Gay Desert Hot Springs

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence work in mysterious ways to benefit Coachella Valley

Posted on July 15, 2022

By Kay Kudukis The Desert Sun

If you’re out in the Coachella Valley and you happen to run across a nun in whiteface, do not be alarmed.

These are the Palm Springs members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an “order” conceived in San Francisco in the 1980s. It has since expanded nationally to 45 chapters in 25 states. Worldwide, the organization has grown to include multiple chapters in Canada, Australia, Colombia, France, Germany, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.

Back in the ’80s, young, otherwise healthy gay men were dying from a disease for which there was no cure. AIDS was the biggest medical scare of the 20th century and, according to Gallup, by 1986 44% of Americans said that they or someone they knew “avoided places where homosexuals might be present as a precaution to avoid contracting AIDS.”

The sisters began as a way to offer assistance to those who had contracted HIV or were dying from AIDS — and to educate the uninfected on how to protect themselves.

“The original reason for the whiteface goes back to San Francisco,” says Craig Dunham, aka Brother T GingerBear. “The sisters wanted to be able to go out on a Friday night to the Castro and minister at the bars and talk about safe sex and offer condoms and talk to the guys in the bars about safer sex practices to try to slow down some of the spread of AIDS. But then they wanted to be able to go out on Saturday as themselves and have fun and not have the people go ‘oh yeah, you’re Sister So-and-So.’ It was sort of a camouflage.

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