Nikos Giannopoulos is proud of who he is, and the way he expressed himself — with the encouragement of President Donald Trump — has attracted notice.
Giannopoulos visited the White House in April as Rhode Island’s Teacher of the Year. During that visit, he had a photo op with the president and first lady Melania Trump.
His was not the traditional grip-and-grin.
I love this man, Rhode Island teacher of the year, Nikos Giannopoulos #rainbowpin#Pridemonth#Proud pic.twitter.com/SLAzCn4FYF
— welander (@welander8) June 16, 2017
The image, which Giannopoulos posted on Facebook, shows the openly gay teacher wearing a rainbow pin and waving a lacey black fan. As of Saturday, the image had attracted 12,000 likes on Facebook.
Visitors to his page expressed their enthusiasm.
“I believe the greatest gift you can give another person is the space to be themselves. What a great role model to his students. Free to be you and me!” wrote a poster identified as Jennifer Liebi Zelazny.
A poster using the name Jet Johnson was also thrilled.
“Congrats Mr. Giannopoulos. I hope it was a wonderful and relaxed visit. It sure looks like everything went well and everyone looks comfortable with no hangups. YAY. Now of course there will be the haters but we know to ignore them as I am sure that is what you teach your students as well. I too cannot stand the ignorance of hate. Again well done sir,” Johnson’s post read.
Giannopoulos said he wore the pin “to represent my gratitude for the LGBTQ community” and brought the fan “to celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity.”
“Taking pride in queer identity means rejecting the shame imposed upon us by a harsh society,” he wrote on Facebook. “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.”
In a subsequent interview, he said the president was one of his big supporters in taking the photo the way he wanted. In an interview with NPR, he was asked about Trump’s reaction to the fan.
“Oh, he loved it! 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,” Giannopoulos said.
“Then, when I was ushered in for my private photo with the president and Melania 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,” he added.
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