March for Our Lives Co-Organizer X González Still Doesn’t Have It Figured Out — And That’s Okay

González graduated from New College of Florida last year and is currently living in their parents’ home.

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

X González gained national attention as one of the faces of the gun reform movement following the mass murder of 17 people at their high school in Parkland, FL, in 2018. González’s impassioned 11-minute speech, given at a local rally 3 days after the shooting, was quickly shared nationwide, and they went on to be one of the key organizers of the ensuing month’s March For Our Lives (MFOL), a massive, student-led gun safety rally that drew as many as 2 million people to Washington, D.C. in one of the largest protests in American history.

In a personal essay written for The Cut and published today, González, now 23, reflected on stepping back from the spotlight to figure out the next steps in their life.

González graduated from New College of Florida last year and is currently living in their parents’ home. “I spend my days trying to get my future on the rails, finding new music, making zines, sewing, smoking weed, cooking, cleaning, figuring out what I want to do for work,” they said.

Reflecting on the MFOL movement, González said it was shocking for the nation to expect a random group of Florida teenagers to have the solution to gun violence. “The country was looking at me and my fellow students, some of whom I had only just met, for our political leadership,” they wrote. “I had a level of fame that many activists work for years to try to attain, and I thought I knew what I was supposed to do. We had to take our pain and spin it into political action, solving a problem that had been a century in the making.”

“From the first time I spoke up at that first rally, full of rage, with a shaved head, I’d become a symbol, and that’s what the people who came to see us wanted from me,” they continued.

González was a senior in high school when the shooting happened. They went to college the following fall, and activism took a backseat as they explored other areas of interest on campus and prioritized their studies and their mental health.

In May 2021, González announced they would be using they/them pronouns and going by the first name “X.” “I knew I wanted to go by a different name, something that would give me space and get me away from the identity thrown on TV screens that made people think they knew me,” they wrote in The Cut. “I settled on X (inspired by Malcolm X) and realized in the process that the reason I didn’t like being known as Emma is partially because that person belongs to the public but also partially because it’s such a feminine name. I realized then that I’m nonbinary.”

There are indications that González is ready to step back into the public eye, even if they don’t receive the same level of attention they once commanded. During summer 2022, 4 years after Parkland, MFOL leadership put together a march to commemorate the 6-year anniversary of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, and González decided to give a speech. “I felt like I had made enough progress with my mental health that I could go onstage again, and I had a lot to say,” they said.

“It’s been almost five years since my classmates and I marched for the first time, and it’s hard not to feel like things are pretty much the same,” González reflects in the essay. “Gun violence happens every day in this country. In November, the trial that was supposed to bring closure to our community brought only disappointment after the shooter was spared the death penalty. I see my March for Our Lives compatriots at protests once or twice throughout the year. I’m still trying to figure out what type of activism I want to engage in, since I don’t want to be passive for the rest of my life but I cannot exist in the way that I used to. I don’t know how I’m alive after all that.”