Sex-positive candidate withdraws amid online controversy

trish

A Vision Vancouver frontrunner for park board has resigned her candidacy over old video footage recently released online. A humorous, although potentially eyebrow-raising monologue shot in 2006 featuring a fully-clothed Trish Kelly describing her enthusiasm for masturbation garnered considerable attention on various social media sites after being posted Monday (July 14) on VanRamblings.com, a civic affairs website run by self-described “park board watcher” Raymond Tomlin.

Kelly announced her withdrawal from the election race three days later.

“After 25 years of serving my community, I put my name forward as a park board nominee to move my life as a community activist fighting for social justice issues, to claiming a seat at the decision-making table,” Kelly said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, my work in theatre and as a sex-positive activist is being sensationalized — and will clearly continue to be — distracting from my efforts in the community and in the election campaign.”

Kelly, a natural food company worker of Métis and Ukrainian descent, earned 1,162 out of 1,650 possible votes at Vision Vancouver’s June 22 nomination meeting, the most of any candidate.

She declined a Courier request for an interview via email.

“I’m trying to get a whole day of work in today and I am very upset to boot, so it’s a hard day,” she wrote. “I’d like to take some time to do some self-care, but after would be up for having a longer discussion about the issues that have been raised — ie how women are represented in the media and public life, as well as how women who exhibit sexual agency are punished for it, even in Vancouver.”

Vision Vancouver co-chair Maria Dobrinskaya described the two-minute video as “fairly tame” and that the mutal decision to withdraw her candidacy was arrived at with reluctance.

“We are four months out from the election and some of the things she is already encountering, the video being the most overt among them, but there have been other whispers and other things going on, and she came to the realization this is going to be a big distraction in November,” Dobrinskaya told the Courier.

Kelly also co-edited and contributed a graphic short story to With A Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn, an anthology of lesbian erotica published by Arsenal Press in 2005.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of her work and I think this is more about the kind of politics going on in Vancouver right now,” said Dobrinskaya. “She also didn’t run to talk about this issue, she ran to talk about accessibility to green space and community centres but because of our cultural interest in these seemingly taboo subjects, there was concern on both her part and the behalf of the party that that would become the dominant discussion during the campaign rather than important issues that are facing Vancouver.”

Tomlin said he has nothing personal against Kelly and, in fact, was even considering offering her his endorsement.

“I was not attempting to slut-shame her,” said Tomlin. “The video was out there, it was going to come out and I thought, if it is going to come out, it had better come out with a perspective that is supportive of her. I thought that was what I was doing. Unfortunately, that is not the reception that it got. I honestly didn’t perceive this would have the blowback it did and the impact it seems to have has on Ms. Kelly.”

He said he regrets her decision to bow out.

“I don’t think she withdrew voluntarily but rather was forced out by Vision Vancouver. I think there was every good reason for her to remain as a candidate and I think it is regrettable that they made the decision that they did to cut her loose.”

Tomlin was the only person who isn’t a member of an accredited media outlet invited to a July 14 briefing with Kirk LaPointe before the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral candidate formally announced  he was running for office. The following day, he wrote a post describing LaPointe as “Vancouver’s next mayor” and “a man of wit and intelligence who is possessed of warmth, charm and élan,” but denies trying to do any dirty work on the NPA’s behalf through his blog.

“It’s not that I have anything against Mr. Robertson but I do not wish to see Vision re-elected to a third majority,” he said. “In terms of my alleged or supposed support for Kirk, it’s hyperbole and silliness and meant to be amusing rather than an endorsement.”

Dobrinskaya said she isn’t sure what the party will do in terms of replacing Kelly.

“The board has the power to appoint another candidate given that we already had a very robust nomination process,” she said. “We are going to look at the fifth place contender, Graham Anderson, as well the logistics around other possible options. I know there a lot of people disappointed she won’t be on the ballot.”

The election is Nov. 15.

© 2015 Vancouver Courier
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