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Monday April 15th

Activist X González visits TCNJ for interview and discussion

<p><em>X González was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2018 (Photo by Matthew Kaufman).</em></p>

X González was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2018 (Photo by Matthew Kaufman).

By Matthew Kaufman
Managing Editor

X González, an activist and survivor of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, visited the College on March 20 for a moderated discussion hosted by Professor Leigh-Anne Francis. The speaker discussed their views on gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, systemic racism and more.

“X is an activist to the core,” said Francis, an associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies and African American studies, in her introduction of González. 

The discussion, which was co-sponsored by the Women’s Center, the Women in Learning and Leadership program and club, and the Office of Inclusive Excellence, centered more on González’s activism in recent years than on the details of the shooting, which left 17 dead.

González and other Parkland survivors led the March for Our Lives organization, which began with a series of protests that drew more than one million marches across the country in one day. The world first learned of González after the now-famous “We Call BS” speech that they gave three days after the Valentine’s Day shooting.

“I didn’t even know that it was being broadcast live on CNN,” González said. “As soon as I gave the speech and got off the podium, everybody was like, ‘You’re trending on Twitter,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t even have a Twitter. What do you mean I’m trending on Twitter?’”

In the months that followed, people across the country looked to X as a gun control advocacy leader, with media outlets frequently covering the young activist. Francis reported that the Parkland students’ activism led to the passage of 278 gun control laws across the country, including in New Jersey.

The advocate rose to prominence as Emma González but has since come out as non-binary and started going by X.

“During the pandemic, I wasn’t adhering to ‘What do I wanna do on the day-to-day to make myself feel like myself, in presentation terms?’” said González. “And I started to realize that maybe I’m not a girl. Maybe the way that I’ve been thinking about femininity and being a woman and being a girl is not something that I actually adhere to.”

González, named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2018, then began embracing a nonbinary and queer identity. “I don’t really feel that straight is real, and I don’t really feel like gender is real at this point in my life,” said González. “But that’s not to disrespect anybody else’s gender identity.”

González told The Signal after the discussion that they enjoyed hearing from students and appreciated the supportive audience.

“It’s really cool to be able to see so many young people who are (a) interested and (b) took time out of their day to be here,” González said. “There’s so much kinship and love and community. People legitimately care and are interested, and they want everyone else in the community to hear the answer to their question.”

Loretta Wolchko, a senior international studies major who was in the audience, said that she was happy to be able to hear from X close up.

“Being able to hear from X in person and in such an intimate setting really made everything that happened seem more like a reality,” said Wolchko. “Being able to hear from them directly and speak to them directly was just such a powerful moment, and it genuinely makes me want to become more involved in activism.”

Francis told The Signal after the discussion that she was glad students were able to hear from a speaker that they could relate to in many ways.

“X is a really great person to have speak at the College, because X is the students here,” said Francis. “X is newly out of college, and the things that X cares about, a lot of the students here care about. X is a living example of wanting to be heard, getting heard and making change, and that’s really important for students.”




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