An openly gay Florida high schooler who previously claimed school authorities were threatening to cut his microphone if he mentioned his sexual orientation during his graduation speech was able to deliver his preferred speech by using “curly hair” as a euphemism for “gay.”
Zander Moricz, the senior class president at Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, and the youngest public plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, has long been an LGBTQ activist since coming out as gay. Since passage of the law two months ago, Moricz has claimed that teachers have preemptively sought to censor his freedom of expression, saying they will no longer allow him to speak about LGBTQ issues and cannot acknowledge his sexual orientation in class (even if he raises it without prompting).
Moricz claimed in a statement posted to Twitter earlier this month that the principal of Pine View School warned him that he was unable to talk about his sexual orientation, his past activism, or his role as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. He also claimed that the principal had previously threatened to discipline him when he was organizing a student walkout designed to protest passage of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was ultimately signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March.
The controversial law, officially titled the “Parental Rights in Education” law, prohibits classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in primary grades, or in older grades if the material is considered “age inappropriate” or developmentally inappropriate.” Critics of the law say it simply censors student’s free speech rights and penalizes any teachers who are friendly to, or accepting of, LGBTQ students and students with same-sex parents.
Republican legislators in several dozen other states have introduced nearly identical bills, arguing that LGBTQ acceptance has gone too far and that children are being unnecessarily exposed to “sexual content” and may become “confused” about their own identities whenever the existence of LGBTQ people is acknowledged.
However, Moricz found a creative way around the school’s threat to censor him while still getting across his point, reports The Hill.
“I must discuss a very public part of my identity. This characteristic has probably become the first thing you think of when you think of me as a human being,” he said on Sunday during his speech. “As you know, I have curly hair.
“I used to hate my curls,” he added. “I spent 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 endure.”
Moricz told the story of how he came to accept his identity — as a student with “curly hair” — and began to come to school as his “authentic self.” He said that the love he had drawn from Pine View’s welcoming community to “come out” to his family.
“There are going to be so many kids with curly hair who need a community like Pine View, and they won’t have one,” Moricz said. “Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”
Moricz said he’s been planning his graduation speech since his first year of high school — he’s been class president all four years — but didn’t anticipate having to address his activism during the speech.
“Do you think that I wanted it to be about this?” he asked the audience. ‘It needs to be about this for the thousands of curly haired kids who are going to be forced to speak like this for their entire lives as students.”
He also urged his classmates to “claim their power”and “give it to those who protect us.”
“Those who we give our power to are the reason I have to stand here and talk about my hair during my graduation speech,” he said, in a dig at Florida lawmakers.
“…[W]e must use our shared power because all the people who didn’t use it let this happen to all the people who couldn’t. When you waste your power, what are you really doing is giving it to whoever has the most already. And right now, those with the most power are coming for those with the least,” Moricz said.
“We should not have to deal with this. But we’re ready. I’ve seen what this community can overcome when we come together. I’ve see what we can do,” he said, referring to past examples of student activism. “…[W]e can easily save the world.”
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