Dragging down the hate with the Music City Sisters
Sister Wendy Yugitov grew up in Texas as the son of a preacher. He knew there was more to life than his town had to offer, so he set out and traveled the South looking for inspiration to create the life he wanted to lead. Landing in Nashville in October 2009, he attended his first Nashville Pride Festival in 2010 where he saw two local Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Sister Wright Sarong and Sister Enya Face.
Within weeks Sister Wendy became an Aspirant member of the Music City Sisters and fully professed vows as a black veil Sister in the Summer of 2011. Earlier this year, Sister Wendy was appointed Mistress of Novices for the Music City chapter.
“Having been raised in ‘the church’, I have always felt a deep call to the spiritual aspects of life,” Sister Wendy says of his past. “I first felt it watching a “LOGO: In The Life” special on the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I realized there was an opportunity for ministry that involved all of my favorite things: laughter, camp, and, well, makeup!
“I truly believe we represent the Divine Fool,” he continues, “that aspect that always speaks and shows the truth in a playful manner. You can truly be yourself in the presence of a Sister.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are an order of 21st Century Queer Nuns dedicated eradicating stigmatic guilt and spreading universal joy. They raise money for AIDS charities, fight for queer rights and visibility, and do safer sex outreach without taking themselves so seriously they forget to have fun. Welcoming all races, creeds, genders, and sexual orientations, they challenge gender stereotypes and the oppression of many organized religions, which still refuse to accept those that are part of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer cultures as being equal members of society with a right to their sexuality.
“The Sisters were a beacon of light to me during a dark time of my life,” Sister Wendy says, “and I strive to be the same for others around me. There are so many obstacles in this queer life that can bring a person to the brink of no return, but I believe there is always a light, and a love, that says we are not alone. That light is our community; it is the love we can show for each other."
As Mistress of Novices, Sister Wendy is responsible for all new members to the Nashville order.
“Over the first year or so, I am there to guide and assist their elevation process,” he says. “A new member starts as an Aspirant, literally aspiring to join the ranks of the Sisters. That period lasts for a minimum of two months during which they accompany us on outings in outlandish outfits and observe how we interact with the public.
“The next phase, which lasts at least four months is Postulancy. A Postulant in the order gets to start wearing white face but does not paint her lips. The imagery of having no lips indicates that they do not yet speak for the order...and also means the Postulant does not have to stress out about painting more than her eyes,” he adds with a laugh. “Sister Makeup can be daunting at first.”
The new member gets her white veil at the next step, Novice Sister, and begins a six-month process of personifying what it means to be a Sister. Novice Sisters must perform a service project: anything from administrative work to a huge glittery fundraiser like April’s H8's A DRAG: Love is Bully-Free.
On Friday, April 29, the Music City Sisters hosted H8’s A DRAG: Love Is Bully-Free, a spectacular drag show and fundraiser for the Sisters’ LGBTQI Grant Fund. The event was organized largely by Novice Sister Faegala Tina Phishzoot as a service project as she completes the Novice rank in her elevation process as a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence.
“H8’s A DRAG was a milestone for the Music City Sisters,” Sister Wendy says. “It was the first time we produced an event at PLAY Dance Bar and was probably our biggest undertaking to date. To have drag artists like RAJA, the Princess, Suzy Wong, Chyna, Celeste Holmes, and Summer Knight not only acquiescing to joining us but donating their time free of fees for the event was truly an honor.
“Novice Sister Faegala really has a heart for our GLBT youth,” Sister Wendy adds, “especially those who have no place to go. She wanted to find a way to benefit what she calls ‘children on the edge’. As Faegala's big sister in the order, I encouraged her to reach out to some of the big-named drag queens with whom she is in contact and see if they would be willing to do a fundraising event for us. She did...and they said, ‘Yes!’”
“My passion for reaching out to LGBTQI youth at risk dates back more than 25 years and is rooted in the years I spent as a social worker, bartender and human rights activist in my native San Francisco,” Sister Faegela says when asked about the reason for choosing youth bullying as the focus of her service project. (In accordance with the rules of the order, Sister Wendy served as a liaison between Out & About Newspaper and Sister Faegela, sharing her comments with us.)
“Population growth in the gay community during the turbulent times of the 1980’s brought countless displaced LGBTQI youth to my beloved city, a lot of whom became exploited, addicted, diseased and homeless,” Sister Faegela continues. “Many children befriended me though agencies I worked for or volunteered in or, more frequently, at the places I tended bar. They viewed me as a nurturing ally, a supporter who would fight for them, and someone in whom they could trust.
“Since moving to Tennessee four years ago, I continue to find young questioning individuals reaching out to me. It became instantly clear that my ministry with my Music City Sisters must be with our children who struggle. They deserve to be safe and enjoy all the abundance, health and joy in the world. I believe together we can be a source of light and love for them.”
Sister Faegela says the choice of a drag show as the means for the fundraiser dated back to her San Franciscan days as well.
“Like the LGBTQI youth I have known, drag queens and I are often drawn to each other. I can’t explain it,” she says. “What’s great is that, through organizing H8’s A DRAG, I met many young and aspiring drag personalities and transgendered youth, some of whom are clamoring to participate in our next event.”