After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis passed the controversial law activists are calling the Don’t Say Gay bill, which aims to shut down classroom conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation, Florida teens have advocated against the law. One of those teens is Zander Moricz, the 18-year-old class president of Pine View School, who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state of Florida relating to the Don’t Say Gay legislation. Moricz, who is set to speak at Pine View’s graduation ceremony on May 22nd, says his principal told him not to talk about his queer identity and opposition to Don’t Say Gay in his speech.
Teen Vogue has reached out to Moricz's principal for comment but has not heard back. In a statement to ABC7, a Florida ABC affiliate, on May 12, the Sarasota County School District said "Students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those likely to disrupt the ceremony. Should a student vary from this expectation during the graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action. The principal did meet with Zander Moricz to remind him of the ceremony expectations, but the content of the speech has not yet been reviewed.”
Teen Vogue caught up with Moricz to talk about what comes next for him.
Teen Vogue: You've said your principal warned you against talking about your identity at graduation. What was your experience?
Zander Moricz: I was called in for [a meeting] by administration, which is not unusual as class president. I do lots of meetings and didn't really think anything of it. When I walked in, I knew this was something different than any meeting I'd had because my principal was behaving like there were 100 other people in the room. We talked about my passions being valid but “controversial for school settings.” I got very upset and very angry because we cannot allow ourselves to accept the fact that a human being’s identity is controversial because that leaves human rights up for debate. I am not a debatable existence.
TV: What do you think made the principal think you would use your platform as class president in that way?
ZM: I do a lot of organizing and activism and the community response, locally, has been negative. So I think that, despite having never seen a draft or any segment of my speech, he assumed I would do as I always have, which is use my platform to spark a dialogue.
TV: If you do include anything about your queer identity or your part in the Don’t Say Gay lawsuit, what do you think will happen?
ZM: I have no idea what they’ll do but the county [school district] has stated they would support intervention so I assume the worst.
TV: What are you planning on doing with your graduation speech?
ZM: Walking into graduation, my speech is going to represent my human rights while ensuring that hundreds of my friends receive the celebration they deserve. I think you’ll see how I manage to do that on May 22nd.
TV: How does it feel to have your high school graduation speech marred by this controversy?
ZM: I’m upset. This is my last week of high school. I wanted it to be about my friends and saying goodbye to everybody but instead it's really miserable. I have so many people that are angry so worried it will derail their graduation and I worry about that too and am trying to prevent that. But everyone is focused on what could go wrong instead of the last week of high school being a celebration or build up to graduation, it’s me figuring out how I can do right by myself by my peers. It’s more stressful and scary than I can really articulate. I’m just exhausted and this should not be what I’m worried about right now.
TV: What do you wish people understood about being a queer teen in Florida right now?
ZM: It’s dehumanizing to become a debatable topic and a political issue. I am not controversial. I am a human being who would like to speak about the fact that I exist. Why is that sentence causing thousands of people to hate me?
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