A Florida high school student opted for a hair metaphor after he says faculty members threatened to censor his graduation speech if he spoke about his LGBTQ activism or experiences as a gay teen.
Zander Moricz, senior class president of Pine View School for the Gifted in Osprey, Florida, planned to use his speech on Sunday to criticize the state’s Parental Rights in Education, or “Don’t Say Gay” law. Once staff members learned about his plan, however, Moricz said he was told by Principal Stephen Covert that any reference to the controversial law or his sexuality would result in his microphone getting shut off.
So, when Moricz, 18, delivered his speech at Pine View’s graduation ceremony, he shared quips about his curly hair as euphemisms for being gay.
Pine View School graduate and class president Zander Moricz delivers his commencement speech at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida, on Sunday. (Photo: Dan Wagner / Sarasota Herald-Tribune / Imagn)
“I used to hate my curls,” he said in the speech, which can be viewed in full here. “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,” Moricz continued. “Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”
In a Monday interview with “Good Morning America,” Moricz said he was pleased by 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 respond, but it was amazing,” he said. “I knew that the threat to cut the mic was very real, so I wasn’t gonna let that happen. I just had to be clever about it. But I shouldn’t have had to be, because I don’t exist in a euphemism. I deserve to be celebrated as is.”
Turns out, Moricz’s activism goes beyond lip service. He also organized student walkouts in protest of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and is named in a lawsuit against the state of Florida related to the legislation.
Catch Zander Moricz’s “Good Morning America” appearance below.
In his “GMA” appearance, Moricz said that the discourse his speech has already generated was evidence of the “horrifying” scope of the state law, which largely forbids instruction on sexuality and gender identity in most elementary school classrooms.
HuffPost reached out to Covert for comment, but did not immediately hear back. Earlier this month, the Sarasota County School District issued a statement confirming that the principal had met with Moricz, but stressed that the content of the planned speech had not been reviewed.
“Out of respect for all those attending the graduation, students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those likely to disrupt the ceremony,” the school district said. “Should a student vary from this expectation during the graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.