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The Ultimate Gay Guide to SXSW 2024: Your Rainbow Roadmap to Austin’s Wildest Fest

Travel Tips | Jim Werner | February 22, 2024

Oh, honey, pack your bags, charge your phones, and slap on those fabulous sunglasses because SXSW is about to get a glitter bomb of fabulousness! Whether you’re here to sashay through the tech scene or voguing your way into the film premieres, this SXSW LGBTQ+ events guide is your golden ticket to the gayest SXSW experience ever.

DJ performing at SXSW LGBTQ+ event in Austin, Texas, with vibrant lights illuminating the scene.

What in the Queer Universe is SXSW, Anyway?

South by Southwest (SXSW) is like the ultimate playground of festivals. It’s where creatives, innovators, and enthusiasts from all walks of life gather in Austin, Texas. It’s a mashup of film, music, tech, and more—basically, a big melting pot of culture, entertainment, and ideas!

SXSW can be a little overwhelming, but worry not! We’ve got your back with this epic guide to dive into all the LGBTQ+ awesomeness at SXSW 2024. Get ready for mind-blowing panels, killer performances, world premiers, and a whole lot of love as SXSW goes all out to celebrate the vibrant LGBTQ+ community in every fabulous way possible!

Now, these are the highlights of LGBTQ+ events you won’t want to miss. However, there is a full schedule of queertastic events and activities—check the SXSW site to explore all LGBTQ+ programming.

Let’s Get This Party Started: SXSW LGBTQ+ Events to Make Your Heart Sing!

Vibrant group of LGBTQ+ individuals celebrating at a South by Southwest (SXSW) Pride event in Austin, Texas, showcasing inclusivity and community spirit.

This Discussion is Spicier than Texas Chili: Defending Democracy

Hold onto your rainbow hats! The “Defending Democracy: LGBTQ Activism and Power in 2024” panel is coming in hotter than a Texan summer. Is democracy at stake? You bet your sweet bippy it is. And who better to talk about defending it with flair and finesse than the LGBTQ+ activists who’ve been doing it since glitter was just a twinkling in the universe’s eye? These panelists, including Ricardo Martinez the CEO of Equality Texas, aren’t just throwing shade, they’re throwing down the gauntlet with their big brains and even bigger hearts, talking about how queer power is the secret spice in the democracy stew. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll start a revolution from your seat. Don’t sleep on this panel or you’ll miss the empowering tea spilt by the pros.

Film Screenings and Premieres: Popcorn, Please!

Get ready to clutch your pearls and gasp at the dramatic entrances, because the Film screenings and premieres at SXSW are serving LGBTQ realness. From documentaries shedding light on untold stories to indie flicks that make you go, “Damn, that’s deep,” your cinematic hunger will be satiated. Bring tissues, or better yet, a whole box—we’re in for an emotional rollercoaster. Three we can’t wait for:

  • A House Is Not A Disco: What if you really did put all the gays on an island? In this vibrant portrait of queer paradise, Fire Island Pines, past and present blur as the iconic beach town bands together to celebrate its legacy and redefine itself for a new, inclusive era. (World Premiere)
  • Hacks Season 3 Premiere: A year after parting, Deborah Vance is riding high off the success of her standup special while Ava pursues new opportunities back in Los Angeles. (World Premiere)
  • The Queen vs Texas: In the face of Texas’ oppressive stance on LGBTQIA+ communities, a resolute queer activist and drag queen leads a movement to empower her community through the art of self-expression and the fight for social justice. (Texas Premiere)

King Princess captivating audiences at the Ticketmaster Music Stubb's concert with her empowering queer love anthems, featuring hit singles '1950' and 'Talia'

Music to Our Queer Ears

The music performances at SXSW are so diverse, you’d think the lineup was curated by RuPaul himself. From up-and-coming queer artists to big-name acts that support the LGBTQ+ community, your playlist is about to become as colorful as a Pride parade. Get ready to dance, sway, and maybe even meet your next ex! One not to miss is Smooth Brain (March 15 at The Iron Bear)—a pop-punk gem from New York City standing up against the oppression of LGBTQ folks.

