Baseball team LA Dodgers spark backlash after uninviting drag act from Pride event

A member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, wearing an extravagant nun-style costume, glitter beard, and white face paint.

Los Angeles baseball team LA Dodgers has been widely criticised for its decision to remove a historically pro-LGBTQ+ group from its upcoming Pride event.

Officials announced that the team had decided to drop the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from its 16 June Pride Night event after they said the group’s inclusion has been “the source of some controversy”.

A Dodgers statement read: “Given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we decided to remove them from this year’s group of honourees.”

The veteran LGBTQ+ group is a drag street performance troupe founded in 1979 that mixes religious and camp imagery to draw attention to societal injustices towards LGBTQ+ people.

The group originally began dressing as drag nuns in the streets of San Francisco as a way to highlight the growing social conflicts in the Castro district but quickly became a nationwide phenomenon for members of the LGBTQ+ community amid the rise of activism in the 80s.

Group members, who call themselves sisters, often attend local events to spread queer positivity and to continue their long-standing support for LGBTQ+ activism.

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Trouble started brewing for the Dodgers and Major League Baseball (MLB) after Florida senator Marco Rubio said that the sisters’ involvement in the event meant that the team wasn’t inclusive to Christians.

In a statement on 15 May, he said: “I write to ask whether your league wants to be ‘inclusive and welcoming’ to Christians, and, if so, why you are allowing an MLB team to honour a group that mocks Christians through diabolical parodies of our faith.”

Drag queens, activists and pro-LGBTQ+ institutions criticised the decision to give into pressure from Republican Rubio at a time when anti-drag sentiment is sharply on the rise.

Veteran drag queen and prominent member of the group, Sister Roma, said it was disappointing to see the team “cave to conservative pseudo-Christian homophobes”.

She added: “This weaponising of religion is exactly what the [Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence] have been protesting [against] for decades.”

Former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Aquaria said the announcement was “such a disappointment,” while others argued it was “rainbow capitalism in a nutshell”.

One person wrote on social media: “The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – with chapters worldwide – have fund-raised millions of dollars over the past 30+ years for the homeless in the LGBT community, HIV/Aids research and care, and youth organisations. This is shameful.”

Another said: “The only group of people whose adult leadership watched other kids bully me to the point I wanted to kill myself for being gay was the Catholic Church. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who raise millions in life-saving money, are not the problem – religion is.”