Contributed by: Katie Lewellyn
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is an order of Queer Nuns in San Francisco whose goal is to help the community, promote human rights and spiritual enlightenment. The Sisters believe that “all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and use humor and irrelevant wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.”
My fellow journalist friend, Katie Lewellyn, approached me with doing a story on the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. We decided that we wanted to meet the people behind the faces. Here is the first installment of Behind the Face of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Meet Mark Ruissi
Mark Ruissi, also known as Mary Ralph PH, Proper Nun, has been a member of the Sisters for seven years. Ruissi was “in process” which is the Sisters way of initiation for two years before becoming a full fledge Proper Nun.
During Ruissi’s process he found the hardest part of becoming a Sister was the drag part. Ruissi had never dabbled in the art of drag and putting on false eyelashes and walking around in high heels was all new to him. He also had the emotional challenge of wearing women clothes and makeup in public. Today Ruissi finds it easier to put on his make-up, stating that he is a pro at applying false lashes, but decided to leave the heel wearing to the professionals.
Currently Ruissi is the Dean of Education at the Ministry Program for the Sisters, as well as the archive mistress. Ruissi main duties with the Sisters is to file, record organizations and do educational training with the new Sisters entering. Ruissi also prides himself at being a serious fundraiser for the Sisters. Ruissi has personally raised money for fellow Sisters that were experiencing legal troubles and needed help financially, as well as, raising thousands of dollars for scholarships provided by the Sisters.
Ruissi takes being a Sister as a professional job, even if it doesn’t pay his rent. He tries to make all the new Sisters he teaches understand this concept because being a Sister isn’t like any other community service project. His biggest message to the new initiates is “don’t do this unless you mean it,” because being a Sister is a lot of work but the benefits, in Ruissi’s eyes are worth it.
When asked what he believes the main goal of the Sister’s of Perpetual Indulgence was all about, Ruissi replied with “creating a supportive community.” Ruissi said that the Sisters were the knights in shining armor back in 1978 after Harvey Milk was shot. He said that the queer community was devastated and homosexuals were “undesirable.” Through the violence and despair, the Sisters rose and really brought the community together by being supportive and “cheeky.”
For Ruissi the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is his Elk Club, a club that he loves to be apart of and doesn’t see himself leaving any time soon.