Rhode Island’s best teacher didn’t turn down his opportunity to meet the president of the United States — but he did make a statement about his values.
Nikos Giannopoulos, voted teacher of the year for 2017 in Rhode Island, visited the White House back in April. When the official White House photo of Giannopoulos, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump came out this week, it quickly went viral and resonated with the LGBTQ community during Pride Month.
Gianoppoulos wore a rainbow flag pin and held a black lace fan. With the photo he wrote, "Rhode Island Teacher of the Year 2017 meets the 45th President of the United States. That’s all. ???"
"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. I wore a blue jacket with a bold print and carried a black lace fan to celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity," Giannopoulos wrote in a Facebook post shortly after he visited the White House in April. "I wore an anchor necklace in honor of the State of Rhode Island whose motto “Hope” was inspired by Hebrews 6:19 – ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’"
The state teachers of the year who visited the White House met with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and then met Trump — or as Giannopoulos called him "the man seated at the desk" — who Giannopoulos said turned to his usual talking points about CEOs and his electoral college win.
"In previous years, state teachers of the year were given the opportunity to speak to the president for a few minutes each," Giannopoulos wrote. "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. Taking pride in queer identity means rejecting the shame imposed upon us by a harsh society. It means opening yourself up to a lifetime of criticism and misunderstanding, but knowing that it’s worth it to be able to live authentically."
Giannopoulos also made sure to mention his visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture and how queer activists have learned from people of color in the United States.
Trump still hasn’t designated June as Pride Month, but with words like Giannopoulos’s, it’s clear it is anyway.