Nebraska state Sen. John Fredrickson (D) is going viral for breaking down in tears as he apologized to transgender people for Republican state senators’ vicious attacks and disgusting comments about trans people.
Transgender people have been targeted by the religious right and Republican politicians repeatedly in recent years – both in the state and at the federal level. But in Nebraska, the GOP has been particularly vicious.
In 2022, the Lincoln City Council unanimously approved an updated version of its 2012 “fairness ordinance” that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents quickly launched a ballot referendum to repeal the ordinance, which would also strip veterans and disabled people of protections too.
The group that led the opposition campaign, the Nebraska Family Alliance, called it “a gender identity bathroom ordinance,” which “would allow biological men in women’s showers, locker rooms and restrooms.”
Milo Winslow, the only transgender person to testify in support of the ordinance at the city council, died by suicide. The day before Winslow died, he said he needed to step back from his advocacy work because he didn’t have enough support to deal with the emotional impacts.
Now, Republican state legislators have launched an unprecedented attack on trans people statewide. But it isn’t going as easy for them as they’d hoped.
State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (D) is determined to stop a bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth. When the bill advanced out of committee, she vowed to filibuster every bill proposed in the unicameral legislature this year until the anti-trans bill was off the table.
“If this Legislature collectively decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful — painful for everyone,” she said when it all began. “If you want to inflict pain upon our children, I am going to inflict pain upon this body, and I have nothing but time, and I am going to use all of it.”
“I will burn the session to the ground over this bill.”
And so far, she has. Halfway through the legislative session, Cavanaugh’s actions have resulted in zero bills passing. It would take 33 votes to end Cavanaugh’s filibuster, and there are 32 Republicans in the Nebraska legislature.
As Cavanaugh’s filibuster continued, Fredrickson took to the podium to speak as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He broke down in tears as he spoke directly to trans Nebraskans. As he swayed uncomfortably in front of his colleagues, attempting not to break down, his voice cracked as he emotionally recalled his mother’s acceptance.
“I wish I could say or do something to change this,” he said. “To my LGBTQ family, I spoke to you at the beginning of the week, and I’ll speak to you again. Regardless of what happens today, heads up. Chins up. We’re survivors. Me standing in this room is proof of that.”
The filibuster continues. Republicans have refused to give up their vicious and dangerous attacks on transgender children and their parents, leaving the legislature stalled and unable to continue working.
Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.