By Yvonne Joyce for OLY ARTS
“My name is Emma González. I’m 18 years old, Cuban and bisexual.” In the February 2018 issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, a young woman wrote those words, bringing together her youth, national origin and sexuality as she courageously took the national stage. This year, Capital City Pride honors the singular voice of Emma González with the title “Honorary Pride Parade Marshal” for 2018.
“Capital City Pride honors González as a Latinx student activist for school safety, gun control and a proud LGBTQ youth,” says Gina Thompson, chair of Pride 2018. “We recognize that González’s activism has inspired many LGBTQ youth across the nation.”
González will graduate from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in the spring of 2018. She serves as the president of its Gay-Straight Alliance, and she’s become one of the best-known survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day 2018. A group of students came together after that shooting and cofounded the gun-control advocacy group Never Again MSD (#NeverAgain).
González received public attention after an impassioned speech at a rally in February, in which she repeated the phrase “We call BS.” Glamour magazine called her “the face of the #NeverAgain movement” and “a recognizable icon.” In March 2018, González and other activists appeared on the cover of Time. She is now followed on Twitter by over 1.6 million people.
In March, González helped to organize the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. The march was the largest student protest in U.S. history and the first of that size to include an openly LGBTQ activist. During her speech, González went entirely silent. She cried as global television cameras zoomed in for over six minutes. “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.”
It was a visceral moment, one MSNBC analyst David Corn later named “the loudest silence in the history of U.S. social protest.” González never shied from her LGBTQ identity. In fact, she credits her work with her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance as preparation for the very public #NeverAgain fight.
In an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, González said her sexuality made it easier for her to help lead the #NeverAgain movement because being open about her own identity allowed her to “understand that everybody, no matter who they are and what they look like, is going through a lot of different things.” González has also named trans activist Sylvia Rivera, one of the early protestors during the Stonewall riots, as one of her personal heroes.
Her actions have made a difference in the national debate over gun rights. Earlier this spring, Florida passed significant gun-reform legislation for the first time in decades. The national debate has been galvanized by a newly active group of protestors who won’t revert to talking points.
“We are tired of being ignored,” wrote González in her essay for Harper’s Bazaar. “So we are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it just yet and for those who will never speak again. We are grieving, we are furious and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again.”
Capital City Pride 2018
Heritage Park, Fifth Ave. SW, Olympia