Gay teacher Nikos Giannopoulos’ displayed his LGBTQ pride as he sported a rainbow pin and clutched a lacy fan in an official photo with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. And now the Rhode Island teacher of the year’s bold stand for LGBTQ rights has gotten global attention after the image went viral on Facebook.
Giannopoulos, who teaches 11th and 12th graders at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket, visited the White House with other teacher of the year winners in April. He received the photo of his moment with Trump this week and immediately posted it to Facebook.
Though Trump has previously pledged to protect LGBTQ citizens, but members of the community have expressed concern that his administration is rolling back their civil rights in areas such as education.
“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.
As of Friday afternoon, the photo had garnered thousands of likes and hundreds of shares.
“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.
“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 continued.
In the post, which does not mention Trump by name, Giannopoulos refers the president as “the person behind the desk.”
“When I think back to my time in the White House, I will not remember the person seated at the desk,” he wrote.
Instead, the teacher said 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.”
Giannopoulos’s photo comes as the Trump administration continues to find itself under intense scrutiny for its handling of LGBTQ issues.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who met Giannopoulos during his visit, has not committed to banning discrimination against LGBTQ students in private school, despite saying schools that receive federal funding should follow the law during a Senate hearing in June.
Unlike his predecessor President Obama, Trump has yet to acknowledge June as LGBTQ Pride month.