Posted on | July 22, 2014 | 82 Comments
Trish Kelly was a candidate for local office on the ticket of the liberal “Vision Vancouver” party. On July 14, local political blogger Raymond Tomlin published a 2006 video Ms. Kelly produced for a website called WayOutWest. In the two-minute video, Ms. Kelly talks about her masturbation habits: “Pretty much I do it every night, after brushing my teeth, but before putting on my jammies.” Ms. Kelly is entirely clothed in the video, during which she describes “the single lifestyle” and an occasion “giving myself the f–k of my life.”
Three days after Tomlin called attention to the video, Kelly dropped out of the race for Vancouver’s Park Board:
“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 stated. “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 popular member of Vancouver’s LGBT community, made a humorous video about masturbation, which was posted on YouTube by political activist Raymond Tomlin. . . .
“I have never hidden from this work,” Kelly said in the news release. “I hold no shame nor regret for the work I have produced. I have dedicated, and will continue to dedicate, much of my life to contributing to my community, to having difficult conversations, and to making myself vulnerable in order to make space for others.”
Wait a minute: Ms. Kelly is a “sex-positive activist,” widely recognized as a “member of Vancouver’s LGBT community,” and yet her solitary habits were the problem? Do people not understand the meaning of “LGBT”? It’s not about marching in parades, y’know.
If her video confession of lonely pleasure — “pretty much . . . every night” — was potentially embarrassing for the Vision Vancouver party, the reaction to her resignation has been memorable.
Yes, that’s right. The only reason Ms. Kelly’s masturbation video was a potential political liability was that she is a woman, according to feminist blogger Jarrah Hodge: “For some reason young women candidates keep finding themselves attacked for expressing their sexuality, even though it’s not at all relevant to the office they’re seeking.” Really? Did I miss all those occasions when male candidates recorded videos “expressing their sexuality” and nobody cared? Joe Biden has made a lot of gaffes over the years, but I’m pretty sure he never uploaded a YouTube video discussing how often he wanks (and I’m certain nobody wants to know).
Contrary to Ms. Hodge’s claim, it isn’t just “young women candidates” who are “attacked for expressing their sexuality” in politics. Or has she forgotten the self-destruction of Anthony Weiner?
But never mind that. Why do you think that Ms. Kelly — who is very much “out” sexually — would have suddenly dropped off the ticket of this progressive party in a Canadian city that is as liberal as Seattle or San Francisco? It’s mysterious. A profile of her last month focused on blue-eyed Ms. Kelly’s claim that she has some unquantified percentage of “aboriginal” ancestry:
“I think visibly I represent the other minority aspects of my identity, like being a woman,” Kelly said by phone from Burnaby. “But it’s more an opportunity for me to advocate and be an ally to First Nations and aboriginal people in Vancouver, which is something that I feel strongly about because every time I do that I’m honouring my mother and she passed away five years ago. It was very important to her when she got her Métis status card.”
A member of the Vancouver food policy council since 2007, Kelly noted that it’s possible that Vancouver had aboriginal municipal politicians before Ken Clement — who was first elected to the school board in 2008 — but they just didn’t publicly identify themselves as such. According to Kelly, it’s important for her to be “transparent” about her Métis background as well as the fact she identifies as bisexual, queer, and femme.
“I feel that I’m a bridge between two groups,” Kelly said. “I’m Métis and the word Métis means a ‘blend’ or a ‘mix’ in French, and I’m also queer or bisexual. I have to claim those identities, because being femme in everyday society I can be read as just a straight woman, and being Métis I can be read as just white. So I politicize myself by owning these identities, which is part of how I politicize my identity but also part of how I act as another ally to people who are more targeted because of their visible appearance or how they’re read.”
Hmmm. So she politicizes her identity. This is very interesting.
Kelly maintained that, after years of being a “strong ally” to the trans community, she’d like the chance to be more than a “good listener”. If she gains a seat on the park board in the November election, Kelly said, she would see to it that the April report of the city’s trans and gender-variant inclusion working group is implemented.
“The reason that I feel that is so important is because it addresses inclusivity for not just folks that are gender-variant or trans but also just looking at making community centres inclusive for people with disabilities or people who just don’t feel like they fit into social norms of what a person is supposed to look like,” Kelly said. “The work that’s been done is really strong, and I want to support it and make sure that it gets embedded within the park board.”
What were the recommendations of the “inclusion working group”?
“What we’re talking about is — 10, 20, 30 years from now — trans kids of the future won’t confined by the gender limitations and constraints of today,” [co-chairman Drew] Dennis, who’s also a member of the city’s LGBTQ advisory committee, said by phone. “That’s particularly exciting for me.” . . .
“Gender-segregated services and facilities can exclude trans* and gender variant community members if an inclusive approach is not taken,” the report states. “In these instances, trans* and gender variant individuals commonly face gender-policing in the form of verbal harassment, public-shaming and physical violence by others who feel they do not belong there.”
So, you go to a park in Vancouver, and if a man in a dress wants to use the women’s restroom, it’s “verbal harassment” for a woman to tell him he doesn’t belong there. I’m going to take a wild guess that the recommended “inclusive approach” to “gender-variant community members” might be somewhat controversial even in liberal Vancouver. And I’m going to take another wild guess that Ms. Kelly’s masturbation video — which highlighted her bisexual queer femme “sex-positive activism” — might have caused some voters to wonder, “What kind of long-term agenda is Vision Vancouver pursuing, if they’re willing to put this kinky weirdo on the Park Board, to eradicate ‘the gender limitations and constraints of today’?”
How much do I know about Canadian politics? Almost nothing. The last time I paid attention to Canada was when a lesbian hockey coach went to jail for having sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Because I don’t know enough about politics in Vancouver to know if there is a conservative alternative on the ballot, I can’t predict the consequences of Vision Vancouver’s embarrassment. However, I do know that politicians with radical agendas don’t usually like it when people start noticing exactly how radical their agendas are. Maybe common-sense folks in Canada are paying attention now.