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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pioneering Queer Activist Jack Fertig, aka Sister Boom Boom, Dies at 57

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 11:00 AM

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Jack Fertig, aka Sister Boom Boom, well-known in San Francisco as an early AIDS activist and pioneer of queer rights and awareness, died Sunday night at age 57 after a battle with liver cancer. Sister Boom Boom was Fertig's famous drag nun persona who brought queer consciousness into the mainstream in the 1980s.

Her full name, Sister Rose of the Bloody Stains of the Sacred Robes of Jesus, unquestionably demanded a truncated nickname. From 1980 through 1985, Sister Boom Boom was active with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an LGBT activist organization that combines drag with religious imagery for satirical street performance and protests.

In 1982, Fertig ran as Sister Boom Boom for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, with her occupation listed as "Nun of the Above." The uniquely San Francisco campaign utilized satire and humor to bring to light issues that were being largely ignored in the community. Vying for just five seats, Sister Boom Boom placed eighth in the race with 23,124 votes. The next year, Fertig ran for mayor against incumbent Dianne Feinstein, again under the pseudonym and drag persona. This prompted San Francisco to pass a law, commonly referred to as the "Sister Boom Boom Law," that candidates are required to use their legal names on the ballot.

click to enlarge Boom Boom against the red wall, 1984 - J.B. CARHAIX
  • J.B. Carhaix
  • Boom Boom against the red wall, 1984

Throughout his life, Fertig advocated for the underrepresented masses with a humor and fervor that is integral to the fabric of our culture in San Francisco. He -- and Sister Boom Boom -- will be fondly remembered and sorely missed in the community.

Fertig retired Sister Boom Boom in 1985, and then joined a sobriety program. He remained a respected advocate and activist not only in the queer community, but also for the poor, immigrant, and sober communities. In 2003, he converted to Islam and worked as an astrologer until his death on August 5. He was a Pisces.

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Dana Sitar

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