(888) 277-4253

Gilbert Baker met with FBI in full drag before 1987 Pope visit

 Gilbert Baker came dressed to impress the FBI in 1987, just before Pope John Paul visited San Francisco.
Photo credit:
William F Wilson

Pride Flag creator Gilbert Baker had a meeting with the FBI in May of 1987 just before the arrival of Pope John Paul II in September of that year, and he looked fabulous.

San Francisco resident and American AIDS activist Michael Petrelis requested an FBI file containing information on the Pride Flag creator back in early June and found the memo a little humorous when he got it because of the detailed description of what Gilbert was wearing during their conversations.

“Sections of the memo about the meeting can be read as a fashion critique!” Petrelis wrote on Facebook.

At that time, Gilbert was planning a peaceful  activism event while the pontiff was visiting San Francisco. The preceding meeting with the feds was to discuss what that movement would entail and concerns about counter protests.

In the report, Gilbert describes himself as a “performance artist” representative of the group The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; his stage name: “Sister Chanel 2001.”

Here is an excerpt from that report which describes how Gilbert came dressed to meet them:

“It should be noted that Mr. Baker was dressed in a black and white nun's habit, however, the attire included a rhinestone cowl, as well as long red tights and patent leather high heel shoes.

The nun's habit was slit on the skirt at very strategic locations. Mr. Baker came to the office accompanied by one other person similarly dressed and provided the interviewing Agents with copies of three documents, which are attached and being made part of this memo.

These include a press release proclaiming that the group is peace-loving and non-violent; a press release denouncing the cost and intent of the Papal visit; and a third press release commenting on the civil law suit which currently involves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.”

Continuing on, Gilbert told the FBI that he had been a part of the group since 1981 with about 50 members who as “gay male nuns are dedicated to promulgate universal joy and expatiate stigmatic guilt.”

The report goes on to say the group would parody the Roman Catholic Church and the pope during his visit, but would not be seeking a “confrontation” with the “militant Catholic advocates” and not take part in civil disobedience.

Gilbert also said he had no intentions of making fun of the FBI.

One of Baker’s biggest concerns were groups of “militant Catholic supporters” who he thought would intercept The Sisters and their aim to poke fun at the papacy.

The report ends with Baker saying he would help the FBI in regards to information about anything that would jeopardize the safety of the Pope or the citizens of San Francisco.  

Grouped in with the files Petrelis received were other documents and flyers relative to the papal visit including a Sister's “Official San Francisco 1987 Papal Welcoming Committee” letter which reads in part:

“We are peace-loving and non-violent. We are not planning a riot or any other act of violence and we don’t know of any other group that is. Although official plans have not been finalized we will keep you informed of anything we hear about such embarrassing things. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us.”

For nearly forty years the Sister of Perpetual Indulgence have given back to the community whether it be through charitable work or outreach.

They advocate for human rights, diversity and spiritual enlightenment with irreverent wit and sarcasm.

Baker created the first Pride flag which has become the universal symbol for the LGBT community.

The activist and artist passed way in March 2017, he was 65.

You can read the full memo and other documents HERE.