by Andres Felix Romero
Queer activists known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence hosted an action they called a ‘Day of Non-Judgement’ outside the city hall in Ferndale, CA on Jan. 22 in response to the recent cancellation of a drag show fundraiser. The show was canceled by the venue ownerswho were concerned about extremist violence following anti-LGBT signage outside of a local church. The church has a history of using its signs to spread anti-LGBT hate.
The Day of Non-Judgement consisted of sermons, testimonies, and speeches in support of the Humboldt queer community from event goers such as local clergy, parents of queer youth, and Cal Poly Humboldt students and staff. Cal Poly Humboldt professor of psychology Benjamin Graham spoke in remembrance of Camile Nauta, a Humboldt student who recently passed away and was involved in the queer community. Graham also spoke on the significance of having the Day of Non-Judgement in Ferndale.
“It’s a great opportunity for the community to come together and wash over the hate and fear that too many people live their lives in,” Graham said.
Other attendees supported the action by holding signs or flags. Phoenix Gomez held a pride-themed California state flag, and said they felt that there was work to be done due to the threats.
“We should be allowed to have our events. We should be able to have them without being interrupted,” said Gomez. “If there’s hate by any form, there’s always going to be work to be done.”
The Sisters’ Eureka order is also known as the Abbey of the Big Red Wood, and includes members such as Mistress of Scriptures (Secretary) Sister Gaia T of the Revolting Earth.
Sister Gaia T felt action was needed to support the Humboldt queer community.
“The sisters respond to the need of our community. We were told that our community didn’t feel safe in Ferndale,” said Gaia T. “We were told that people wanted something that made them feel welcomed and loved. Part of what the sisters do is the ministry of presence, where just by entering spaces we create safe spaces for everyone around us just by being present.”
The Day of Non-Judgement is an opportunity for the community to come together in a public space and support one another by speaking out against hate, and in support of diversity and acceptance. Sister Mary Magnalaid Me hopes that the action in response to the recent bigotry is an opportunity for change in Humboldt, especially as attitudes vary across the county.
“Humboldt County is a very rural place and each little pocket really has its own flavor and its own local culture,” Magnalaid Me said. “My concerns are that the roots of the watermark of judgment, racism, patriarchy, homophobic, and negative sorts of perspectives, has roots in Ferndale that are in other places in Humboldt and other places in our nation and our world as well. Perhaps they’re visible here. And when things become visible, what we have are opportunities, opportunities to bring the margins together, and opportunities to galvanize people to organize for change.”
This is not the first Day of Non-Judgement the sisters have hosted. Since the Abbey of the Big Red Wood’s debut at Humboldt State University’s 2006 Queer film festival, the sisters have been a part of the local community. They’ve hosted bingos and fundraised for local charities such as Humboldt Domestic Violence Services and Humboldt Breast Health Project, to name a few.
The canceled event was organized by Lost Coast Pride, and was going to be Roaring 20s themed. Already, plans are in the works for more drag events in the area. Shortly after the Day of Non-Judgement on Jan. 22, Rivera mentioned that a few venues had already offered to be a space for the show.
The Day of Non-Judgement ended with the protestors performing their rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” with some, including Graham, providing instrumentals on their own guitar.