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Abbey Underground under fire again for alleged LGBT discrimination

Abbey Underground under fire again for alleged LGBT discrimination

Abbey  Underground under fire again for alleged LGBT discrimination
June 10
15:57 2016

Adalberto Toledo | Senior Staff Writer


Bennett Morris | Staff Writer


The Abbey Underground is once again under fire for a controversial incident involving the LGBT community, this time involving gender-specific bathrooms.

Sven Wilde, 24, was born male and identifies as “non-binary,” and said Wilde was out dancing the weekend of May 27 at Abbey Underground when Wilde was told by a bartender to “just use the men’s bathroom.”

“I was mis-gendered and asked to use a bathroom of someone else’s choice,” Wilde said. “I no longer had power over my own body because some random woman didn’t like my gender presentation.”

Tim Trawick, co-owner of Abbey Underground, said a woman had complained to Abbey Underground staff that there was a “guy” in the women’s bathroom. Afterward, Wilde said people saw Wilde in distress and thus approached, at which time the woman who had made the complaint shouted something inaudible and left.

Wilde added the whole situation angered Wilde and forced Wilde to leave Abbey Underground.

Trawick said via e-mail that Wilde had been previously observed using the men’s bathroom and that the bartender’s request was inappropriate given the circumstances.

“At Abbey Underground, there is no policy to restrict the use of our bathrooms, nor will we ever,” Trawick said. “Regardless of all of this, Wilde was not happy.”

Wilde explained that Wilde often uses the male restroom “to police [Wilde’s] own gender for safety.” Wilde said it’s to avoid being “constantly mis-gendered” and harassed by women in bathrooms.

“All this [situation] shows [is] that no matter what I wear or what I look like, people will still have something to say,” Wilde said. “I am not a bully asking for scathing reviews. I’m just a person asking for basic rights.”

After the incident, Wilde left a comment on a review on Abbey Underground’s Facebook page, which prompted Trawick to reach out to Wilde directly on Facebook messenger.


Sven Wilde and Tim Trawick, co-owner of Abbery Underground, exchange words via messenger on Facebook. Courtesy | Tim Trawick messenger

Trawick was sympathetic about the incident and admitted they handled the situation incorrectly, but also could not commit to creating a “policy against bigots, transphobics, queers, etc.” due to potential lawsuits. In the message to Wilde, he said Abbey Underground is “trying to stand on the line and be objective” to avoid creating strife for the business.

He added that Abbey Underground is “a little inexperienced with these matters” and saw any potential response as a “trap,” or lose-lose situation.

Near the end of his message to Wilde, Trawick said “every time [Abbey Underground] has one of these incidents, [the LGBT community] tries to bully us.” He also told Wilde Mable Peabody’s and Abbey Underground are some of the only bars in Denton where the LGBT community can feel welcome, saying Wilde’s comments were “making [Trawick] wonder if [he] should change that.”

Wilde felt Abbey Underground had responded too defensively.

“Why is it anytime anyone stands up for themselves, they suddenly become the attacker?” Wilde said. “For simply wanting the right to not be berated? Something cis heteronormative people don’t have to ask for because its default? Ask for what they already have and suddenly you’re imposing on their rights to hate you simply for existing.”

This is not the first time that Abbey Underground has had troubles with the LGBT community. Kat Ralph, co-founder of Keep Denton Queer, said in a Facebook post four years ago she was “singled out, gay bashed, and told by the manager at Abbey Underground that he wasn’t going to do anything about it.”

Ralph added she feels for the situation Wilde is in.

“I know how it feels to be singled out, to feel alone, to be overwhelmed and uncertain on how to proceed,” Ralph said. “When I heard about what happened to Sven, I was immediately exhausted because I knew just what they were going through.”

Ralph said the reason for co-founding Keep Denton Queer was to prevent these types of situations from happening and to provide safe spaces for people in Denton.

“With Keep Denton Queer, we wanted to tell people, ‘Hey, this business supports you, no matter your identity, orientation, or otherwise,’” Ralph said in a Facebook post. “Fast-forward four years later, and here I am responding to another incident at the exact same bar.”

Ralph said she reached out to Trawick on June 1 to see if they could repair their relationship and start an initiative to “move Denton forward.” Ralph said they chatted for awhile and that he was appreciative of the gesture.

“I gave him 24 hours to respond as to whether or not he wanted to partner with me and host an ally training for businesses,” Ralph said. “Unfortunately, I have not heard from him, which brings me to my point: Abbey Underground is not a safe space for the queer community.”

Though he empathizes with the issues facing Wilde and the LGBT community, Trawick said the incident has brought him, his partners and his business “under attack” in a manner he feels to be unjust.

“We welcome the opportunity to improve our understanding, so myself, my partners and members of my staff will be attending the Denton Ally training this Sunday [June 12],” Trawick said. “We may be imperfect, but we continually strive to be better.”

Trawick said he has apologized on two separate occasions for the incident, but Wilde said it took him too long and that the whole incident is about discrimination – not a bathroom.

“Everyone seems really focused on this as a ‘bathroom situation,’ and that is not the case,” Wilde said. “This is about a bigot patron having more power over my body than myself and the Abbey being O.K. with that.”

Featured Image: Abbey Underground – 100 W. Walnut Street. Hannah Breland | Staff Photographer

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