Council Member John D’Amico and Candidate Sepi Shyne Have Heated Exchange Over Inclusivity in WeHo’s ‘Boystown’

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Council member John D'Amico and Candidate Sepi Shyne

West Hollywood Council member John D’Amico was in rare form yesterday, when he lashed out at West Hollywood council member candidate Sepi Shyne, via his Facebook timeline. He stopped short of calling her homophobic when he called her out for comments she made during a Stonewall Democratic Club forum that took place last weekend on Sunday, August 9th.

When the forum moderator asked how candidates would make West Hollywood a more inclusive city for Black women, brown women, transgender individuals and others, Shyne replied: “West Hollywood has done some great work, but as the other [candidates] have said, it has been very cis-gendered, male focused. It’s reflected in the elected body. There has only been one queer women elected since the incorporation of the city in the 80s.”

“The focus in the delineation of Boystown and even recognizing GoGo Appreciation Day are all incredibly male focused and [that] needs to shift,” she added. “I believe that we have to be more open to women and trans women, and make sure that they feel safe, especially our Black trans women in the city.”

D’Amico, who founded Go-Go Dancer Appreciation Day in 2011 to bring some business to the bars in West Hollywood’s Boystown area (now called “The LGBT Rainbow District”), posted the following message on his Facebook account calling Sepi Shyne out for her comments:

“Hmmmm.
Sepi Shyne doesn’t seem to understand that our small city is big enough to meet and support everyone where they’re at. Whatever their pronoun.
She/her wants to run a gym? You’re welcome here.
They/them wants to be stock broker? You’re welcome here.
He/him wants to be a GoGo dancer?
A barista?
An immigrant?
A retiree?
Transitioning?
Disabled?
A housing advocate?
Unemployed?
An artist?
A teacher? You’re welcome here. You’re welcome here. You’re welcome here. You’re welcome here….
…and on and on. You. Are. Welcome. Here.

For some reason Ms. Shyne thinks she gets to choose who’s welcome here … believes that her sex negative ‘dog whistle,’ attacking gay men is a way to divide us and to make inroads to the WEHO electorate. It’s not.

Trans lives matter and we need to do that work. Black lives matter and we need to do that work. There is collaborative work to do.

It seems Ms. Shyne doesn’t understand that you don’t have to tear down gay men to do other work, you only have to do that if you think small and have no vision. Seems she sees herself and can’t see much beyond that, and projects her own failures on the city.
Our city is not finished, it’s not perfect, but it has welcomed, invented and rehearsed the culture that protects, and enlarges, and defines, and entertains not just everyone in West Hollywood, but all of America for more than 35 years. That’s a vision, that’s a goal for success, that’s a quality to look for in a leader that shows that they understand leadership in West Hollywood.

Ask anyone in WEHO, everyone is welcome. Period. More than 70% of weho residents have moved to our city from outside California – they come here to be their authentic selves…I know that, and as long as I am here, I will protect our city and it’s people and it’s future residents, as I know my colleagues have, so that we can continue to be that place for so many… whoever you are, whatever your pronoun, wherever you’re from. I will always point out this kind of attack for the “dog whistle” that it is.

It seems Sepi Shyne wants you to put your ‘self’ and your ‘sex life’ back in the closet, Ms. Shyne it seems is uncomfortable with dancing male and female bodies and sex? And therefore, unable to envision a place that is expansive and inclusive, that welcomes and celebrates everyone for who they are and who they want to be? It’s a ‘get out’ instead of a ‘get in’ mentality.

And really Ms. Shyne, who’s next? Who else offends Sepi Shyne that she’ll be “dog-whistling” past? People with HIV? Homeowners? Hotels on the world famous Sunset Strip? The bartenders and GoGo dancers at the Abbey? The Russian speaking ladies in the super markets? I shudder to think. It is very worrisome.

We need actual thinking and real leadership in West Hollywood to help our residents be their authentic selves. To help all of us live, work and play safely in these difficult times. Any negative attacks on anyone isn’t welcome and doesn’t and shouldn’t and won’t earn votes.

She lost in 2019, odds are she’s already lost again.”

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Candidate Sepi Shyne, who was neck-in-neck with D’Amico at last year’s city council general elections and lost to him by only 147 votes, responded to the council member’s comments with a Facebook statement of her own:

“‘When they go low, we go high,’ Michelle Obama said when unjust attacks were lobbied by Donald Trump and his team in 2016. It is disappointing to see the same distortion of comments happening here in West Hollywood. I am proud of my advocacy for our LGBTQ siblings over the past 20 years, where I have fought for the collective rights of our community. I have also been an advocate for women’s rights and for the residents of West Hollywood who don’t feel heard nor respected by some of its current leadership. I am proud to be the ONLY CANDIDATE in this race with a DETAILED PLAN and VISION for West Hollywood available for everyone to see at sepishyne.com.

I have been a resident of West Hollywood for more than 11 years BECAUSE I love our residents, our businesses, our active nightlife, our LGBTQ community, our straight allies, and families. They make this city a unique microcosm of what the world can be. The future of West Hollywood is where we stand together to strive towards true equality with compassion and kindness. That is leadership.

We are a remarkable city and can be even better. To be better, we need to be real about serious historical inequities that we cannot just sweep under the rug. As we have seen with the Black Lives Matter movement, people in leadership often have a hard time changing or re-examining a narrative that directly benefits them.

At the Stonewall Democratic Forum, each candidate was asked their thoughts about the term “Boystown” and how we can make West Hollywood more inclusive. In a Facebook rant last night, Councilmember D’Amico chose to focus his comments, disapproval, and disdain for me and only me. I hope he didn’t forget that as the only queer woman on the ballot and as a formerly undocumented immigrant who fled a war-torn country, I am used to facing adversity. I am used to others telling me that I shouldn’t speak out for those who don’t feel they have a seat at the table.

This is unbecoming and shameful for a sitting council-member. He saw my standing up for inclusivity and turned it into an outrageous attack. Despite two other candidates also making the same statement regarding the term Boystown, he chose to focus his attack on me publicly. I decided to run for office to bring the people’s voices to city hall and I will not be bullied or shamed into silence, especially with gross misrepresentations about me.”

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According to her bio, council member candidate Sepi Shyne is a proud Iranian-American business law attorney, small business owner, renter and civil rights advocate. She serves the City of West Hollywood as an appointed Business License Commissioner and also serves the County of Los Angeles as a member of the LA County Assessor’s Advisory Council. As an LBGTQ+ leader she has led many boards and organizations over the past 20 years including as a past co-president of the LGBT Bar Association of Los Angeles and past member of the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board. In addition to her public service commission roles, Shyne is engaged in civil rights work throughout the region. Currently, she serves on the Steering Committee for the Human Rights Campaign LA as Co-Chair of Political Action and Community Engagement and is a Co-Organizer of WeHo Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

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eli Rivera
eli Rivera
3 months ago

D’amico has a point on paper . Butt in reality and day to day WEHO life the Council Person doth protest much. Shyne is making valid points as to inclusivity. She is punctuating those points loudly so they don’t get lost in the miasma of campaigns. I don’t think it’s fair that any LGBTQ + prioritizing candidates get accused of “dog whistling or “troping” for standing on their equality soapboxes of issues. I see real issues in the city with poor and working people being left out and developers given free rein to dispossess those who become less equal year… Read more »

Jimmy Palmieri
Jimmy Palmieri
3 months ago

Oh dear……..