A Rhode Island Teacher Made Sure LGBTQ Pride Was Alive & Well In The White House With One Epic Photo
If you had the opportunity to meet President Donald Trump, what would you do? It's a tough question, but Rhode Island's Teacher of the Year Nikos Giannopoulos chose to take a bold stand and represent the LGBTQ community in a photo that has gone viral.
Giannopoulos visited the White House in April with the other Teacher of the Year winners. During their tour of the White House, they met Trump and were able to pose for a photo in the Oval Office. It's just a quick photo, but in this brief exchange, the special education teacher from Beacon Charter High School for the Arts was able to say so much.
The first thing you may notice is that the 29-year-old is pictured waving a black, lace fan. Upon closer inspection, you will see that everything about his outfit was meticulously chosen.
Giannopoulos, who identifies as queer, wrote on Facebook, “I wore a rainbow pin to represent my gratitude for the LGBTQ community that has taught me to be proud, bold and empowered by my identity — even when circumstances make that difficult." He said he wore "a blue jacket with a bold print and carried a black lace fan to celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity.
“I wore an anchor necklace in honor of the state of Rhode Island," he added, "whose motto ‘Hope’ was inspired by Hebrews 6:19 — ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’”
In an interview with NPR, Giannopoulos explained that when he was initially ushered in for the private photo, he was told to put the fan away. When it came time to take the shot, the teacher asked the president if he could use the fan to which Trump remarked,"Absolutely go for it." Giannopoulos said that Trump actually complimented his accessory right away "He said, 'I love the fan!' And he told me I had great style," he said.
Though Giannopoulos didn't have a chance to have a longer conversation with Trump, the teacher says that he knows what he would have wanted to discuss with him. "I would have told him that the pride I feel as an American comes from my freedom to be open and honest about who I am and who I love," he wrote on Facebook. "I would have told him that queer lives matter and anti-LGBTQ policies have a body count. Each and every queer person has been confronted with cruelty in ways many cannot imagine - verbal and physical abuse from strangers, friends, & even family; politicians callously attacking on our right to love or merely exist in public spaces; legalized discrimination for daring to be who we are. Brutality is a universal part of the queer experience."
In an interview with Yahoo! the educator expressed his concern about the policies that are being put in place surrounding education. “I was invited to the White House because I’ve dedicated myself to my students and to a life of public service as a public educator. And I’m very concerned that the future of public education is not a bright one,” Giannopoulos explained. “It has nothing to do with the students or the teachers and everything to do with the policies that are being put in place. So, if I could say anything at all to the president, it would be to invest in public schools, invest in public school students and invest in public educators.”
In his Facebook post, Giannopoulos ended by recognizing the other amazing teachers who received the same award. He thanked them for sharing their diverse lives and experiences.
"Your kindness and support have emboldened me and my sense of purpose in this role. There is so much I could say about our time together this week," he wrote, "but I know I don’t have to because you all feel it too. I am so proud of us, the work we have done, and the work we have yet to accomplish."