John Fredrickson on his historic candidacy in Nebraska, his love of Dunkaroos, and playing elf dress up

Copyright: Ashley DuBois

Meet John Fredrickson. He is a psychologist and is currently running for District 20 in the Nebraska Legislature. If he wins in November, he will become the second openly LGBTQ person and first openly gay man ever elected to his state’s Senate.

After growing up in Omaha, John moved to New York for college, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in social work from NYU and his master’s degree from Columbia University. It was there that he met his husband Jeff. After adopting their son Leon in 2019, the boys decided to return to John’s hometown in 2020. And last October, he announced his candidacy for the Nebraska Senate.

“My decision to run for office grew out of my work as a therapist, my parenting, and a strong desire to positively impact the future of Nebraska,” he says. “The divisive rhetoric of recent years has inspired me to work in Nebraska to ensure we are a welcoming, inclusive state.”

Strange had a chance to catch up with John in our fast-paced Q&A series, Dishin’ It. In our conversation below, he shares the story of how he met his husband, his favorite Saturday night thing to do, why LGBTQ is boosting his candidacy for the Nebraska Legislature, and his lifelong love for Dunkaroos.

What’s the gayest thing about you?

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I am uncompromisingly myself and celebrate the authenticity of my family in everything I do. I am so thankful every day to be a member of this community.

You recently attended Omaha Pride and took part in the parade. What’s your ultimate Pride anthem?

There are so many that it’s honestly hard to choose one! I love a good song by Britney, Beyoncé or Lady Gaga. Diana Ross and the Weather Girls never disappoint. Also, I really feel like Solange’s “Losing You” needs to be a Pride anthem, so I’m just going to take that out into the universe.

It’s Saturday night. The dishes are washed. The Kid is sleeping. You have no campaign events in the morning. How are you?

Have I been transported to a utopia? That sounds incredible. I’d like to say something exciting and over the top, but to be honest, I open a bottle of wine with my husband and watch something on Netflix. I may or may not fall asleep 10 minutes into the show. We’re just done Dear Victor, which was adorable.

Speaking of husband, you two are the cutest couple ever. How did you meet and was it love at first sight?

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That’s actually a pretty funny story. We were living in New York at the time, and my sister was working in a startup with a close friend of Jeff’s from college. The two kept telling us separately that we needed to meet, but we kept missing opportunities. In December of that year, my sister and I had a Christmas party (we lived together at the time). Everyone was dressed down to the last detail in their Christmas party attire and I of course chose to dress up as an elf. Jeff arrived as his friend’s guest, spotted the big elf in the middle of the room, and as they say, the rest is history…

I have to ask… Do you have a picture of the elf costume?

I don’t have a photo of the elf costume. This was back before we photographed everything on our phones. 🙂

How does being LGBTQ improve your running for the Nebraska legislature?

Each time you have a lived experience that is perceived as ‘different’, it allows for increased self-awareness and a perspective on what society has always accepted as ‘normal’. I think this is a key factor in making sustainable, meaningful change. My campaign is about building a Nebraska for all, not just a select few. Our state motto is “equality before the law” and my living experience has taught me how important this is to all of us.

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Is there a piece of pop culture—whether it’s a movie, TV series, book, album, etc.—that you consider a big part of your coming-out journey? Why do you notice it?

I originally came out in college, which is such an important time for development. I lived in New York for school and I remember seeing for the first time knowingly queer people proudly being their full, authentic selves. Shows how Rent definitely influenced me too call me by your name – the book before it became a movie.

Tell me about your youth dating you.

I’m sort of alive after consuming an impressive (regarding?) amount of Dunkaroos.

Who is one queer politician/activist/leader that you think is doing really amazing work right now? Why are you someone we should all pay attention to?

There’s just so much power, resilience, and beauty that emanates from the queer community. People like Janelle Monáe, Malcolm Kenyatta and Megan Hunt are showing the world that we are a strong community and that we must uncompromisingly be ourselves.

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