A US teacher’s photograph with President Donald Trump has gone viral due to his display of LGBT pride.
The picture of Rhode Island Teacher of the Year 2017 Nikos Giannopoulos shows him wearing a rainbow flag pin and waving a black, lacy fan at the Oval Office meeting.
He was invited to meet the US President and First Lady Melania Trump after his award win in April, but has only just released the colourful image.
Mr Giannopoulos said he wanted to “celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity” and represent the LGBT community that had “taught me to be proud, bold and empowered by my identity”.
He also worse a small anchor necklace in homage to his home state, whose motto ‘Hope’ is inspired by a verse from the Bible in Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Mr Giannopoulos said that unlike some previous winners of the national teacher competition, he was not invited to speak to the president.
But he wrote afterwards in a Facebook post liked and shared thousands of times: “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.
“I would have told him that queer lives matter and anti-LGBTQ policies have a body count.
“Taking pride in queer identity means rejecting the shame imposed upon us by a harsh society. 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.”
Mr Giannopoulos added: “Each and every queer person has been confronted with cruelty in ways many cannot imagine – verbal and physical abuse from strangers, friends, & even family; politicians callously attacking on our right to love or merely exist in public spaces; legalized discrimination for daring to be who we are.
“Brutality is a universal part of the queer experience.”
The 29-year-old is a special education teacher at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket.
Mr Trump has not indicated he wants to reverse any of the gains achieved by human rights campaigners, but some are still concerned about the safety of LGBT people in America under his administration.
His vice-president, Mike Pence, said on his congressional campaign website in 2000 that he opposed same-sex marriage.
He was also accused by campaign groups of supporting gay conversion therapy, for writing: “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”
Mr Pence’s spokesman denied the allegation, saying it was a “mischaracterisation” of the quote.