Instead of becoming easier, it seems society is regressing, and many are finding it more difficult than it once was to be and speak about their authentic selves. Rather than remaining quiet, however, they are finding creative alternative ways of making sure their stories and their messages are reaching the people who need them the most, and this is something Josha applauds.
Last month, Zander Moricz gave a speech about curly hair at his high school graduation. Zander was elected class president of his senior class at Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, for the class of 2022—the same year Governor Ron DeSantis signed the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law. Zander is an openly-gay young man; his school’s administration told him, however, if he mentioned anything about the LGBTQ+ community in his speech, they would cut the microphone. According to interviews with Zander, he didn’t want to disrupt the commencement ceremony in that way; nonetheless, he felt strongly that he needed to address the graduating class regarding the issues they were facing as they embraced adulthood. As a solution, Zander chose to refer to queerness in metaphor, talking about “curly hair” for much of his speech.
“I used to hate my curls. 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 definitely difficult due to humidity, I decided to be proud of who I was and started coming to school as my authentic self.”
Zander continued, mentioning how meeting other curly-haired individuals, such as teachers, helped him feel less alone. He concluded by calling his classmates to action, imploring them to speak out about curly hair so that future students—and people of all ages—won’t feel so alone in the humid Florida climate.
Through his metaphor, Zander was able to circumvent a school policy borne of a discriminatory state law. Rather than blatantly disregarding that law, he found a way to communicate a vital point on an issue that impacts much of the population. Like all of us, Zander had the choice to obey the law and school policy alike or to disregard those, knowing the consequences. He discovered a third option, though: to use words to evoke compassion about a topic his audience understood wasn’t about the words he was using at all.
This is the power of language.
I can only imagine how empowered he felt, standing on that stage in front of the administrators who sought to censor him as well as other administrators, ones who donned PRIDE stickers and ribbons in solidarity with him. As a young adult, Zander has already discovered that when people command you to remain silent on a topic, there are many who are eager—desperate, even—to hear what you have to say…to know they aren’t alone.
At Josha, all of us are amazed by Zander’s inspirational speech, and we’re encouraged to keep doing the work we set out to do: to tell the stories society might prefer we keep to ourselves. As we understand it, the truth about our current culture is that there are many topics—queerness being one of them—that many would prefer we keep to ourselves. But these topics are more than fodder for discussion; they’re our life stories, experiences of discrimination because of the color of our skin, who we love, what we’ve survived and the challenges we’ve overcome. And through our stories, we can tell others that their stories matter too, and that they aren’t alone.
Around the same time the story of Zander’s speech was in the news, I submitted my second manuscript to our Editor-in-Chief, listing my concerns about speaking out so bluntly about some of my experiences. I was paralyzed with fear because of the possibility—however remote—that Josha may get sued because of what I’ve written, my contract may be dropped or my book would be censored; after all, we live in a world where censorship is already law in some states, like Florida, and I’ve written about things that many have told me explicitly not to talk about.
Shanna replied, “The fear of being sued by folks who want to keep secrets that should be exposed isn’t going to stop what we’re doing at Josha.”
When I read her reply, relief washed over me, quickly followed by growing sense of honor to be a part of a publishing house that refuses to be silenced, to work with people who are inspired by young leaders, like Zander Moricz. A publishing house that fights for both equality and equity with each word we publish, because we believe in resilience, both of the stories our authors have already lived and in our ability to be resilient, no matter what the future holds for our country. Because we’re a publishing house for the people—all the people, whether they have curly hair in a humid Florida climate or not.
Happy Pride, from all of us at Josha Publishing, LLC.
Josha Publishing, LLC is a woman-founded, woman-owned, and woman-run company that is passionate about books, stories, and the power of words to change lives. Learn more about us here and remember to sign up for our newsletter to find out about new content, new books, and submissions update.
PRIDE and ResilienceTweet