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Four takeaways from Women’s History Month guest speaker X González

Six years ago, X González was a high school senior and survivor of the mass shooting that took the lives of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. With “an iconic shaved head” and known as Emma at the time, they became the face of the fight for gun control — rallying at the Capitol and statehouses across the country to stoically recite the names of the friends they lost and to powerfully call “BS” on legislators who González says “were in the pockets of the gun lobby and the NRA.”

Leigh-Anne Francis and X Gonzalez on stage in Mayo Concert Hall
Leigh-Anne Francis and X Gonzalez on stage in Mayo Concert Hall. Photo: Leann Janzekovich ’24

Today, González is a 24-year-old college graduate and still an unapologetically outspoken social justice activist. They came to TCNJ’s Mayo Concert Hall on March 20, now with a long, bright pink mane of hair in the middle of their shaved head. González sat crossed-legged in a chair across from Leigh-Anne Francis, African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies professor, for a casual conversation about their experience and what they have learned in the years since they survived one of the worst school massacres in America’s history.

Some important takeaways from X González and that conversation:

  1. Seize accidental opportunities. “When everything happened, the press was trying to get in contact with students and my friend David Hogg was going on TV and doing interviews. He knew that I was opinionated and could carry myself. He texts me, ‘Hey, I accidentally double-booked myself for two interviews. Can you take my spot on Anderson Cooper 360?’ We got involved with the press to try to keep the conversation focused on what the students were saying, as opposed to what the lawmakers would say.”

Note: Soon after the shooting, Hogg and González started the organization March for Our Lives and have helped pass more than 300 gun safety laws in states and towns nationwide since.

  1. Build community. “If there are efforts to bridge gaps between people, there would be so much less need to go to violence to solve problems. It’s so much easier to feel less afraid of being hurt by the people around you when you know the people around you.”
  2. Find your passion. “I’m very passionate about environmental protection and reversing climate change. Also, queer politics. So if the shooting hadn’t happened, I might have still become an activist in another field.”
  3. Vote. “One of the easiest ways for the average person to get their voice heard is voting. I completely understand that a lot of people, especially young people, feel apathy. But it’s one of the easiest and most implicit ways that people get their say in local as well as the federal government.”

Kara Pothier MAT ’08