Your Gay Guide to SXSW 2018: The Festival’s Best LGBTQ Film, Music and Interactive Events

Your Gay Guide to SXSW 2018: The Festival’s Best LGBTQ Film, Music and Interactive Events

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The annual South By Southwest Conference, SXSW, descends on Austin, Texas, soon, from March 9–18. And whether you have a badge, wristband or not, there are lots of LGBTQ festivities and free events to enjoy. So check out our SXSW 2018 Gay Guide and have a blast!




Know these five things:

1. Lines are for suckers and there are always good alternatives to whatever you have planned. Unless your life is on the line, find something just as cool with a shorter line.

2. Don’t pay for food or drinks. Follow @SXSWmafia, #SXDrinks, @thefreenoms and #FreeNoms on Twitter to figure out where to score free grub and hooch.

3. If you need a breather and a place to sit (seats can be hard to find at SXSW), stop by one of the city’s many coffeeshops or the Driskill Hotel lobby for a recharge.

4. Many less busy music venues let in folks without SXSW wristbands and badges. The city’s gay bars are usually poppin’ every night of the week too. (Some even host free LGBTQ film screenings and music line-ups.)

5. If you need kickass wall art, stick around for the eye-popping Flatstock poster expo Thursday, March 15 to Saturday, March 17 at the Austin Convention Center.



RompHims and Boyfriend Jeans: Ungendering Fashion

There are a lot of great topics at this year’s interactive festival. There’s also a kickass party of queer fashionistas at the dapperQ Official Post-Panel Mixer and Dance Party (Saturday, March 10, 8 p.m. at Sellers Underground) — it’s free and doesn’t require a badge. And if you stick around after the interactive portion ends, you can also enjoy the SXSMess comedy showcase on Friday, March 16, 11 p.m. at ColdTowne (no badge required).

Conspiracy?! Ryan Holiday on the Gawker Takedown — Gay billionaire tech douchebag Peter Thiel bankrupted the gay-owned gossip site Gawker and may now be trying to buy its archives to delete them. But what does Thiel’s takedown of the massively popular site say about power, strategy, privacy, culture and the future of the press? (Friday, March 9, 11 a.m. at Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABCD)

RompHims and Boyfriend Jeans: Ungendering Fashion — Two years ago, SXSW presented its first-ever queer fashion panel. The tradition now continues into its third year with a discussion on one of 2017’s most infamous male garments and how “Language such as the RompHim, boyfriend jeans, man buns, and mewelry perpetuate gender stereotypes and have a devastating impact on gender equity and attitudes towards LGBTQ communities.” Whoa. (Friday, March 9, 3:30 p.m. at Four Seasons, Ballroom CD.)

After PULSE – Creating an LGBTQ+ Alliance in Orlando — After the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, seemingly disparate community groups banded together to respond to one of the worst mass shootings in national memory. Come find out how the post-Pulse community formed and their lessons for other communities. One of the panelists is Carlos Carbonell, who we interviewed months after the shooting. (Saturday, March 10, 12:30 p.m. at Westin Austin Downtown, Paramount 1-2-3)

Founding an LGBT+ Non Profit

They: Gender Nonconformity Meet Up — Forget the binary! Instead come here and mingle with other friendly gender-fluid, genderqueer, pangender, transgender and gender non-conforming folks. (Saturday, March 10, 12:30 p.m. at JW Marriott, Room 210)

LGBTQIA+ Meet Up — Come meet and mingle with queer creatives. It’s usually pretty crowded, but there are often several hotties and a paid bar, so … party! (Saturday, March 10, 3:30 p.m. at JW Marriott, Room 208)

Fight Cyberhate/Create Safe Online Spaces Meet Up — A speaker from the Anti-Defamation League leads this mingle session addressing the best ways to deal with trolls, stalkers and catfishes in the digital pond. (Saturday, March 10, 5 p.m. at JW Marriott, Room 213)

Conversation with Leo Varadkar, T.D. Prime Minister of Ireland — If Varadkar’s name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because he’s one of the few openly gay world leaders. He’ll be talking about the future of his country — LGBTQ politics are sure to enter the mix as well. (Sunday, March 11, 2 p.m. at Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon F)

Founding an LGBT+ Nonprofit — Avoid the frustrations of navigating nonprofit status by learning some tips from two folks who run Series Q, an organization for London queer entrepreneurs. (Monday, March 12, 5 p.m. at Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon B)

Audible Impact — The Ally Coalition is throwing this music and comedy benefit to support LGBTQ allyship. Join in the fun. (Tuesday, March 13, 9 p.m. at Moody Theatre)

Free Radical: Chelsea Manning with Vogue‘s Sally Singer — If you’re wondering what Manning has been up to since being let out of prison for leaking intelligence documents on a Lady Gaga CD, come find out. She’ll likely mention her Democratic candidacy for U.S. Senate in Maryland. (Tuesday, March 13, 9:30 a.m. at Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D)




SXSW Queer Filmmaker’s Brunch — Every year the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival holds an annual mixer where queer filmmakers and fans hang out for some free grub and pub. It’s worth dropping by and saying “Grrrrr.” (Saturday, March 10, Iron Bear, noon)

