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Five years on

March 25, 2023

It’s been five years since I spent a Saturday glued to the television watching the March for Our Lives in Washington, five years since I listened to the unbelievable and heart breaking speeches delivered by teenagers and children, five years since I wrote this reaction to it. 

I finished it with this optimistic prediction: “I’m pretty sure I’ll be dead long before Emma Gonzalez is sworn in as the President of the United States, but maybe I will live long enough to see her take over Marco Rubio’s role as a Florida senator.”

A reminder of this left me wondering what had become of Gonzales. She’d be finished college by now, surely. Had she studied political science? Was she already gearing up to take on Marco Rubio or (in some ways even better) Matt Gaetz?

So I went looking and found this piece Gonzales wrote early in 2023. 

After several gruelling months of activism after the Parkland shooting, Gonzales went to college. Emma became X, “she” became “they”. They found a safe place to heal at least a little.

Out of the limelight for some time, Gonzales agreed to step back in last year, agreeing to speak at a rally to mark the anniversary of Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. After overcoming an almost paralysing fear that they no longer had it in them to “deliver”, they write:

“I directed my speech at members of Congress. I spoke to the fact that in my time as an activist trying to protect this country from itself, the only thing standing in the way of a life without headlines about mass shootings or the news that a loved one was taken by a gun had been Congress. Those who are currently in office are the only people who can make this change, and it is the sole purpose of their job to pass the laws that the people want them to. I let myself insult, scream, and curse at Congress in this speech for the simple reason that it is unfathomable to me that there would be people in this world who ran for office with the intention of making the world a better place, are presented with the facts about gun violence, and choose to ignore them in favor of making money from gun manufacturers. We are dying. And the people whose job it is to stop it work on Capitol Hill and sit around all day doing nothing, letting us sit like fish in a barrel with AR-15s aimed at us from every direction.

“All the other times I’ve given a speech, I’ve kept it PG. But this time, I could not have given less of a shit about seeming like a morally upright person. Me and my friends did everything we were supposed to, and shootings still happen every day. I have nothing to hide or reshape to get my point across. I have a handle on who I am now, and I know how I want to be perceived. The audience was with me. The failure of our government is all too easy to see. We needed to carry our voices over the lawn of the Monument through the halls of Congress and into the ears of our representatives.”

It’s a fairly long essay, but I do encourage you to read it all. If you follow my writing, you also probably fell in love with the power and passion of Gonzales five years ago. This is a reminder that all that love and hatred came at a cost to someone who just went to school one day.

It might be possible in some states in the US for a gay man or a lesbian to be elected to office, but in the crazy, fucked up state of Florida the idea of a nonbinary individual even making it past the primaries seems completely unimaginable. Someone else may have to take on Rubio and Gaetz. I still hope it will be one of the Parkland kids.

And I hope Gonzales finds peace and joy.

From → Columns

One Comment
  1. Donna permalink

    Thank you for sharing.

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