In Florida, it's hard having curly hair.
During Pine View School's graduation ceremony Sunday, Zander Moricz spoke about his experiences and activism as Pine View School's first openly gay class president, but in his commencement address, he never said he was gay. Instead, he used his curly hair as a euphemism for his sexual orientation.
Moricz said the decision to censor his speech was "dehumanizing," but he didn't want to risk ruining the ceremony for his fellow students.
In case you missed it: LGBTQ groups, parents file federal lawsuit opposing Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law
"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."
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 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 gonna let that happen. I just had to be clever about it," Moricz said in an interview Monday with Good Morning America on ABC.
"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 if the 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, ViceChair Tom Edwards and Shirley Brown each sat on stage attending 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 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.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota senior avoids saying "gay" in graduation speech