1985 — Last year, gay director Yen Tan released “1985,” a powerful short film about a widower with advanced HIV who hires a make-up salesperson to help conceal his secret. (We wrote about it.) Tan expanded that short into a feature-length film about a HIV-positive man returning to his religious Texas hometown for Christmas during the first wave of the HIV epidemic. (Friday, March 9, 6:30 p.m. at Zach Theatre; Saturday, March 10, 6:30 p.m. at AFS Cinema; Tuesday, March 13, 7:15 p.m. at Rollins Theatre; Thursday, March 15, 9 p.m. at Stateside Theatre)

Brendan Maclean – “House of Air” — This playfully pornographic music video (which we’ve covered) has a kickin’ song, actual sex and poop play. Don’t let that turn you off. It’s still a stylish and sexy (if somewhat scatological) good time. (Friday, March 9, 11:55 p.m. at Alamo Lamar D; Monday, March 12, 8:15 p.m. at Alamo Lamar E; Thursday, March 15, 9:15 p.m. at Alamo Ritz 1)

“Come & Take It” — The Cocks Not Glocks protest involved University of Texas students carrying around sex toys after their school allowed folks to openly carry guns on campus. This 25-minute documentary short looks at how the protest came together and its legacy years later. (Friday, March 9, 8:30 p.m. at Vimeo; Monday, March 12, 8:00 p.m. at AFS Cinema; Saturday, March 17, 7:15 p.m. at Zach Theatre)

“Heavy Chemistry” — The line between platonic, romantic and erotic love blur while several friends wait for a pizza in this hilarious comedy short by Blair Rowan, starring queer actor of color Chaaz Quigley. (Friday, March 9, 8:30 p.m. at Vimeo; Monday, March 12, 8:00 p.m. at AFS Theatre; Saturday, March 17, 7:15 p.m. at Zach Theatre)

Trans Military

“On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi” — Holocaust survivors Nani and Popi are in their 90s, have a successful business and a large circle of friends, but not everyone realizes that Popi (the man in the relationship) is gay. This 25-minute real-life documentary shot by their daughters explores the complexities, heartbreaks and promises of love in the later years. (Saturday, March 10, 11:00 a.m. at Rollins Theatre; Monday, March 12, noon at Alamo Lamar E; Thursday, March 15, 1:30 p.m. at Stateside Theatre)

TransMilitary — Around 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military, and thanks to our shithead president, their future isn’t entirely clear, leaving many to serve in the closet. (Saturday, March 10, 1:45 p.m. at Alamo Ritz 1; Sunday, March 11, 11 a.m at Alamo Lamar A.; Wednesday, March 14, noon at Alamo Lamar A)

Film Keynote: Barry Jenkins — Although Jenkins isn’t gay, he directed the very gay 2017 Academy Award winner for Best Film, Moonlight. Come listen to his experience with that film and his future projects. (Sunday, March 11, 11 a.m. at Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABCD)

Martyr — We don’t want to give anything away about this stunning, disquieting film from director Mazen Khaled (trailer below) except to say that it involves a son from the Beirut slums who has lost his way, his handsome beach-loving friends and a tragedy that threatens to tear the group apart. It’s the film’s North American Premiere. (Sunday, March 11, 5 p.m. at Alamo Ritz 2; Tuesday, March 13, 8 p.m. at Alamo Lamar C; Friday, March 16, 11 a.m. at Alamo Lamar B)

“Manivald” — A 33-year-old fox’s dysfunctional relationship with his overbearing mother gets a much needed repair when a hunky handyman pays a visit, in Chintis Lundgren’s heartwarming 13-minute animated short. (Friday, March 9, 6:45 p.m. at Rollins Theatre; Monday, March 12, 5:30 p.m. at Alamo Lamar D; Thursday, March 15, 1:45 p.m. at Alamo Lamar E)

Rukus — Possibly one of the weirdest films in this year’s lineup, this feature length “queer coming-of-age story” involves a 20-year-old furry artist, living with his boyfriend in the suburbs of Orlando, Florida, who meets a 16-year-old documentary filmmaker with OCD who is studying kinky subcultures. There are also elements of graphic novels, furry conventions, southern punk houses, virtual worlds and childhood trauma — better buckle up. (Sunday, March 11, 5:00 p.m. at Alamo Lamar C; Tuesday, March 13, 11:30 a.m. at Alamo Ritz 2; Friday, March 16, 5:15 p.m. at Alamo Ritz 2)

“The Things You Think I’m Thinking” — In this 14-minute dramatic short, a black male burn-survivor and amputee goes on a date with a regularly-abled man. After the bar, they go back to his apartment, where he faces his demons as he attempts to experience intimacy for the first time since his accident 10 years ago. (Saturday, March 10, 2:45 p.m. at Alamo Lamar E; Monday, March 12, 5:00 p.m. at Rollins Theatre; Thursday, March 15, 11:00 a.m. at Stateside Theatre)

A still from “The Things You Think I’m Thinking”

