I myself am bisexual. I've known this since I was about 17, but I didn't make it known to others. I've never had a formal or public relationship with a woman, and I didn't feel it necessary to share my identity with others, especially living in a conservative area of rural Ohio. I met my husband when I was 19, and he has always known I was bi, but even my family and close friends weren't aware. This is the first time I'm openly sharing my identity, not because it changes anything today (I'm incredibly lucky to have found and married my soulmate young), but because I think it's important to show that there are people like me who stay quiet because they don't have representation around them.
After graduating high school and college I remember seeing so many of my friends finally come out. It was like a weight off their shoulders. Some of their parents, however, threatened to take away college funds, tighten restrictions and social groups, or even disown their child. Parents who I’d known for years suddenly didn't know how to deal with their now "out" child. I felt so angry, thinking "how can you stop loving your kid just because they love differently than you do?" Some of those parents begrudgingly folded when they determined that they had to choose between a relationship with their gay child or no relationship at all (although I know one that unfortunately chose the latter).
I don't think those parents hated gay people or wanted to feel animosity towards their children. I do think Ohio lacks political representation of the LGBTQ+ community and that people fear what they don't understand. I have a number of friends and relatives that are non-cisgender, but with only 4.3% of Ohio's population identifying as LGBTQ+ it means you really have to take time and effort to understand and be an ally. Personally, I’ve found that Reddit forums have been an amazing resource (r/trans, r/lgbt, r/askgsm just to name a few); reading people's posts about their experiences, transitions, families, and love gave me insight into aspects of the community that I may not otherwise encountered. Representation matters much more than people realize.
You don't "become" gay. You don't "choose" to change your gender. You finally decide to reveal what has always been underneath when you feel safe enough to do so. And ultimately, I want every Ohioan, my LGBTQ+ friends and myself included, to feel safe enough to be their truest, happiest self.