Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez, the bisexual president of Stoneman Douglas High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, has spoken out about the way her sexuality fuels her activism.
She has been at the forefront of the #NeverAgain movement since her impassioned speech at a rally last month in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when she emotively repeated the phrase “We call BS” about NRA-funded politicians, gun advocates and those who don’t believe the Parkland teenagers know enough to speak up.
At the March For Our Lives rally in Washington DC, she made an emotional speech which left her and many of the hundreds of thousands of protesters in tears.
And speaking to Yahoo, she said that being open with her bisexuality meant she was able to speak out in this powerful way as one of the leaders of the Never Again MSD movement.
“They’re definitely linked for me personally,” she said. “If I wasn’t so open about who I was I never would’ve been able to do this.
“In ninth grade,” she recalled, “I was in a creative writing class where I could actually really effectively communicate what I was feeling, and it especially helped me come to terms with who I was.
“That definitely was when I really understood who I am, and when I came to terms with it, and when I told most people.”
This experience, she explained, “helped me understand that everybody, no matter who they are and what they look like, is going through a lot of different things.”
Gonzalez’s position as head of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance has also been a crucial part of making her the activist she is today, she said.
“It’s really helped me get used to shifting plans very quickly, planning in advance, and also being flexible… understanding that maybe you organise a club meeting with this one person in mind and they just don’t come because they aren’t coming to school, and you can’t get upset,” she said.
“Because most of the kids in GSA either have depression or they’re dealing with a lot of stuff at home, and it’s like, I can understand that.
“And there are so many people in the country who are dealing with that, in relation to gun violence. You have no idea.
“You don’t know how many people you talk to on a daily basis that have actually been shot before, or have lost someone through gun violence.
“With GSA it’s the same. Everything’s incredibly far-reaching and widespread,” added the teenager.
During her speech at yesterday’s rally, Gonzalez showed exactly how inspiring she could be.
“Six minutes and about 20 seconds,” she told the crowd. “In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured and everyone in the Douglas community was forever altered.
“Everyone who was there understands. Everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands. For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing.
“No one understood the extent of what had happened.”
Gonzalez listed off the names of those who died in the mass shooting last month with actions – like joking, smiling and playing basketball – that the young victims “would never” do again.
The teenage activist, whose impact has seen her gain more fans than the National Rifle Association, then fell silent for minutes on end.
Apart from sporadic shouting and chanting, the immense number of protesters did the same, staying quiet.
When she broke the silence, Gonzalez told the crowd: “Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle”.
She ended the speech with the message: “Fight for your lives, before it’s someone else’s job.”