Demonstrators protest inside the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people. Credit: Wilfredo Lee

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Hat’s off – literally – to Zander Moricz, the student speaker at Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, who found a way to celebrate his identity despite misguided new restrictions that started with the state government on what he was allowed to discuss during his commencement address.

Moricz is the president of his senior class, a gay activist, and the youngest plaintiff in a lawsuit against a new Florida law that restricts what teachers can say in classes about gender and sexual orientation.

Moricz said that was told by his principal not to mention his activism or say the word “gay” in his address to his classmates and audience, which was approved by administrators before the May 22 ceremony. If he did these things, his microphone would be cut off, Moricz said on social media.

Not wanting to mar a celebration for his friends and classmates and not wanting to lose a platform for LGBTQ rights, he found a clever way around these restrictions.

“As you know, I have curly hair,” Moricz said to laughter from the audience as he removed his blue graduation cap to reveal his brown hair.

“I used to hate my curls,” he continued in a video posted on Twitter. “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,” he told the audience as he thanked those who helped him understand and accept his “curly hair.”

Moricz encouraged his classmates to use their power to make change because “there are going to be so many kids with curly hair who need a community like Pine View and they won’t have one. Instead, they will try to fix themselves so they can survive in Florida’s humid climate.”

Despite his clever euphemism for being gay, Moricz told Good Morning America that having to change his speech was “dehumanizing” because he shouldn’t have had to resort to clever word play to talk about who he is.

“I shouldn’t have had to be [clever] because I don’t exist in a euphemism and I deserve to be celebrated as is,” said Moricz, who plans to attend Harvard University in the fall to study government.

So, as we congratulate Moricz for his way with words, he’s absolutely right, neither he – nor any other gay student or teacher or anyone in Florida or anywhere else – should have to hide who they are.

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...