Rhode Island’s 2017 teacher of the year Nikos Giannopoulos, a teacher at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, has become internet famous after a picture of him standing beside U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania went viral. In the photo, Giannopoulos looks unapologetically, fabulously queer: wearing a rainbow pen, a stylish necklace and holding a black lace fan, his head humorously cocked to one side.
Giannopoulos met the President on Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017 to receive his teacher of the year award. In a public Facebook post, which has since gotten over 4,600 reactions and 1,295 shares (and is well-worth reading in full), Giannopoulos never refers to Trump by name, he only calls him “the person seated at the desk.”
“When I think back to my time in the White House, I will not remember the person seated at the desk. As I stood in the Oval Office, I thought … of the queer youth who have shared their struggles and triumphs with me.”
Giannopoulos says that he wore his 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” and that he held his black lace fan “to celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity.”
He also said:
“In previous years, state teachers of the year were given the opportunity to speak to the president for a few minutes each. Had I been given the opportunity, 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. I would have told him that queer lives matter and anti-LGBTQ policies have a body count.”
During his brief visit to the White House, Giannopoulos also met U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. In two separate congressional hearings, DeVos has intimated that she will let federally funded schools discriminate against LGBTQ students.