A Vancouver couple is speaking out after they believe a confrontation they were involved in on a Kelowna beach was a sign of “internalized homophobia.”
“We should be past this,” Clementine Smithereens said.
Elsi Dawson and Smithereens, her girlfriend, were accused of having sex on a Kelowna beach by an Okanagan mom and her teenage children.
“We weren’t full snogging, we were pecking at each other,” Elsi Dawson told Global News.
Jamie Wlesanko came forward to Global News describing lewd acts that she said her family found disturbing enough to have them question returning to the park.
“I said: ‘Can I ask you to please not show your privates in front of my children,'” Wlesanko said.
Dawson and Smithereens said they were on vacation in the Okanagan last weekend, simply enjoying an evening watching the sunset on Hot Sands Beach at Kelowna City Park.
“We were giggling. We were both wearing tube tops… and both being silly, kissing and stuff,” Smithereens said.
“By no means were we having sex,” she said. “People don’t understand how lesbians have sex, but it’s not just by kissing.”
Smithereens said a woman, identified as Wlesanko, came from behind them and asked them to stop exposing themselves.
“She was like, ‘Hi. I see you’re in a relationship. Congratulations. I noticed you were kissing and that’s fine but my children are here and they’ve just seen your nipples.'”
Dawson, who identifies as bisexual, said there’s a stark contrast in how the public perceives affectionate displays between two women instead of a man and woman.
“Every single time, without fail, someone has to get their face in to pat you on the back or make comments or something,” Dawson said.
“There was a group of people behind us who were clearly staring at us waiting for a reason to come and talk to us and make us feel uncomfortable,” Smithereens said. “They were far away. There was no way, unless you were watching us like a hawk, you would have been paying attention to what we were doing.”
The couple said the suggestion they were inappropriate prompted them to fully removed their shirts.
“Once the shirts came off, we were waiting for them to leave,” said Dawson.
The women said the confrontation increasingly made them uncomfortable.
When the group began calling police, the women said, “please bring them. We’re not doing anything wrong.”
Wlesanko said RCMP would not attend her call for assistance because being topless in Kelowna is not a crime.
As another man came to join Wlesanko asking them to put their shirts back on, the couple said they showed him a local news story on their smartphone that proved they were not doing anything illegal.
The women said the man continued to berate them, telling them they weren’t “welcome around here,” Dawson said, adding he further asked them to leave the beach.
“If they were so uncomfortable about two gay women being together they could have moved,” Smithereens said, describing the beach as fairly empty.
While calling the situation shocking and frightening, the couple believe the B.C. Interior has a reputation for being more conservative than the coast.
“Even though you’re not surprised when things like this happen, it’s still upsetting because we know we’re not past this but we should be,” Smithereens said. “It wasn’t a nice experience.”
The women feel by coming forward they are speaking up for others that are unfairly targeted for their sexuality.
Despite the experience, the couple said they will continue to vacation in Kelowna in the future.