speaking up

Florida Student Brilliantly Subverts "Don't Say Gay" Censorship in Grad Speech

“I used to hate my curls. I spend mornings and nights embarrassed of them trying desperately to straighten this part of who I am."

Originally Published: 
Zander Moricz at the podium in a graduation cap and gown making a speach
mattxiv / Twitter

A student at a Florida high school is speaking out after he says he was told to censor his graduation speech. Zander Moricz, a senior and the president of his graduating class at Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, is openly gay and he was chosen to address his fellow classmates during the graduation ceremony. However, according to him, he was told a few topics were off-limits — including his activity in a lawsuit against the state against the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But that didn’t stop Zander, it just made him a little creative. Here’s what you need to know.

According to ABC News, Zander said he was being “silenced” and shared his concerns in a Twitter thread a few weeks ago. “My principal called me into his office and informed me that if my graduation speech referenced my activism or role as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, school administration had a signal to cut off my microphone, end my speech, and halt the ceremony.”

Zander is one of the youngest plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was filed against the state of Florida over its anti-trans anti-gay “Parental Rights in Education” law. The law essentially bans speech about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms until it is “developmentally appropriate.”

But that wasn’t going to stop Zander. Instead, he got creative during his graduation ceremony speech.

“I must discuss the very public part of my identity,” Zander told the audience, making it sound like he was alluding to being gay. “This characteristic has probably become the first thing you think of when you think of me as a human being,” he continued, before a brief pause.

“As you know, I have curly hair,” he said, removing his cap. “I used to hate my curls. I spend mornings and nights embarrassed of them trying desperately to straighten this part of who I am. But the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to do,” he continued.

He continued, discussing the importance of having supportive teachers and what that meant to him. “So, while having curly hair in the state of Florida can be difficult, due to the humidity, I decided to be proud of who I was, and started coming to school as my authentic self,” he shared. “There are going to be so many kids with curly hair who need a community like Pine View and they will not have one. Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”

He received a standing ovation with many in the audience understanding that he wasn’t’ really discussing his curly hair. He technically stayed within the bounds he said the school administration required him to do. And he got his very important point across – and he will continue to advocate for his community.

“I'm going to be concentrating in government so I can try and fix the same problems I'm trying to fix now,” he shared.

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