Rhode Island’s 2017 teacher of the year has gone viral after sharing a photo from his Oval Office meeting with President Trump and first lady Melania Trump.
In the photo, Rhode Island teacher Nikos Giannopoulos can be seen holding up a black lace fan and wearing a rainbow LGBTQ pin as he stands beside the president and the first lady.
“Rhode Island Teacher of the Year 2017 meets the 45th President of the United States. That’s all,” the photo’s caption read alongside multiple rainbow emojis.
“It was a great honor to be received in the Oval Office, and it really meant a lot to me that I was able to express myself authentically and represent for my community,” Giannopoulos told The Hill.
Giannopoulos also described his Oval Office meeting in a Facebook post shortly after it happened in April.
“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,” he wrote.
“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 refers the president as “the person behind the desk” in his post.
“When I think back to my time in the White House, I will not remember the person seated at the desk,” he wrote.
Giannopoulos says he will remember other teachers who have stood up to “structural barriers of race, gender, socioeconomic status, home language, immigration status, sexual orientation, and much more.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who met Giannopoulos during his visit to the White House, refused to committ to banning discrimination against LGBTQ students in private and charter schools in a Senate hearing in June.
Trump abandoned Barack Obama’s eight-year tradition of kicking off LGBT Pride Month celebrations at the White House.
Obama had issued annual proclamations recognizing June as Pride Month and hosted LGBT celebrations in the White House. The former president’s proclamations recognized the “fight for dignity and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people” and signaled the government’s commitment to “broaden opportunity, advance equality, and level the playing field for LGBT people and communities”.
Instead, the White House proclaimed June as “National Homeownership Month”, “National Ocean Month”, “African-American Music Appreciation Month” and “Great Outdoors Month”.
On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that The Commerce Department had gutted language from its annual equal opportunity statement barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the Post, the 2017 Secretarial Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity, which was emailed to department employees Thursday morning, says that Commerce “does not tolerate behavior, harassment, discrimination or prejudice based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.”
By contrast, last year’s statement said the department “does not tolerate discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination), sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age (40 years of age and over), genetic information, or disability (physical or mental), including the provision of reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities or genetic information.”
Trudeau was joined by his LGBT Special Advisor Randy Boissonnault, who said: “Today our government announced another vital step in addressing the painful history of discrimination against the LGBTQ2 communities. As Pride season commences, Canadians will honor the many victories over the forces of exclusion, intolerance, and hate.”
“We will also soberly acknowledge that there are many challenges still to overcome. I invite all Canadians to join in remembering the past, celebrating our progress, and working towards a better future.”
Read Giannopoulos full post below: