Defiance Royale: Abbess of the Capitol City Sisters
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence attend local events and promote queer visibility—we talked with Abbess Defiance Royale about the Sacramento order.
If you’ve ever been to an LGBT-related event in Sacramento, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of the Capitol City Sisters. Donning religious-inspired garb, heavy white makeup and glamorous glitter beards, they have a tendency to turn heads. More than just dragged-up nuns though, the Sisters are a nonprofit organization that seeks to spread love, communicate safe-sex practices and promote queer visibility. They are one of many houses stemming from the San Francisco-based Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the original queer order of nuns founded in 1979. While a couple of attempts were made to form a chapter in Sacramento, it wasn’t until 2013 that a fully professed house took off. Initially founded by five members, it’s gone through some flux, but community interest and membership has started to grow. With the purpose of building up the community around them, the Sisters have raised money for several locally based institutions, including the Lavender Library, Sunburst Projects and the River City Food Bank. SN&R chatted with Abbess Defiance Royale, one of the founding members and the director of the nonprofit group, to learn more about the Sisters and their role in the community.
What is the mission of the Sisters?To promulgate joy and expiate stigmatic guilt. We commit ourselves to public service, loyalty and devotion to our house, our sisters, to the Order as a whole and to the community that we serve. It’s fun to glam up and throw jewels and makeup and crazy costumes on and go out there and have a good time, but that’s not the point. The point is that we are out there to communicate a message: If we can do all this craziness and manifest—when we put on the face and go out into the community, we call that “manifesting”—if we can put all this on and put ourselves out there in the community like that, then you can be whatever you are. You can manifest your real and true self out there in the community without shame, without guilt and without reservation.
Why did you decide to be a Sister?
I was really frustrated by the [LGBT] community in Sacramento because it was very, very segregated … I wanted to do something. I wanted to be involved in the Sacramento community somewhere, but I couldn’t find a place where I fit. I’m not a leather person. Physically, I’m kind of a bear but I just didn’t want to hang out at the Bolt every night; there’s more to life than that. I’m not a drag queen, I’m never gonna fit in with the [Imperial] Court, but I can as a sister. I can do all of those things as Sister Defiance Royale. It created a venue for me to be able to interact with everybody … At the same time, it gave us as a group the opportunity to reach out to these groups to build a little bit more community and participate in each other’s events.
What’s the origin of your name?
I was talking to somebody at work one day, and purple is my favorite color, and we were talking about purple, and she was like, “Yeah, that’s the color of defiance! The color of royalty,” and this and that, naming off different attributes of the color purple and I thought, huh, “Defiance Royale.” That name just sort of came.
What types of events do the Sisters put on?
We recently started what we’re calling “Sister Social.” It’s geared toward the working professional. That’s sort of the target audience. People that work at the Capitol, the state workers, the professional crowd. They may not want to go hang out at the bar, but if you put on a cocktail party they’ll come. … It’s a social thing, and it’s also a fundraiser for a designated charity. … Another event that we’ve done every year is a summertime event called “Chunky Dunk.” We rent out one of the city pools for the night and we host our own private party. It’s intended to be a body positive event where, regardless of who you are and what you look like, you can come out to the pool and you can have a good time.
What’s the religious connection about?
The original Sisters took on this persona as a joke to begin with, but they maintained it because of, for lack of a better word, the torture that the Church has promulgated on the LGBT community since forever. Just like a lot of people have reclaimed the word “queer” and made it their own, the Sisters did the same thing with this religious iconography.
What’s most rewarding about being a Sister?
I think it’s the same answer as to why I became a nurse—in my real life I’m a registered nurse. I get to see a difference made in not only the community as a whole because of the work that the Sisters do, but all the way down to the individual. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had somebody come up to me while I was in face and just spill their guts. They need someone to hear them. They need someone to not judge them for whatever it is that’s on their heart, and just to listen and offer some comfort. If I can take that burden off of somebody for a few minutes, and they can feel better and laugh and have a good time with the Sisters and forget about all that baggage that has been weighing on them all week long, then you see that burden lift off these people when they interact with us.