Rhode Island’s teacher of the year is earning applause for a particularly fierce display of his LGBT pride during a photo-op with the president and first lady.
The photo that commemorates 29-year-old Nikos Giannopoulos’ visit to the Oval Office in April shows the professionally-clad teacher sporting a rainbow pin on his suit jacket and gold anchor necklace. Giannopoulos strikes a pose — head slightly cocked, black lace fan in hand — that can only be described as “sassy.”
In a post on Facebook, Giannopoulos explained his style choices, “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.”
And what better time than now?
President Donald Trump failed to acknowledge June as LGBT Pride month as his predecessor Barack Obama did. And what’s more, under Trump’s direction, the White House has revoked federal protections for transgender students, erased an LGBT rights page from its website and hired advisers who appear to believe in gay conversion therapy.
Behind the style was a message for Trump, Giannopoulos said in a post on Facebook.
“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,” he said.
Giannopoulos teaches at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Rhode Island, where his work with the school’s gay-straight alliance helped him win recognition as teacher of the year. He’s even working with transgender students – of which there are nearly a dozen – to rewrite the school’s bathroom policy.
His LGBT pride has always spilled over into his style – it’s how he said he dresses in the classroom, how he dressed when he met with Rhode Island education officials and how he knew he wanted to represent himself when visiting the White House.
And despite Trump’s steps backward when it comes to LGBT rights, he said he liked Giannopoulos’ style.
When asked what Trump thought of his fan, Giannopoulos said, “I popped it open when I walked into the office because I’m a very sassy person. And Trump complimented it right away. He said, ‘I love the fan!’ And he told me I had great style.”