LGBTQ+ group speaking onstage during 'The Future is Fluid: How Gender and Sexuality Has Changed' session at the 2019 SXSW Conference, exploring contemporary perspectives on gender and sexuality.

Werk It at the Panel Discussions and Workshops

It’s not all play at SXSW, darling. The panel discussions and workshops are where the magic happens. Whether you’re looking to network with other LGBTQ professionals, learn a thing or two about breaking into the industry, or simply want to engage in meaningful discussions on queer representation, these events are where you put on your thinking cap—or your most intellectual-looking glasses.

Don’t miss the panel discussing “The Power of LGBTQ+ Creators that Hollywood Can’t Replicate” which delves into the importance of authentic queer joy, and the impact on LGBTQ+ youth and wider acceptance. And discover why happy queer stories are crucial, what Hollywood can learn, and how brands can show support. And one of the SXSW featured sessions (it’s a big deal!) is “When Beer Goes Viral: The Role of Brands and Media in Fighting Hate,” which explores brand and media responsibility in combating hate and misinformation. Led by Dylan Mulvaney, the trans actress and content creator with viral videos surpassing 1 billion views, who faced a hate campaign fueled by a beer company in early 2023.

KC Ifeanyi and Arlan Hamilton speaking onstage during their Featured Session at SXSW, discussing the competitive advantage of diversity and investing in startups with humanity.

Tech Innovations and Startups: The Gay Agenda

Techies, assemble! The tech innovations and startups showcasing at SXSW are queerer than ever. From apps that connect the LGBTQ community to platforms advocating for inclusivity, this is where the future is happening. And yes, the future is fabulous.

On March 13, Tommy Dorfman is hosting a cool group of queer innovators on stage for a fireside chat about business, artistry, and liberation. Speakers include Tiana Tukes, co-chief executive officer of LGBT VC, a global nonprofit advocating for LGBTQ investors. Time to secure that bag!

Group of LGBTQ+ men networking at a South by Southwest (SXSW) event in Austin, Texas, celebrating diversity and inclusion.

Mix and Mingle at SXSW LGBTQ+ Events

Now, what would SXSW be without a touch of mingling and, dare we say, flirting? The networking and community events are perfect for those looking to connect with other LGBTQ movers and shakers. Whether it’s a casual happy hour or a themed meet-up, bring those business cards—or just your charming self.

Join Austin’s fabulous drag stars Vylette Ward & Grandma Steven on March 9 for a super fun social event with Kind Clinic. Expect high-energy drag performances, a poetic rap by Joe Anderson (Kind Clinic), and fierce voguing lessons by Malik Julien (Kind Clinic) from the Haus of Lepor. And on March 10, join Luis Gramajo and Hans Schrei from The Sunday Afternoon Project at the “We’re Here, We’re Queer: LGBTQIA+ Meet Up!” It’s all about belonging, fearless story-sharing, and just being yourself. Expect heartwarming chats, real connections, and good vibes at our ‘kiki’.

XR Experience Exhibition at SXSW, showcasing the intersection of art and technology in a fabulous display.

Interactive Exhibits and Installations: Because We Love to Touch Stuff

Touchy-feely? You bet. The XR Experience Exhibition at SXSW is where art meets technology meets fabulous. Whether it’s VR experiences that take you to a virtual gay bar or installations that make you question the concept of identity, prepare to have your mind blown. And your Instagram feed upgraded.

Group of people enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of South by Southwest (SXSW) on a bustling street in Austin, Texas, surrounded by a variety of restaurants and eateries.

Austin Culinary Scene: Eat Your Heart Out in Between SXSW LGBTQ+ Events

Last but certainly not least, the Austin culinary scene is a foodie’s paradise. From food trucks with top-notch breakfast tacos to upscale restaurants led by LGBTQ+ chefs, get ready for a flavorful adventure! Because no gay guide would be complete without mentioning food, right?

Giddy Up!

There you have it, folks: your rainbow roadmap to SXSW. Armed with this SXSW LGBTQ+ events guide, you’re ready to conquer Austin in the most fabulous way possible. Remember, SXSW is what you make of it, so go forth, be queer, and turn heads, darling!

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And let’s be honest, that’s pretty darn gay.

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