The teen quipped about his curly hair after he says school officials told him they'd shut off his microphone if he referenced his LGBTQ advocacy work.
A graduating senior in Florida came up with a clever loophole to talk about gay rights and address the state's "Parental Rights in Education" law—also called the "Don't Say Gay" law by critics—in his graduation speech, after he was allegedly subjected to censorship by school officials. Zander Moricz, a senior and the president of his graduating class at Pine View School in Osprey, revealed in a viral Twitter thread earlier this month that he was being "silenced" by the school administration.
"A few days 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, the school administration had a signal to cut off my microphone, end my speech, and halt the ceremony," wrote Moricz, who is the youngest public plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state over the bill.
I am the youngest public plaintiff in the “Don’t Say Gay” lawsuit. I am my Florida high school’s first openly-gay Class President. I am being silenced, and I need your help. 🧵— zander moricz (@zandermoricz) May 9, 2022
Taking heed of the warning, when he spoke at his graduation on Sunday, the teen didn’t talk about being gay. Instead, he spoke about having curly hair. "I must discuss a very public part of my identity," Moricz told a silent auditorium full of onlookers, causing the tension in the room to palpably increase. "As you know," he continued, pausing to remove his tasseled cap, "I have curly hair." Referring to his "curly hair" as a euphemism for being gay, the 18-year-old went on to speak about how he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality for a long time.
"I used to hate my curls," Moricz continued. "I spent mornings and nights embarrassed of them, trying to desperately straighten this part of who I am. But the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to endure... 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."
“Justice & injustice exist under our authority…When you waste your power what you're doing is giving it to whoever already has the most. And right now those with the most power are coming for those with the least."— Glennon Doyle (@GlennonDoyle) May 24, 2022
Please watch. Thank you @zandermoricz https://t.co/ymeyTwOHFq
Without ever naming the controversial law, the teen severely criticized it by pointing out how "thousands of curly-haired kids will be forced to speak like this for their entire lives as students." Moricz concluded his speech by calling upon his class's history of activism and encouraging his peers to use their power to fight back. According to Good Morning America, in a statement released before graduation, Pine View School—which reportedly approved the euphemism-laden remarks in what seems to have been an attempt to walk a fine line between following the law and allowing Moricz to deliver his speech as class president—said: "Students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements... Should a student vary from this expectation during the graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action."
Three of my school board members wore Say Gay stickers with me on stage. These are politicians. DeSantis is a toad. pic.twitter.com/RtwQSodqsu— zander moricz (@zandermoricz) May 24, 2022
In an interview with Jim DeLa for ABC7's podcast The Lead, Moricz shared that he believes his principal is a supportive person who is currently under a lot of pressure to act otherwise after the passage of the law. The teen also revealed that being told to censor his graduation speech, "was like a sledgehammer to the face. I could not comprehend it because it felt so backward. I'm told that my human rights are controversial and therefore not appropriate for school setting. I'm the class president and my human rights are not appropriate for my speech at my school graduation."
"That's when it really set in for me. It was a perfect crystal clear image of the impact that this bill can have, will have, and is already having, because I know that this (principal) isn't the human being that I know," he added. Moricz revealed that he gave the principal his word that he would conform to the school's wishes. "I cannot ruin something that hundreds of my friends have worked for for years," he said. "I will not take away their moment simply because we have an administrator and a government that is telling us that those are the two choices."
However, Moricz was determined not to compromise on his principles. "That is something that I will not compromise over anything at any point in time. I will simply find a way to have both. And I won't have it any other way. So that's just how it's going to be." And find a way he did.