A reminder that all rights are human rights

Last week was International Women’s Day, which I had meant to write about, but frankly became distracted and forgot. I’m not a woman, of course, but my feeling is that pioneers of human rights — women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights for African-Americans — should be part of our consciousness, if we expect the populace to treat our cause with respect. (I’m often frustrated by those who deny that gay rights are the equivalent of rights for women or blacks. “They don’t choose to be black/women,” indicating an entirely appalling misunderstanding of the nature of sexual orientation.)

Then I saw this on Facebook: A link to a story in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper about a Twitter thread showed the depth of inequality out there (as well as many people who are satisfied with ignorance, with characterizing the “new freedom” as a right to be a bigot — I’m looking at you, Piers Morgan!). (“What gives you the right to criticize anyone, you dumb queer?” is a message I have gotten many times after posting a review. I think, “At least every criticism I’ve ever posted of someone had my name attached; your hate mail is always unsigned.”)

Just yesterday, Phyllis Schlafly was on NPR stating categorically that feminists hate men and always have. Well, I’m a feminist, and I love men. Feminism isn’t a movement, it’s a belief in the equal rights of all people. Feminism is humanism.

Anyway, here’s the link to the Guardian story. Read it. And think about what it means that 40 years after the ERA NOW slogan, we all still have a very long way to go. (In other news, Mad Men starts up next month. Can’t wait.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A Brief History of the Sisterhood

RETURN TO COVER STORY

• 1979: On Easter weekend three men in nun habits walk through San Francisco’s Castro District to protest problems in the gay community. Other manifestations take place later that year at a softball game, a nude beach and the annual Castro Street Fair. During the Labor Day weekend, the men attend the first International Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries in Arizona.

• 1980: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is officially formed and a Sister named Hysterectoria designs the first official habits, which are modeled after those worn by 14th century Belgian nuns. Engagement in more general social activism — such as the Three Mile Island protests — begins. The Sisters also begin campaigns to stop fundamentalist Christians from preaching anti-gay rhetoric in the Castro. In October, they hold their first benefit and net $1,500 to help gay Cuban refugees.

• 1981: The first international order of SPI is established in Sydney, Australia. In San Francisco, the Sisters organize the first-ever AIDS fundraiser, the Castro Dog Show.

• 1982: As a response to the AIDS crisis, Sisters Florence Nightmare and Roz Erection (who also happen to be nurses), help put together Play Fair!, a safer sex advice pamphlet that uses sex-positive language, and which the SPI distribute in the Castro community (that pamphlet is revised in 1999 as part of the SPI 20-year anniversary celebration).

• 1983: The Sisters hold the first AIDS candlelight vigil.

• 1984: After holding an exorcism of Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, the SPI are “disinvited” to the Republican National Convention in Dallas. They come to Texas anyway and perform a second exorcism of Falwell — and one for conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly — in Dealey Plaza.

• 1987: During a papal visit to San Francisco, the Sisters hold a mock exorcism of Pope John Paul II. For their efforts, they are placed on the Vatican’s Papal List of Heretics.

• 1994: The Sisters attend the Stonewall 25th anniversary celebration in NYC and lead the Drag March from Alphabet City to the Stonewall Inn.

• 1996: With more than 20 convents worldwide, the SPI are now a global force. They honor the loss of more than 30 sisters to AIDS (called Nuns of the Above) by creating four 24-foot-by-24-foot panels for Names Project Quilt, which they bring to Washington, D.C.

• 1999: The SPI celebrate their 20th anniversary with an International Conclave of Nuns and an exhibit entitled “A Consistory Conspiracy: Changing the Face of Activism.”

• 2000: During San Francisco Pride, the Sisters show support for the Californians for Same-Sex Marriage movement. They also hold another mock exorcism, this time of conservative talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

• 2001: In the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks, the Sisters hold a candlelight vigil to remember the gays and lesbians lost in the attacks.

• 2003: In a banner year for SPI fundraising, sisterly efforts bring in more than $100,000, with 80 percent returning to the community.

• 2008: The SPI are featured in Queer and Catholic, a book of collected essays, short stories and poems about LGBT life and Catholicism.

• 2009: The Sisters mark their 30th anniversary with “Nun World Order” celebrations in San Francisco’s Dolores Park.

—  John Wright