Councilmember D’Amico Posts a Scathing Critique of Candidate Sepi Shyne

Sepi Shyne, left, and John D’Amico

West Hollywood City Councilmember John D’Amico today posted on Facebook a scathing critique of Sepi Shyne, one of the 11 candidates in the Nov. 3 election for two seats on the West Hollywood City Council.

D’Amico was apparently responding to comments Shyne had made during a virtual forum hosted on Sunday by the Stonewall Democratic Club. His remarks referenced a story in the Beverly Press about the forum in which Shyne was quoted as saying West Hollywood is “male focused” and needs to work harder to be accepting to women and Black and transgender women.

“The focus in the delineation of Boystown and even recognizing Go Go Appreciaiton Day are all incredibly male focused and [that] needs to shift,” Shyne said. “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.”

“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,” said D’Amico, a gay man, in his Facebook post. D’Amico came in third in the March 2019 election for three City Council seats. Shyne, who has emphasized during her campaign that she is a lesbian immigrant from Iran, was 147 votes behind D’Amico.

“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 … 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.”

“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 supermarkets? I shudder to think. It is very worrisome.”

D’Amico has not yet endorsed any of the candidates in Nov. 3 election, although he was part of the group that participated in a Zoom announcement of John Erickson’s candidacy. Erickson has been criticized for nominating himself as vice chair of the West Hollywood Planning Commission, a move that pushed out of the way Lynn Hoopingarner, who was next in line, and was supported by the other male Planning Commissioners. Shyne is one of two women in the election, with the other being Noemi Torres, a real estate agent and a member of the city’s Public Facilities Commission.

Shyne’s statement and D’Amico’s critique of it illustrate a divide between the city’s shrinking gay white male population and people of other races and sexual or gender identities (most of whom don’t live in West Hollywood) that has slowly become evident in recent years. The city’s 2019 Community Survey reports that 33% of West Hollywood residents identify as gay men, a decline from the 39% in 2013. Four percent identified as lesbian in the 2019 survey. Three percent said they are bisexual. Another three percent said they are “sexually fluid.” And 5% said they didn’t know or didn’t answer the question.

June 10 forum participants, left to right, are Marquita Thomas, Jasmyne Cannick, Cabrini Schnyder, Jazzmun Crayton, Jewel Thais-Williams, Ivan Daniel and Tyesse Jackson.

In a June 10 online forum organized by Jasmyne Cannick, one participant claimed that it was hard for Black men to get jobs at bars and clubs in West Hollywood. Another speaker said she had “been called a n-gger three times in my whole life, and two times were here” in West Hollywood. Cannick is known for her campaign for the arrest of Ed Buck, the white gay man active in West Hollywood politics who has been arrested on charges related to the deaths of two Black men from methamphetamine overdoses in his apartment.

Marquita Thomas, a Black lesbian who lives in West Hollywood and heads the Los Angeles LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, described her discomfort during a virtual panel discussion in June that focused on racial injustice. Thomas said she and those campaigning with her felt they were being watched because of their race while campaigning door to door in the affluent West Hollywood West neighborhood. LAist.com, a website that is part of Southern California Public Radio, published a story about the June 14 All Black Lives Matter march that referred to “WeHo’s Whiteness Problem.” And Tod Hallman, a Black man who is a long-time WeHo resident, wrote an op-ed published by WEHOville that called out the gay community for not acknowledging its race issues.

People also have cited incidents of discrimination against transgender people in West Hollywood, where only 4% of the population identifies as Black and none as transgender, although there are a few transgender people living in WeHo. Some also have objected to the use of the word “Boystown” to describe the gay nightlife district on Santa Monica Boulevard from Palm Avenue to Robertson Boulevard. That district has been evolving in recent years, with the closing of some gay male-focused apparel stores and the opening of restaurants and nightclubs that appeal to a largely heterosexual audience of people who follow reality TV.

Ashlee Marie Preston

Ashlee-Marie Preston, a Black transgender female activist, wrote an op-ed for WEHOville in 2017 in which she said she had experienced bigotry and transphobia from the staff while dining at Catch, the restaurant on the roof of the building on the northwest corner of San Vicente Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. Also that year, a Black transgender West Hollywood woman complained of being denied entrance to two prominent local nightclubs, 1 Oak and Hyde on Sunset, in both cases because she was a transgender person.  And Don Kilhefner, an iconic gay activist, has been critical of the move by white gay men to preserve and honor the history of Studio One, a gay nightclub on Robertson Boulevard in the 1970s whose owner made it difficult for Black men to enter the club, a practice that led to demonstrations outside the club and a story in the Los Angeles Times about it.

While D’Amico’s criticism of Shyne was sharp, she has been the subject of much more vitriolic remarks. In a post on Facebook, Shyne revealed that she had received hateful comments and a threat during her unsuccessful campaign in 2019. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week two different men sent her messages on social media, one of them calling her a “vile white supremacist Zionist Islamophobe.”

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The Cat Gorilla
The Cat Gorilla
1 month ago

Identity politics are killing interest in this and every other election. There are an infinite variety of social niches to take offense for one reason or another. That work has to be done by elected officials. It can’t be solved by candidates throwing accusations at each other.

David Reid
2 months ago

This ‘creative’ ‘progressive’ city has never had a majority of women serve on the Council. After thirty-six years it would seem time. Not simply because she is a female but she is the most qualified. It is time to change the chairs. The three not up for -re-election are all veterans now. The City will do just fine without The johns on the Council.

