'Mister Sister' Controversy Leads to Pride Center of Vermont Resignations | Off Message
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

'Mister Sister' Controversy Leads to Pride Center of Vermont Resignations

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 1:55 PM

click to enlarge Oak45 - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Oak45
Two Pride Center of Vermont board members have resigned amid growing uproar over the proposed Mister Sister gay bar in Winooski.

The board members, Bailey Cummings and Timber Adamson, told Seven Days Tuesday that they wanted the Pride Center to issue a statement criticizing the name of the bar, which they view as an insult to trans women.

Instead, the board's executive committee decided to hold a town meeting-style forum on trans issues Thursday and get more feedback from the community. The resigning board members saw that as a cop-out.

"Basically the name of this bar is a transmisogynistic slur," Cummings said. "And I feel strongly as community leaders that the Pride Center is responsible for standing up for our trans community members, and coming out against a slur."

Adamson cited similar reasons for quitting the board of the gay rights group.

"I can't continue to support an organization that doesn't feel the need to stand up and make a statement in regards to a transphobic slur in our community," Adamson said.

The resignations came after the executive committee of the board met Monday night. Members considered three possible statements but ultimately decided to get more input before taking a public position, said Paul Sisson, co-chair of the board.

He expressed dismay about the two resignations, which drop the board from nine to seven people. He noted the board is composed of volunteers.

"We're doing the best we can to manage a crisis situation we kind of got thrust into on Sunday," Sisson said. "I think the whole thing is unfortunate."

The Pride Center has long been supportive of the trans community, Sisson said, adding: "I'm disappointed that we lost two valued board members as a result of this situation."

The Pride Center issued a statement on the Mister Sister issue later Tuesday.

click to enlarge oak_1200x627_1_.jpg
Meanwhile, the owner of the proposed bar, Craig McGaughan, continued to defend the Mister Sister name. He's a gay man, and some critics of the name have said he is being insensitive to other members of the LGBTQ community.

He plans to close his wine bar Oak45 after Tuesday and reopen the new bar in the same space on Main Street March 10.

He issued a statement late Monday night indicating he will stick with the name. Tuesday morning, in a brief online exchange with Seven Days, he declined to comment further.

The name is anything but a slur, McGaughan said in the statement.

"Like all names, Mister Sister will have different associations, interpretations and will be perceived differently by individuals. My interpretation of Mister Sister is one of inclusiveness. It is a term that has been used among gays and Drag Queens for decades intended to be positively gender-bending. Mister Sister is for the misters and the sisters, those that identify as both and everyone in between."

The statement continued: "The official description of Mister Sister is 'a gay bar for him, her and them.' I have been very intentional in using a pronoun that isn't specifically male or female as a way to include anyone that identifies as part of the LGBTQ community."

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Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh is a Seven Days staff writer.

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