Zander Moricz gave a powerful speech against ‘Don’t Say Gay’, without saying “gay”. (YouTube/ Liz Ballard)
A gay Florida student gave an incredible graduation speech about his fight against the state’s horrific ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation – without saying gay.
On 31 March, 2022, a lawsuit was filed against the state by LGBTQ+ rights groups, as well as individual students and families in Florida, declaring the law “an unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ+ people in Florida’s public schools”.
The youngest of the public plaintiffs is 18-year-old Zander Moricz, a tireless advocate who as a senior led a ‘Say Gay’ walkout at Pine View School in Sarasota County.
Moricz is also his school’s first openly gay class president, and on Sunday (23 May), he gave his graduation speech.
Ahead of the speech, Moricz revealed on Twitter that he had been told by school officials 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”.
But as the state becomes increasingly hostile towards LGBTQ+ youth, Moricz couldn’t leave the topic out of his speech. Instead, he managed to give his classmates a moving and powerful call to action, without ever saying “gay”.
I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last. This threat is not the first that I have received from administration about my queer rights. (3/8)
— zander moricz (@zandermoricz) May 9, 2022
Towards the end of his speech, Moricz said: “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.”
Pausing to remove his mortarboard, he said: “As you know, I have curly hair.”
Once laughs from his classmates subsided, he continued: “I used to hate my curls. 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.”
Moricz gave thanks to teachers who had helped him embrace his authentic self, and said: “There are going to be so many kids with curly hair who need a community like Pine View, and they won’t have one.
“Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.
“I’ve been preparing this speech since I was elected in my freshman year, do you think that I wanted it to be about this?”
“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.”
Moricz told his classmates: “You must claim your power and you must give it those who will protect us… Justice and injustice exist under our authority. It is not fair that the second we turn 18 we have this responsibility, but we do.
“Now that it’s ours, we must use our shared power, because it was all the people who didn’t use it who let this happen to all the people who couldn’t.”