Let There Be Slight

San Francisco Church Bans Drag Queens

Under new leadership, the Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro district of San Francisco is saying “Halt Mary, giving face” now that drag queens are no longer welcome in in the loving house of Christ.

Gay recovery group the Castro Country Club has held its annual Harvest Feast fundraiser at Most Holy Redeemer for the past two years, so they were stunned to learn from new pastor, Rev. Brian Costello, that the church had recently adopted a no-drag-queen policy.

Dignity San Francisco’s treasurer Ernest L. Camisa called the move “not Christian but callous.”

“In previous years, we have had Ivy Drip and Heklina,” the board of the Castro Country Club said in a statement, “both well-known entertainers and community fundraisers, serve as emcees of the event, and we felt we could not in good conscience abide by the church’s new policy.” The board is currently seeking a new venue to host the Harvest Festival.

This change, it seems, can be traced back to the new archdioceses, whom Costello claims, “told me straight out, ‘No drag queens.’”

“What constitutes drag?” asked Zachary Davenport, aka Laybelline (maybe she’s born with it…probably not) in an interview with The Bay Area Reporter. “If we want to get funny, let’s talk about the priests. Hello,” he quipped, before adding, “There are members of our community who express their gender all the time, and are not necessarily performing, but would say, ‘Yes, I am in drag.’”

Davenport also criticized the church for going against the Castro’s long history of being a safe place for the LGBT community. “I know gay people who go to Most Holy Redeemer and love the church,” he said. But according to Joe Murray, founder of Chicago’s pro-LBGT Catholic Rainbow Sash Movement, this is not the first instance where homophobia has raised its ugly head in the Most Holy Redeemer.

Costello had attempted to bridge a compromise with the Castro Country Club, offering the church for their fundraiser as long as no drag queens were allowed on church property. “I am big on compromising,” he said. But “[Castro Country Club] would not work with me. It was all or nothing. And they got nothing.”

The pastor also cites some “bad experiences” the church has had in the past, most likely referring to an incident in 2007 when communion was given to two drag queens dressed as nuns from the activist group, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Following a public brouhaha, the archbishop at the time had to apologize for the incident.

“Either gay and lesbian people are welcome at Most Holy Redeemer or they are not,” Murray told The Bay Area Reporter. “It’s that simple. If the tradition of Most Holy Redeemer is to allow for drag queens to raise money for charity, then to fault those who are raising the money in the name of homophobia, I think, speaks volumes to what type of ministry is going on at Most Holy Redeemer; and that deeply disturbs me. If that is the case, I, like the parishioners of Most Holy Redeemer, have been misled.”

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  • the other Greg

    It’s simple – can’t have drag queens there because the civilians will confuse them with clergy.

    And I always like that name, Most Holy Redeemer church. Maybe there’s a Second-Most Holy Redeemer church they can go to, kind of like the Second National Bank?

  • hf2hvit

    Pretty ironic since Jesus and his ilk ran around in dresses and loincloths that looked like dirty panties.

  • Charley

    Gays and Catholics don’t mix. Oil and water.

  • Daez

    Ummm… It is a Catholic Church. Any gay person going there should be bitch slapped. This should not, even remotely, come as a shock. The Vatican still makes all the rules for this actual congregation, and the Vatican has been very busy lately cracking down on all semblance of progressiveness in the Catholic Church in America.

    I’m sure there are other, much nicer venues, and most of them are probably truly gay friendly and led by gay friendly leadership. Its San Fransisco after all. Hell, there are probably even more truly gay friendly churches.

  • Daez

    @hf2hvit: Don’t forget…

    Jesus saved a young man from dieing and that young man’s only request was to spend a night with Jesus. That young man then came to Jesus wrapped only in a bed sheet, and the scripture gets very vague about what happens next unless you read the Apostolic (or whatever) gospels that clearly define that Jesus banged the young man.

  • Larkin

    Religion is hate.

  • B

    Regarding ‘The pastor also cites some “bad experiences” the church has had in the past, most likely referring to an incident in 2007 when communion was given to two drag queens dressed as nuns from the activist group, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Following a public brouhaha, the archbishop at the time had to apologize for the incident.’

