Matthew’s Place
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Matthew’s Place

Meet the Florida Teen Unafraid to “Say Gay”

Image Credit: Zander Moricz

While most last-semester seniors are navigating prom invites, locker clean-outs, parking space decorations, and farewell parties, Florida student Zander Moricz was in the middle of a social media storm, wondering if he would be silenced by his own school for his LGBTQ+ identity.

When his representatives signed “Don’t Say Gay” into law earlier in the semester, Moricz led a walkout to organize against the disturbing new rules against any discussion, expression, or instruction around sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. His posters for the walkout were ripped from school walls and he was told that security would be called in if any walk out continued. Moricz led the protest anyways, and later became the youngest public plaintiff in the lawsuit filed against “Don’t Say Gay.”

After being elected to student council all four years and now presiding as Class President, Moricz was an obvious choice to speak at graduation. It would be a meaningful opportunity to reflect on what his class had been through together. But with just a few weeks before he was set to take the stage, Moricz alleges that his principal called him into his office to warn him that any reference to his activism or involvement in the lawsuit in a speech would lead to his microphone being immediately cut off.

The ceremony would be halted because of a mere acknowledgement of who he is, and what one of the most pressing issues students are facing in his school district has meant to him. But Moricz would not be silenced- he would send a louder message that would reverberate across social media and the country: “Say Gay.”

In a now-viral set of Tweets, Moricz shared his story and called on other Florida students to stand up and speak out. In coordination with the Social Equity and Education Initiative, Moricz printed 10,000 “Say Gay” stickers for high school seniors across Florida to wear proudly at their graduation. The simple action would be a powerful way to show underclassmen and the wider community that LGBTQ+ seniors will not be afraid to express themselves as exactly who they are.

“If someone is unable to embrace all aspects of their identity amongst their peers, there exists a constant subconscious affirmation that their lives would be better without whatever part of themselves they are suppressing,” Moricz said in an interview with Matthew’s Place. “The point of legislation like the “Don’t Say Gay” law is erode the confidence of LGBTQ+ children so that they hate themselves as much as their politicians.”

On May 22nd, Moricz spoke at his graduation to a standing ovation. While he might be leaving high school, he is not leaving the fight for his community. As older lawmakers continue to strip away rights for the LGBTQ+ community, Moricz is unafraid to stand up, speak out, and prove that it’s not just okay, but critical, to “Say Gay.”

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Matthew’s Place is by and for LGBTQ+ youth and a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation l #EraseHate

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Matthew's Place

Matthew's Place

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email patrick@matthewshepard.org

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