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16 photos of ‘nuns’ in stilettos taking China by storm

16 photos of ‘nuns’ in stilettos taking China by storm

Last month, a delegation of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from San Francisco, Paris and Berlin pinched into their stilettos and sauntered onto Chinese soil for the very first time in the Sisterhood’s history.

Their mission: To share a message of love, education and camp with the attendees of Shanghai Pride by hosting a series of panel discussions and debates. Shanghai Pride is the only Pride festival annually returning on main land China, and this year marked six years of celebrating Pride in the Chinese city.

While LGBTI people in China still face considerable legal and social challenges, the Pride celebrations were marked by 10 days of events including:

  • LGBTI-related dicussions
  • Film festivals showing local and international talent
  • Interactive theater productions
  • A Pride Run
  • BBQs and of course lots of hot parties

With 600 members worldwide and dozens of ‘houses’ around the world, activist and this project’s organizer Hans Clerkx told Gay Star News why these eight Sisters were keen to make their Chinese debut this year.

‘The Chinese LGBT movement is still in its early stages. While we in the west have already gone through decades of LGBT emancipation process, our work is yet far from done.

‘People involved with the Chinese LGBTI movement are smart and have made amazing progress since 2002. Their work methods are comparable but also differ from ours.

‘So I wanted to bring eight Sisters from different western countries to China to share their experiences, history and expertise, in the hope that each of these communities together with the Chinese community could learn from each other through a cross-cultural exchange.’

The Sisters were received like overnight celebrities, with swarms of people rushing up to the group to take photos, even though many clearly may not have known who the sisters were.

In addition to the official Shanghai Pride events, the Sisters also took the rest of Shanghai by storm, taking a casual stroll through some of the busiest streets much to many residents’ surprise and happiness.

‘I never expected to see this much joy, motivation and heartfelt exchange of experiences and expertise. We were so well received in China, not only by the LGBTI community but even by people who weren’t even familiar with the LGBT community, or the Sisters for that matter.’

In addition to the main parties of Shanghai Pride, the Sisters also participated in several panel board discussions about LGBTI issues, self-empowerment and HIV/AIDS & Health.

‘We where especially proud and honored to also deliver several proclamations of honor from the US Senate, the California House of Assembly and the City of San Francisco,’ the birthplace of the Sisters.

Check out the photos below, with comments from Sister Roma and Hans Clerkx, to see what the Sisters got up to in Shanghai, and for more adventures in China and beyond, follow Gay Star Travel Facebook and Twitter.


Rumors that the Sisters would be in attendance were confirmed and created quite a media storm! Hong Kong Plaza erupted with cheers as the group makes way to the opening night party, located on the top floor of a high-end shopping mall.


The Sisters take in the amazing crowd while the crowd smiles back and asks for photos. They were treated like rock stars by over 2,000 party goers. Photo by Dirk Baumgartl (Spartacus International Gay Guide).


Sister Roma snaps a selfie in the middle of the Yu Yuan Garden’s teahouses, surrounded by no less than 1,000 curious locals and tourists. It’s good to be the queen!


Hans (left) and Sister Roma (third from left) beam with Pride presenting certificates of honor from the California House of Assembly and the City of San Francisco. As Roma pointed out during the presentation, State Senator Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiamo are both ‘out, loud, and proud’ gay men! The significance of that was not lost on Shanghai Pride’s Charlene Liu and Raymond Phang. Photo by Dirk Baumgartl (Spartacus International Gay Guide).


Ladies’ Night was a real knock out! Sisters Eden, Rose and Roma attended the party at the fabulous Cirque Le Soir. The circus-themed party was bathed in pink light and featured stilt walkers, burlesque dancers, fire eaters and more. Photo by by Monet Allard (Illumonet Productions).


The crowd welcomes the Sisters at Ladies’ night. The lesbians in Shanghai are gorgeous and love their drag queens!


Here the sisters were invited to pose with a new bride and groom, one couple of dozens that we saw both day and night posing for wedding photos around Shanghai. Love is the message and boy, we felt like we got married too, with China! Photo by Fan Popo (Queer Comrades).


As would be expected in a city with 24 million people, the crowds did gather and they were large! Here our friend (and bodyguard for the day) Rob does crowd-control while hundreds snap photos of the Sisters at Shanghai Old Street and tea houses. In the front is Fan Popo, a pioneer and famous Chinese LGBT film maker.


As you can see we were very comfortable visiting the Shanghai landmarks, especially Rose. Photo by Fan Popo (Queer Comrades).


As the crowd gathered taking pictures from a distance a few brave souls would approach to politely ask for a shot together. As soon as we smiled and said ‘yes, of course!’ and opened our arms a flood of people would line up, realizing it was okay! Standing arm-in-arm smiling with people who don’t speak our language was magical.


Everyone in Shanghai was intrigued, including the children. You can always tell when a child is raised with fear versus love. A child taught to marvel at the unexplained or unusual, rather than shrink in fear, is a joy to behold. Photo by Fan Popo (Queer Comrades).


Nuns on the run. Photo by Fan Popo (Queer Comrades).


Sister Eden just arrived at the beautiful Andaz Hotel for her panel discussion on HIV/AIDS & Community Health. That day Sister Roma (along with Sister Vish) hosted another panel on LGBT history. The presentation visited historic moments in the LGBT Civil Rights movement in America with an emphasis on the Sisters’ involvement since their inception in 1979.

It’s important to note that when the organizers of Shanghai Pride originally invited the Sisters to host these panels they thought it would be best if they did it in their secular clothing (not in drag) for concerns of negative response from public and officials.

However, after getting to know the group and seeing the Sisters in acton they changed their minds and asked them to please come in their full habits. Such amazing progress made in just a few shorts days!


Probably the most popular LGBT organization in China is PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). The LGBT movement in China is very young and driven and supported primarily by the younger generation.  Here a group of progressive and supportive mothers pose with Pride. The support of these women and other members of PFLAG is imperative to the success of LGBT rights in China. In other words a golden formula!


To show how much we fell in love with the people here, the Sisters dressed in matching Chinese costumes handmade by a tailor from the Shanghai Pearl market in just four short days. While that in itself may seem remarkable, even more hard to believe is that the Sisters were able to unanimously agree on the fabric! The finished products were beautiful and fit like a glove. In front, hugged by the Pope, Monet Allard, who came with us to film this historic mission for her upcoming documentary Stilettos 4 Shanghai.


Our life’s most memorable Gay Pride to date has come to a close, and I feel a victory. The project’s other goal was to kick Putin’s butt (just a little bit!) right from his backyard. And so, I went up to the rooftop of our hotel, facing our Russian neighbors in their consulate and showed them proudly that GAY is so very O.K.!

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