In yet another example of corporations pushing controversial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, Austin’s annual South by Southwest festival held earlier this month endorsed drag queen story hours and other radical gender ideology practices.

Every year, the SXSW festival sponsors SXSW EDU, a conference held for teachers and other educators that advertises “learning and discovery for all education stakeholders.” The four-day event features programming based on 11 different themes in education, including Global Initiatives, Accessibility and Inclusion, and Health and Wellbeing.

The conference also offers an Equity and Justice track, which addresses “work championing equity, justice, access, diversity, and inclusion in education and beyond, including social and economic disparities, culturally responsive teaching, anti-racism practice, LGBTQ+ issues, restorative justice and more to ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all.”

Last year, SXSW announced that the 2023 conference’s speakers would include board members from Drag Queen Story Hour, an organization that encourages men to crossdress as women and read to children. The talk featured DQSH President Beatrice Thomas as Black Benatar, Executive Board Director Jonathan Hamilt as Ona Louise, and Board Treasurer Lil’ Miss Hot Mess.

Another one of the session’s presenters was Felix Nguyen-Dalton, a representative from the Transgender Education Network of Texas, an organization that promotes child gender mutilation.

At this month’s conference, three DQSH representatives dressed in drag and told an audience of educators that “we’ve been fed a certain viewpoint of what gender and gender stereotypes look like.” Their presentation, entitled “Fight for Queer Herstories,” promoted drag as a “traditional art form to promote literacy, teach about LGBTQ lives, and activate children’s imaginations.”

One drag queen featured during the session condemned traditional views of gender and encouraged educators to question cultural norms.

“Our haters are the ones who are trying to promote this really rigid, narrow, … binaristic view of the world where things are right or wrong and you have to act, and dress, and be a certain way. And we’re saying no, ask questions about that. Open up your mind. Imagine a better future.”

SXSW EDU also featured a session entitled “Pronouns & LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Classroom.” The presentation covered the “importance” of using pronouns in the classroom and called for teachers and school officials to use gender-neutral language and acknowledge “gender diversity” in schools. The talk also highlighted how “LGBTQ+” youth are advancing pronouns, neopronouns, and “gender creativity,” which encourages individuals to break traditional gender roles.

Last year, four Texas school districts spent thousands of taxpayer dollars sending employees to the SXSW EDU conference. Austin Independent School District spent more than $4,000, Fort Worth ISD paid more than $9,000, and San Antonio ISD sent one teacher for $525. Round Rock ISD paid more than $12,000 in registration fees to send 30 employees to the education conference.

Concerned parents and citizens can contact their local school district to find out if they sent employees to the SXSW EDU conference with taxpayer dollars.

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.