    Some more details – I ran into one of the sisters who was at that service (recognized the name tag given the articles in the newspaper about it) and found out that this person was (a) a Republican and (b) a devout Catholic. It was on the same day as the annual Castro Street Fair and the Sisters were going to gather donations from people entering the fair, and there wasn’t time for these two to go home and get dressed after the church service ended, so they showed up dressed for work.

    Other “bad experiences” include conservative Catholics keeping track off every event that went on at this church and squawking against it whenever anything they could find a reason to object to went on. They had to cancel some invited speakers, one of whom was a gay theologian (don’t remember who) due to people from out of town raising a big stink.

    Obviously the new guy in charge and/or the new archbishop figures the chance of a promotion is higher if they don’t allow anything that would “make waves”. Reigning in what some think is a renegade church would obviously be a feather in the archbishop’s cap and would help him get promoted to cardinal, and maybe a transfer to Rome where he could hobnob with Herr Ratzinger (unfortunately spelled with one ‘t’).

  • J Stratford

    Their clamping down! IT was just a matter of time. Really

  • Jack

    What are drag queens going to do when everyone accepts them? Seriously, they’re just attention-seeking losers who thrive on telling people to fuck off, accept them, blah blah blah. People would accept them if they weren’t such attention seekers.

  • mrlbumiller


    MHR Parish, located at 100 Diamond Street (at 18th Street) has existed as the Roman Catholic religious center of the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco since 1900. Located just 2 blocks from the heart of the historic Castro district, the parish reflects the diversity and excitement of the surrounding neighborhood. MHR is an inclusive Catholic community — embracing all people of good faith — Catholics as well as those people interested in learning about the Catholic experience — regardless of their background, gender, race, social status, gender identity or sexual orientation.

    Mission Statement:

    Most Holy Redeemer Parish is a Christian Community in the Roman Catholic tradition. The parish draws people from isolation to community, from searching to awakening, from indifference to concern, from selfishness to meaningful service, from fear in the midst of adversity to faith and hope in God.

    The community of Most Holy Redeemer shares God’s compassionate love with all people. The parish offers a spiritual home to all: senior citizens and youth; single people and families; the healthy and the sick, particularly persons with HIV disease; regardless of their background, gender, race, social status, gender identity or sexual orientation.

    As a parish community, we celebrate God’s loving presence in our lives. In worship and sacrament, especially the Eucharist, we are nurtured and challenged to extend God’s kingdom of justice, truth, love and peace by growing in the spirit of Jesus, the Most Holy Redeemer.

    Guess they need to re-write it.

  • hf2hvit

    @Jack: Kind of like Sarah Palin, huh?

  • Will L

    I think it depends on the circumstances. If you are renting or using the facilities for a fund-raiser and no religious services are involves, drag should be okay. If you are attending services (and receiving communion) there should be no drag (especially dressed as a nun). Drag is show business and has no place in church during services. Sincere cross-dressers are a different matter and should be allowed during services. Being in showgirl drag during services is disrespectful.

  • Jon

    The problem – as usual – is religion. It’s what is holding back civil rights as it has done for millenia.

    Let the apologetics commence.

  • stevenj

    The Catholic Church also evicted Dignity from church property years ago. Why gay people would even want to affiliate with this religion is beyond me. But then there are gay people who remain Republicans. Re: the drag fiasco. It’s men in dresses banning men in dresses. Jack…get over yourself.

  • Anonymous Coward

    It would be entirely appropriate for the church to ask the non-clergy people to refrain from dressing in clergy costume. It might even be appropriate to ask someone to leave, if they are dressed as clergy and acting as clergy, but known not to be clergy.

    But, of course, other forms of drag can be both fun and therapeutic. And, drag show events can raise significant money for good causes.

    For grown men who prance around in clergy costumes (that include floor-length dresses, lace, embroidery, and numerous colors) to criticize other people for wearing dresses, lace, embroidery, and colors … just seems wrong.

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