Rhode Island Teacher of the Year 2017 meets the 45th President of the United States. That's all. 🌈🌈🌈Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
The Trump administration has completely ignored Pride month, but that didn’t stop one teacher from taking Pride directly to the president’s desk himself.
Nikos Giannopoulos earned the distinction of being named Rhode Island’s “teacher of the year,” and that honor came with an invitation to visit the White House. Giannopoulos did not squander his photo op.
Wearing a rainbow LGBTQ pin on his blue print jacket and sporting a gold and silver necklace in lieu of the traditional tie, it’s Giannopoulos’ accent piece that’s really causing a stir. As he gives a sassy smile not two feet away from the first couple, Giannopoulos’ right hand holds a black lace fan. Donald and Melania Trump smile for the camera from behind the president’s desk, and the whole scene is just surreal given the administration’s rocky-at-best relationship with the LGBTQ community.
“For my trip to the White House, 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,” Giannopoulos explained in a Facebook post in which he chose not to mention the president by name.
He continued: “I wore a blue jacket with a bold print and carried a black lace fan to celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity. When I think back to my time in the White House, I will not remember the person seated at the desk.”
Rather, he said he’ll remember other teachers who took a stand against “structural barriers of race, gender, socioeconomic status, home language, immigration status, sexual orientation, and much more.”
In an interview with NPR, the 29-year-old teacher was asked what the president thought of the fan. He recounted this bizarre story:
“Oh, he loved it! I popped it open when I walked into the office because I’m a very sassy person. And [President] Trump complimented it right away. He said, ‘I love the fan!’ And he told me I had great style. Then, when I was ushered in for my private photo with the president and Melania [Trump] I was told I should put it away. So I just folded it up and held it at my side. But when it came time for the photo, I just asked the president, ‘Do you mind if I use the fan for the photo?’ He said, ‘Absolutely go for it.’ So I popped my fan and did my pose.”
Last month, Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that states should be allowed to decide whether their schools can discriminate against LGBTQ students — even if those schools were given federal money.