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
2 months ago

I just read all these comments and I thought I must have missed something of what D’Amico said, so I reviewed his criticism of Shyne and no, I hadn’t missed a thing! What he said is absolutely true. If John had made critical observations of a male candidate there would be no story here. But it looks like we haven’t evolved one bit because it’s as true today as it was a hundred years ago that if you make a girl cry YOU LOSE! Everybody is running to her defense to dry her tears, or, more specifically, to vote for… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 months ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

When one is honest and reads the entirety of D’Amico’s message one can fully comprehend that his message was spot on. Sadly, in a world where debate occurs in soundbites, memes, tweets and hashtags context and nuance are lost to emotionally expedient judgments.

WehoFan
WehoFan
2 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

Division, victimhood, and identity politics. We are getting a preview of what will happen when Shyne is on the city council.

Timeforchange
Timeforchange
2 months ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

I don’t understand your logic on this one. John D’Amico bashed Sepi Shyne for stating the same concerns as the others and singled her out even making up lies about her hating gay men in the community. Nothing Sepi Shyne stated was out of context and if anything John D’Amico’s insinuations made him appear very angry and resentful which I don’t understand. Spread love not hate!!

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
2 months ago
Reply to  Timeforchange

Ya’ lost me on that one, Timeforchange. D’Amico said Shyne hates gay men? Where do you get that? Sepi is asking WeHo to do something that I don’t know how we do, namely work harder at accepting women, black and transgender women. Just HOW do we do that, and what have we done that suggests we’re NOT accepting of them? As far as I know even Sepi hasn’t laid out a plan as to how that can be done, and in this long discussion here I haven’t seen a single suggestion as to what we can do to make the… Read more »

Timeforchange
Timeforchange
2 months ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

I’m sure she has a plan and will enforce once elected- I have confidence in her. She has suggested these other groups that have been omitted in certain events to be included. That is a start. Not just singling out gay men to partake in for example the Gogo dancing event but how about others that are in the community to partake. Weho is diverse and the many years where it has been portrayed primarily as “Boys Town” needs to now with the times include everyone. I feel the fear is the loss of this subculture but in fact it… Read more »

T
T
2 months ago
Reply to  Timeforchange

If she has a plan, I’d love to hear it. Until I do I do not see a compelling reason to vote for her. We’ve all heard her state what she is. Lets hear what she is going to do. Then we might get a few more people out to vote.

Randy
Randy
1 month ago
Reply to  Timeforchange

Who knows where he’s coming from? Why draw a conclusion about him having “feelings against ethnic minority women?” These people know each other. There are political alliances, and, dislike, between each other, much of it behind the scenes. Must we immediately label him as a misogynist/racist because he singled her out, instead of others? If he had singled out a white male candidate, this discussion would not be happening. How about we all admit that we don’t know what we don’t know? I say that in no way in defense of him, but in defense of the idea that we… Read more »

Chi Guy
Chi Guy
2 months ago

LOL. What is more perfect than men telling women who stand up to being devalued and bullied to “SIT DOWN” because the men deny it’s happening. Just because it ain’t happening to you, it ain’t happening? Really? And my dudes wonder why WeHo is known for superficial narcissism.

Niece
Niece
2 months ago

Sepi speaks the truth. No surprise a man is offended by it being called out and reacts by rejecting it. Weho IS absolutely male-centric. Absolutely. The misogyny from all corners and walks of life and centers of power here is unlike anywhere else I’ve lived (including North Carolina).

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
2 months ago

Congratulations to John D’Amico for unintenially making sure Sepi Shyne wins a seat on the city council!

At least that would make one of the old John’s history. Breaking up John Heilman’s Townscape 3. Thumbing the nose at greedy loathed developers.

Now it’s full steam ahead to make sure NO John, young or old, will be elected to the West Hollywood City Council in November!

Donald DeLuccio
Donald DeLuccio
2 months ago

After reading this Sepi Shyne just got my endorsement

WehoFan
WehoFan
2 months ago

Why?

Straught Chick in Weho
Straught Chick in Weho
2 months ago

The most striking thing is the immaturity and how unprofessional D’amico presents himself. There’s a good chance he will have to serve with her (she almost beat him in her first run)- what then?

and for the record: I am a straight female Weho resident. I have met D’amico at a number of city events. He’s NEVER been nice; he’s barely acknowledged me. Sepi Shyne- when I pressed her about my representation- took the time to listen and address my opinions.

S milrod
S milrod
2 months ago

Am also a straight female Weho resident. Thanks for sharing your perspective. While I haven’t met either of them, you have confirmed the feelings I’ve had from afar.

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
2 months ago

As a former A Gay, need I say more!

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
2 months ago

Making a place more diverse and inclusive isn’t something you just go out and do. It happens all on its own. I suppose there are places that resist it, but that doesn’t happen in West Hollywood. I keep reading these comments of self flagellation because we haven’t done enough, and I’m waiting to find out what we have done really, and then how it’s supposed to be fixed. We’re fine just the way we are. The free market will respond if there’s a need. Please, don’t anyone start manipulating the market to make yourself feel better. And also please don’t… Read more »

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

This poor lady is wasting her time. John D’Amico is going to win by a landslide.

Observer
Observer
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

D’Amico isn’t up for re-election this November. It’s Duran and Heilman.

David Reid
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

I’ll bet the farm D’Amico doesn’t get five votes in November!

John S
John S
2 months ago

Is there something inherently wrong with designating a few blocks of the city as a place for the open expression of gay male sexuality? I think not. Sepi: go fight your battles elsewhere, try the grizzled hard rockers and wealthy up the hill on Sunset, leave the boys on Santa Monica to their fun.

ShineShyne
ShineShyne
2 months ago
Reply to  John S

What kind of leadership are you demonstrating here D’Amico? This time should be about embracing our diversity and uniqueness to better our world NOT to continue to shame those YOU feel threatened by. I will always stand by Sepi Shyne and hope that the city of West Hollywood embraces change. I support you Sepi Shyne. Keep shining you light!!