a big hot air balloon yet. But on the local level, I think we’re gaining ground. The new generation of Drag these past few years has really taken off, a kind of Nighttime Pride Parade has begun. And it seems like the migrant crisis has infused a new dynamic into the heart of our community. And even if 120 BPM [Ed. a movie about Act Up Paris, an association fighting against HIV] turned Act Up Paris into a sort of summer camp for neo-campaigners, it really does seem like a deeper movement of engagement and activism is entering the people. The mayor has been trying hard to turn the city into a museum, but the citizens aren’t letting it happen, and we’re looking at cities like London, Berlin, and New York moving in political directions like never before, culturally and festively, and I feel like that has got us going in the right direction too.

Follow Sister Rose on Twitter

Find the places mentioned in this article on this map.

La Mutinerie

La Mutinerie, 176 - 178 Rue Saint-Martin, 75003 Paris, France

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Le Tango (La Boîte à Frissons)

Le Tango, 13 Rue au Maire, 75003 Paris, France

learn more

Tata Beach

48.860876, 2.325777

The Tuileries and Carrousel Gardens

The Tuileries and Carrousel Gardens

 

This article has been edited for clarity and conciseness

Adlan Mansri is a young Berlin based photographer. Through his lenses, he brings his sight of the world and the humans he meets with a reporter's eye.
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