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'I used to hate my curls': Sarasota County high school president uses hair as symbol of sexual orientation

Without using the word "gay," Zander Moricz used his curly hair as a way to speak about his sexual orientation during his graduation speech.
Credit: Sengchoy Int - stock.adobe.com

OSPREY, Fla. — A Tampa Bay-area teen decided to take his graduation speech and speak about ongoing controversial political topics in a way that wouldn't get him silenced.

During the Sunday graduation ceremony for Pine View School in Osprey, Zander Moricz spoke about his experience with activism as the high school's first openly gay class president, the Herald-Tribune reports. But in this speech, he never once said he was gay.

Without using the word "gay," Moricz used his curly hair as a way to speak about his sexual orientation.

"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 during the graduation speech. "Instead, they'll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida's humid climate."

Moricz said his graduation speech was being censored against his will. It was the only way to talk about it without having the mic cut off, the Herald-Tribune explains.

His speech came in the wake of Florida's "Parental Rights in Education" law, which is dubbed by critics as "Don't Say Gay" because it bars educators from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade. School districts may opt to ban topics of sexual orientation or gender identity beyond third grade if leaders deem them not to be age or developmentally appropriate. 

The high school graduate on his way to Harvard told "Good Morning America" that he knew the threat to cut the mic was "very real." In an earlier Twitter thread, Moricz claimed he could not mention his activism or role as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Florida law.

“I used to hate my curls,” he said after taking his graduation cap off during the speech. "I spent morning and night embarrassed of them trying to straighten this part of who I am, but the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to endure.

"So while having curly hair in Florida is difficult due to the humidity, I decided to be proud of who I was and started coming to school as my authentic self."

While The Washington Post wasn't able to receive a response from Pine View Principal Steve Covert, a spokeswoman for Sarasota County Schools wrote an email on May 10 saying the principal "did meet with Zander Moricz to remind him of the ceremony expectations." 

The email also reportedly explained that Moricz wasn't told to not say the word gay by Covert, The Washington Post reports.

Watch the full graduation speech down below.

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