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Strike a Pose: Queer Teacher Explains Viral Trump Photo

Monday Jun 19, 2017

The Rhode Island teacher at the center of a viral photo, showing him posing next to President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, is explaining why he wanted to be "visibly queer" in the pic.

The photo, which was taken in April, shows Nikos Giannopoulos holding a black lace fan and his head tilted away from the president. The teacher, who got to take his photo with Trump after being dubbed Rhode Island's teacher of the year, was also wearing a rainbow pin and a gold anchor around his neck.

Speaking with The Washington Post about the photo, Giannopoulos, 29, explained what he wore to the White House was basically the attire he dons when teaching special education students at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts.

"The issue with being openly queer is our existence is constantly politicized," he said. "They never stop to think: Oh, maybe that's just who I am."

He also said that the school has nearly a dozen transgender students who are "nervous" after the Trump administration rolled back federal protections for trans students earlier this year. Giannopoulos said he's working with his students to write the school's bathroom policies. It's his work with the gay-straight alliance that helped him win the Teacher of the Year award.

"The entire day I was thinking about what it means to be in the White House and in the Oval Office," he told the newspaper. "What it represents to be an openly gay person and a queer LGBT person in the White House."

He added the lace fan belonged to his partner and the gold anchor represented his state.

"I was definitely nervous," Giannopoulos told The Washington Post. "I didn't know what the reaction would be."

He said President Trump told him he "had good style." After the complement, the teacher said he grew more confident - when an aide asked him to put his fan away, Giannopoulos argued.

"I said, 'I was hoping to pose with this,'" he said. "They said, 'No - just put it away.'"

He complied at first but then before the photo was taken, Giannopoulos asked Trump if he minded if he used the fabulous fan.

"He said, sure." Giannopoulos pulled out the fan "and the rest is history," he added. "To be clear, the whole thing was surreal and very brief."

He said he wishes he had more time with Trump, who he referred to as "the man seated at the desk" in his Facebook post about his meeting with the President. Giannopoulos explained if he was allowed to have a conversation with Trump, he would explain the fears of his LGBT students.

"Ultimately, we were allowed to do what we wanted," he told The Washington Post. "I was visibly queer in the Oval Office, and no one can take that away from me."

After posting the photo last week, Giannopoulos's post has earned over 22,000 likes and more than 5,600 shares.


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