Summery: In a small country town where residents struggle to meet their basic education, health and community needs, a band of drag queen nuns committed to community service, promoting joy and ridding their community of guilt are changing lives. Queer Habits is an ongoing documentary project following the Russian River chapter of the Sister of Perpetual Indulgence and those whose lives they’ve changed.
The project will examine an unlikely alliance between the drag queen nuns and a working class community they serve today - a community once rife with homophobia and racism. The Sisters battle bigotry with style and a sense of humor. They won over self-identified rednecks when they saved the local senior center from shutting down and they throw a very naughty monthly bingo game that has since raised over a million dollars for the community. The conditions- a shared value of freedom to be oneself and economic reliance on each other- that ultimately bridge political and lifestyle gaps in this ideologically diverse, financially struggling small town. The project will delve deeply into the lives of this counterculture cast of misfits, and explore a spiritual enlightenment based in self-love and tolerance that these outsider Sisters seek and preach.
Today, even as marriage equality becomes law and transgender rights and visibility reaches new heights, transgender women are targeted and murdered. Homophobia finds a place in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election as Republican primary candidate Ted Cruz, a leader in the polls, has spoken widely against same-sex marriage. My focus on the Sisters’ work in one small American town not only reveals that discrimination is still real and that political polarization based on extreme ideology has hurt our economy- but how these themes plaguing our nation can be overcome by acts of kindness, community engagement, and a naughty bingo game. And with the Christian right riled up in anticipation that the pendulum may swing back towards bigotry in the nation’s next presidential election, stories like the Sisters’ teach us the importance of tolerance and how to effectively battle bigotry.