Vision Vancouver candidate Trish Kelly stepped out of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation race July 17 to protect her party from more attacks based on her sex-positive activism, she tells Xtra.
Kelly withdrew her candidacy after a Vancouver political blog posted an eight-year-old video of her performing a monologue about her sex life as a single person and the art of masturbation.
“It was clear that this was just the beginning of more attacks, pulling out my work piece by piece,” she says. “My body of work and the way it is sensationalized has the possibility of derailing the entire conversation in the lead-up to the election.”
The video, posted July 14 on the blog vanramblings.com, is a monologue from a queer-themed theatre production. It shows Kelly walking through a park, sharing stories of self-love. Three days after the video was posted, Vision sent out a press release saying Kelly would step down.
Vision co-chair Maria Dobrinskaya says the video prompted a discussion with Kelly. “It was only the tip of the iceberg,” she says. “We stand by her work, but we also stand by the goals of Vision Vancouver, and we’re concerned about the future of our city.”
Dobrinskaya says that Vision was concerned that attacks on Kelly would distract from the party’s overall message.
“It wouldn’t even allow for a full discussion in which we could engage on some of these important issues, because the four-second sound-bite or pull-quote would not allow for the discussion she wanted to have,” Dobrinskaya says. “It was a very tough decision, and none of us is very pleased with where it all ended up.”
Dobrinskaya says Vision did not force Kelly to step down. Kelly agrees, saying the decision was “mutual.”
“Vision painted a pretty vivid picture for me of what was going to happen over the next couple of months over the lead-up to the election,” she says. “I don’t want this to be the reason the NPA wins.”
Kelly says she does not know why Vision thought the attacks would continue.
Raymond Tomlin, the blogger who posted the video, says he was blindsided by the reaction. In his original blog post, he praised the video and said he was posting it so that it would not be used as a dirty trick later in the campaign.
“I honestly did not anticipate that there would be this groundswell negative reaction to what initially seemed like a humorous, instructional, educational and necessary video,” he tells Xtra. He says Vision Vancouver should have been prepared to deal with the video when it appeared.
“Why not get this out of the way now, before this becomes an issue in the campaign?” he says. “Come on. It’s 2014.”
Vancouver writer and queer activist Billeh Nickerson agrees that Vision should have stood by Kelly.
“I’m quite disappointed that Vision didn’t stand up to folks who I think were bullying and slut-shaming,” he says. “Why would any woman or gay artist ever want to run in politics if they’re going to be held to a much higher standard?”
“I think it’s about power,” he says. “They got spooked, and they threw her under the bus.”
Kelly says she now wants to turn her attention to how to stop queer and sex-positive politicians from being sunk by their own activism or art.
“If we can have a conversation about sexual agency and address the stigma that’s attached to people being honest about their histories and their desires,” she says, “then I’ll take that as a win.”