hen children arrived for Drag Queen Storytime at the Freed-Montrose Library on October 27, they were greeted by hateful protesters who held signs saying things like “This library perverts children” and “Homo sex is a sin.”
Thanks to a new group called the Space City Sisters, those children and their parents simultaneously received a much warmer welcome to the library—from drag-queen “nuns” with painted white faces, along with other
“[The Space City Sisters] were a positive presence among all of the tension that has been surrounding Drag Queen Storytime. Most importantly, kids and their families felt safe because the Space City Sisters were looking out for them.”
“We wanted to make sure that kids could get inside of the building without being scared,” says Leah Jorgensen, co-founder of the Space City Sisters. “We thought that if they saw some friendly faces, they’d feel more comfortable attending the program.”
The Drag Queen Storytime event was one of several acts of kindness performed by the Space City Sisters since the group’s launch in August. The Sisters serve Houston’s queer community through fundraising,
promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, and volunteering. They have collected donations for PWA Holiday Charities, visited bars to raise awareness about sexual health, and participated in Houston’s second annual LGBTQ Latin Pride festival.
“Parts of the LGBTQ community are hurting,” says Jorgensen, a cisgender woman who identifies as bisexual. “The Space City Sisters were established to do something about it.”
In December, the group’s efforts were rewarded, when the Space City Sisters became the first-ever Houston mission of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI). The SPI is the leading order of drag queen nuns worldwide, dedicated to promulgating universal joy and expiating stigmatic guilt.
“We are so grateful that our hard work finally paid off,” Jorgensen says. “In the same breath, we are now realizing how much we have left to do. Now that we are affiliated with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the real work begins.”
While the Space City Sisters’ presence is new to Houston, drag-queen nuns working to strengthen LGBTQ communities date back to 1979, when three queer men walked through the streets of San Francisco’s Castro District to challenge bystanders’ perceptions of gender and sexuality.
The San Francisco group became known as the SPI, which today has 46 branches in the U.S., including houses in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. Now, the Space City Sisters are Texas’ fourth SPI group.
The Space City Sisters completed an SPI application, which required the group to compile a list of its monthly meetings, volunteer projects, beneficiaries, and photos, and submit the files to the United Nuns Privy Council (UNPC). The council, made up of senior nuns who set standards for and mentor new nuns, decided that the Houston group was fit to become an SPI mission on December 17.
Sister Faegala Tina Pfischzoot and Sister Unity, SPI group coaches who serve on the UNPC, guided the Space City Sisters through the application process.
“Since they first contacted us, Houston has hit the ground running,” Unity says. “We can tell that the Sisters have much commitment and enthusiasm for what we practice, which is to reach communities through various types of activism.”
“We believe that we can inspire everyone to work side-by-side toward equality.”
The UNPC works with prospective groups to ensure that they have an understanding of SPI’s history of activism.
SPI missions and houses should be reflections of their environments, so each group can be unique with its own habit styles, cultures, and rules, Unity says.
Jorgensen says the Space City Sisters welcome members of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and religions. The group’s only requirements are that members be at least 18 years old and identify as LGBTQ or allies.
The Space City Sisters’ founders and current members are Sister Candice Bee Love, Sister Sneakin’ ‘Da Bone, Sister Sister Gin Tervention, Sister Kitty Lickentwat, and Sister Jeff. As an SPI recognized mission, the group’s founders now get to call themselves SPI novice sisters—new members of the organization who are closely monitored by the UNPC.
“Our group is made up of very diverse people,” says Jorgensen, whose alter ego is Sister Candice Bee Love. “The Space City Sisters are pups, drag queens, into leather, and are gay, bi, and trans. Our different involvements in the LGBTQ community help us to recognize where we are needed.”
The Space City Sisters have four aspirants who are working to become members of the organization. Before joining, aspirants must get to know the group and its mission by attending monthly meetings and events over a period of two to three months.
The next Space City Sisters membership meeting will be January 10.
Jorgensen, who works as a drag performer named Lily Von Tease, first learned about the Houston Public Library’s Drag Queen Storytime in June when organizers Trent Lira and Devin Will asked her to read to a group of children for Pride Month.
Drag Queen Storytime went unnoticed by right-wing conservatives until KHOU-TV highlighted the events during a July 9 segment that featured Houston drag queen Blackberri at the Heights library branch.
Anti-LGBTQ activists urged the City to ban the program, even filing a lawsuit against mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Public Library director. Protesters, who spew fear-mongering lies about LGBTQ people, now stand outside of the Freed-Montrose branch each time the library hosts the monthly Drag Queen Storytime.
Jorgensen felt the Space City Sisters could make families feel more welcome at the library, in spite of protesters. The group invited LGBTQ advocates to stand outside the library and welcome families to the October edition of Drag Queen Storytime. Dozens of supporters showed up to the library wearing rainbow colors and holding Pride flags, leaving the anti-LGBTQ protesters outnumbered.
“We were honored to have the support of the Space City Sisters and our community,” Will says. “They were a positive presence among all of the tension that has been surrounding Drag Queen Storytime. Most importantly, kids and their families felt safe because the Space City Sisters were looking out for them.”
Jorgensen hopes that the Space City Sisters will continue to bring Houston’s queer community together to make a difference.
“Our city’s LGBTQ circles can be very cliquish,” Jorgensen says. “The Space City Sisters want to blur those lines, because we are all fighting for the same rights. We believe that we can inspire everyone to work side-by-side toward equality.”
The Space City Sisters will host a community coming out party at Ripcord on January 18.
For more info about the Space City Sisters, visit facebook.com/SpaceCitySisters.
This article appears in the January 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.