Florida high school student opted for a capillary metaphor after he said faculty members threatened to censor his graduation speech if he spoke about his LGBTQ activism or his experiences as a gay teenager.
Zander Moriczpresident of the senior class at Pine View School for the Gifted in Osprey, Fla., planned to use his Sunday speech to criticize the state Parental rights in educationor “don’t say gayright. However, once the staff members learned of his plan, Moricz said he was told by Principal Stephen Covert that any reference to the controversial law or his sexuality would cause his microphone to be shut down.
So when Moricz, 18, gave his speech at Pine View’s graduation ceremony, he shared jokes about his curly hair as euphemisms for being gay.
Pine View School graduate and class president Zander Moricz delivers his commencement address at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Fla., on Sunday. (Photo: Dan Wagner/Sarasota Herald-Tribune/Imagn)
“I used to hate my curls,” he said in the speech, which may be see it in full here. “I spent mornings and nights embarrassed by them, desperately trying to straighten out this part of who I am. But the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to bear.
“There will be so many curly-haired kids who need a community like Pine View and they won’t get it,” Moricz continued. “Instead, they will try to repair themselves so they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”
In an interview Monday with “Hello America,Moricz said he was thrilled with the reception his speech received from classmates and other graduation attendees.
“You don’t know how a very volatile and polarized community is going to react, but it was amazing,” he said. “I knew the threat to mute the mic was very real, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. I just had to be smart about it. But I shouldn’t have been, because I don’t exist. not in an understatement. I deserve to be celebrated as I am.
It turns out that Moricz’s activism goes beyond lip service. He also has organized student walkouts to protest the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and is named in a lawsuit against the state of Florida related to legislation.
Watch Zander Moricz’s “Good Morning America” appearance below.
In his “GMA” appearance, Moricz said the backlash his speech has already generated is proof of the “horrifying” reach of state law, which largely prohibits teaching about sexuality and sex. gender identity in most elementary school classrooms.
HuffPost reached out to Covert for comment, but did not immediately respond. Earlier this month, the Sarasota County School District released a statement confirming that the principal had met with Moricz, but pointed out that the content of the planned speech had not been reviewed.
“Out of respect for all who attend the graduation, students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those that may disrupt the ceremony,” the school district said. “If a student deviates from this expectation upon graduation, appropriate action may need to be taken.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.