“We Forgot to Break Up” — Although it’s only 15 and a half minutes long, this dramatic short of Evan, a man who unexpectedly returns to face his now-famous former bandmates, seems both touching and sad. (Saturday, March 10, 11:45 a.m. at Alamo Lamar E; Monday, March 12, 2:15 p.m. at Rollins Theatre; Thursday, March 15, 4:30 p.m. at Alamo Lamar D)

“We’re Still Here” — This three-minute short about Aiden ShortCloud — a Two-Spirit artist and historian in Boise, Idaho, struggling to revive and preserve and his Native American heritage before it’s wiped from history — is all the more amazing because it’s part of the festival’s virtual reality cinema series. (Tuesday, March 13, 11:00 a.m. at JW Marriott, Salon 5-6; Wednesday, March 14, 11:00 a.m. at JW Marriott, Salon 5-6; Thursday, March 15, 11:00 a.m. at JW Marriott, Salon 5-6)

LGBTQ Representation in Cinema — Join gay film critic and longtime Outfest supporter Alonso Duralde and three other queer film buffs to discuss censorship of LGBTQ themes in film (both in the U.S. and around the globe) and how studios get around such censorship. (SundayMarch 11, 2018 at 5 p.m. at Westin Austin Downtown, Paramount 1-2-3)



Shamir (Photo: Jason MacDonald)

In addition to the bands mentioned below, check out the non-SXSW affiliated Stargayzer music showcase (Wednesday, March 14 to Friday, March 16, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. at Rain at 4th); Tuesgayz at Barbarella for a crowded, dancey atmosphere and kickass live music on the back patio (Tuesday, March 13, nighttime); and Lesbian Wedding at the Sahara lounge, where LGBTQ artists perform and play in a festive dive bar crowd (Sunday, March 18 from 2 p.m.). None of these requires a badge.

Cut Copy — OK, they’re not gay (as far as we know), but when their electro-synth dance beats hit you hard (and they will), they’ll leave you feeling super gay, even if they aren’t.

Ezra Furman — The music of gender-bending artist Ezra Furman bristles with anger and defiance as he rages against conservatism and conformity in simple yet elegant rock songs. (Wednesday, March 14, 12:30 a.m. at Hotel Vegas; Saturday, March 17, 1:00 a.m. at Parish)

Golden Dawn Arkestra — This band is the size of a basketball team and has some of the freakiest costumes and craziest stage antics you’ve ever seen. Plus, the music’s good too. Not to be missed (Friday, March 16, 1:15 a.m. at the Hotel Vegas Patio)

Mr.Kitty — Mr.Kitty calls his genre “self-destructive synthpop,” but it’s surprisingly uplifting and high-energy despite its emotionality. He’s also a local Austin artist. (Wednesday, March 14, 12:30 a.m. at Valhalla)

Ori Dagan — This openly gay jazz singer-songwriter has a bebop jazz style — it’s fast, fun, dizzying and kind of wonderful, especially in Dagan’s capable hands. (Saturday, March 17, midnight at Elephant Room)

Partner — Josée Caron and Lucy Niles make modern music in a classic rock bent described as “part musical act, part teenage diary and 100% queer.” Sounds like a good time. (Tuesday, March 13, 12:20 a.m. at Valhalla; Friday, March 16, midnight at Swan Dive Patio)

Ori Dagan (Photo: Juan Palacio)

Pussy Riot — Perhaps you’ve heard of this hood-wearing punk-rock group that has been imprisoned and publicly whipped for openly espousing feminism and LGBTQ rights in Russia. Now you can see them in action stateside. (Tuesday, March 13, 7:15 p.m. at The Main; Wednesday, March 14, midnight at The Belmont)

Range Emotion — This queer lineup of dance music artists will keep your feet moving and helps benefit local charities. (Friday, March 16, 8:00 p.m. at Friends)

Sammus — Although we’re not sure if Sammus self-identifies as queer, this beatmaker and song stylist has been a regular performer at the GaymerX LGBTQ gaming convention and has a large following amongst activists, hip-hop heads, punks and self-identified nerds and geeks. (Tuesday, March 13, 1:10 a.m. at Sidewinder outside; Friday, March 16, 11:30 p.m. at Cheer Up Charlie’s inside)

Shamir — We’ve long been a fan of Shamir. Upon stepping into the limelight, Shamir declared, “I have no gender, no sexuality, and no fucks to give.” You’ll be repeating his fun and catchy rhymes long after hearing them. (Tuesday, March 13, 12:10 a.m. at Sidewinder outside)

SISTERS — Drop the doom and dread and put on your dancing shoes for these joyful songs about rising above the world’s BS and proclaiming your love. (Tuesday, March 13, 9:00 p.m. at Javelina; Friday, March 16, midnight at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room)

Sons of an Illustrious Father — Their curious blend of punk and folk rock is triumphant and growly, even when they’re thrashing and caterwauling. It’s multi-layered music that’s wondrously buzzy and queer. (Wednesday, March 14, 11:35 p.m. at Maggie Mae’s)


Will you be at SXSW 2018? Sound off in the comments.

Featured image of Pussy Riot

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