This Teacher Who's Going Viral Has a Message for Donald Trump

June 16th 2017

Almie Rose

In failing to acknowledging Pride month, President Donald Trump is straying from a recent tradition of presidential acknowledgments of LGBTQ contributions to the United States, which has held since President Bill Clinton.

But LGBTQ voices are still making themselves heard — and one man is making himself seen, too.

Nikos Giannopoulos, who is 29 and teaches special education, was named Rhode Island Teacher of the Year 2017 and met Trump for a photo op in April. After posting the photo yesterday, he's gone viral.

Giannopoulos gave NPR the behind-the-scenes info.

As Giannopoulos, who in addition to holding a lace fan wore a rainbow LGBTQ ribbon on his jacket, explained to NPR, Trump's reaction to the fan was positive. "Oh, he loved it!" Giannopoulos said. "He said, 'I love the fan!' And he told me I had great style."

First a photo was taken with Giannopoulos not displaying the fan, which belongs to his partner. "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."

Trump's reaction to Giannopoulos' fan is great. But his actions toward the actual LGBTQ community have been criticized by the community. 

Though Trump claimed at the RNC, "as your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology," he's been seen as ineffective in addressing the LGBTQ community's daily concerns. 


In February, he revoked guidance on transgender student protections, halting progress of LGBTQ student rights. As ATTN: previously reported, "President Obama issued guidance to schools across the country in May 2016 directing them to allow transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity, or otherwise provide facilities they can use."

Now, students like Gavin Grimm are suing for the right to use the bathroom of their choice. 


A post shared by Mikey #altfactkelly (@mch463) on

In March, the Trump administration struck another blow to the LGBTQ community by removing the LGBTQ category from the United States Census. Why does this matter?

As ATTN: reported, "[T]he move prevents the recording of population numbers of or means to accurately represent LGBT persons in the United States. The U.S. Supreme court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2015, and this would have been the first time the U.S. Census Bureau may have included LGBT surveying, according to The Washington Blade."

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) told NBC News in April, "one hundred days of Trump translates into 100 days of erasure for the LGBTQ community."

Giannopoulos, in his post about his White House visit, expressed his wish that he could have talked about LGBTQ rights with "the man seated at the desk."

"For my trip to the White House," he wrote, "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."

He notes for whatever reason, he wasn't given time to speak with the president: "In previous years, state teachers of the year were given the opportunity to speak to the president for a few minutes each. 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."

You can read his full post here.