SARASOTA, Fla. – In Florida, it's hard "having curly hair."
During a graduation ceremony Sunday, Zander Moricz spoke about his experiences and activism as the first openly gay class president of Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, but in his commencement address, he never said he was gay. Instead, he used his curly hair as a euphemism for his sexual orientation.
Earlier this month, the 18-year-old Pine View class president had publicized his feud with the school administration on Twitter over his graduation speech, saying the school's principal, Stephen Covert, had called Moricz into his office to warn him the administration would cut off his microphone if he mentioned his activism. His tweet thread accumulated hundreds of thousands of likes and shares.
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, school administration had a signal to cut off my microphone, end my speech, and halt the ceremony. (2/8)
— zander moricz (@zandermoricz) May 9, 2022
Moricz said the decision to censor his speech was "dehumanizing," but he didn't want to risk ruining the ceremony for his fellow students.
"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 in his speech. "Instead, they'll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida's humid climate."
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Moricz is the youngest plaintiff in a lawsuit against Florida's parental rights and education law, often referred to as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and has been outspoken in his opposition to it and how it would affect students.
In his speech, he didn't say "gay" once.
"I knew that the threat to cut the mic was very real, so I wasn't going to let that happen. I just had to be clever about it," Moricz said in an interview Monday with ABC's "Good Morning America."
"But I shouldn't have had to be because I don't exist in a euphemism. I deserve to be celebrated as is."
In the interview, he said that if Florida's law had been in place when he was a freshman, he wouldn't have come out.
"It effectively takes away the only guaranteed safe space from the majority of the entire LGBTQ population here," Moricz said.
After Moricz's tweet, the Sarasota County School District issued a lengthy statement May 10 confirming Covert met with Moricz but said the content of his speech had not been reviewed.
Some school board members expressed support for Moricz. Chair Jane Goodwin, Vice Chair Tom Edwards and Karen Rose each sat onstage for the Pine View School graduation ceremony.
Edwards, who is openly gay, said Moricz deserved to be celebrated for who he is.
“I don't want him to be a victim in this,” Edwards said. “I want him to be celebrated for his accomplishments while being true to his identity.”
Following After his speech, Goodwin emphasized her support for Moricz.
"We have to make sure that we understand and we keep every child safe and respected in our school district," she said.
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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Florida HS grad Zander Moricz avoids saying 'gay' in graduation speech