Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hunky Jesus Easter

Easter Sunday in Golden Gate Park was the serendipitous setting for the 37th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

The weather was perfect and the crowd of about 10,000 was mellow and charming.

Best of all, the party was free, the police were mercifully absent, and there was not a single bit of corporate sponsorship signage.

There were also no overpriced vendors so everyone brought their own food and drink and shared.

It felt like an Easter miracle.

Back in the 1970s, there was a seismic shift in the San Francisco gay scene, with seemingly everyone adopting the Castro Clone look of flannel shirts, jeans and work boots for everyday wear.

In reaction to the "butchoisie" of the time, a trio of gay men dressed up in nuns' habits one Easter Sunday in 1979, traipsed through the Castro neighborhood on their way to a nude beach, and the ecclesiastical drag queen sisterhood was born.

In the intervening decades, dozens of autonomous orders have sprung up in cities around the world...

...following the founding mission statement, "to promulgate universal joy, expiate stigmatic guilt and serve the community."

The afternoon began with a childrens' Easter egg hunt which was followed by a series of performances on a makeshift stage that included everything from a B52s cover band to a plus-size burlesque troupe getting down and dirty.

After an oddly touching recitation of vows by the entire Order...

...Sister Roma hosted the controversial, sacriligious finale of the annual event, the Hunky Jesus contest.

Over a dozen contestants competed, including Horny Jesus and Burner Jesus above and Carpenter Jesus below.

This humorous lampoon has long driven the local Catholic establishment crazy, but in truth the Sisters, particularly in their courageous work during the AIDS crisis, came closer to the ideals of the historical Jesus than their clerical counterparts who are still demonizing women and gay people.

The crowd crowned the eventual winner, Cheerleader Jesus, by the loudness of their cheers, but the most poignant moment may have belonged to Tiago Afonso below who called himself Homeless Jesus.

"Maybe we can find you a place to live with somebody out in the crowd," Sister Roma told him. "How much can you afford to pay a month?" and Tiago replied $500. "$500 in this city? You really are Homeless Jesus."


Hattie said...

I laughed out loud several times reading this. I've always hated Easter, but this sort of celebration would have turned me around!

sfwillie said...

It's unusual when a tradition doesn't get co-opted or crushed. The Sisters have invented something the Powers don't want to touch. Like, what corporation wants to sponsor HJC, Let alone the Sisters in any way? And SF pols can't attack without entering the parody themselves.

On matters of faith and morals the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence speak for me. Their credo, "Let's have fun," is exactly the message of Jesus.

Civic Center said...

SFWillie: Very interesting observation.

Back in the day, I tended to look on the Sisters as sort of annoying, attention whores in gay spaces where I was trying to get attention myself. Who knew they would become a long-lived institution, with a worldwide influence besides?

In any case. the lack of ALL sponsor signage this year felt radical in the 21st century. Good for them.