It Gets Better Executive Director Brian Wenke writes a column for The Columbus Dispatch — his hometown paper in Ohio — on. why the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and other attacks on LGBTQ+ youth are just about politicians “twisting parents’ fears into fodder for political gain.”

I will never forget the look on my mother’s face when I told her I was gay. She froze and looked at me for what felt like an eternity before she said, “Well, of course, I support you, but I am afraid for you.”

It was a dark time for LGBTQ+ people. AIDS was still a death sentence, and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act were on the horizon. I will never forget that moment; she was afraid for me. I assured her I would be fine, but it took me years to actually believe it. It wasn’t until I left Ohio and found my community that I knew I wasn’t alone.

Life was simpler back then: no internet, no cellphones, and no obvious way to understand what it meant to be gay. My family has always been supportive and loving, but they had little guidance. Though my journey to self-acceptance wasn’t easy, I consider myself lucky.

Many LGBTQ+ people are not so fortunate. When compared to their cisgender and heterosexual peers, young LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of bullying and harassment, physical violence, emotional abuse, peer and family rejection, and homelessness – all of which contribute to higher rates of mental illness, poor educational outcomes, substance abuse, and loneliness.

And yet, Ohio has decided it a priority to further alienate an already marginalized community with hateful anti-LGBTQ+ and “anti-racist” legislation (i.e., House Bills 61322, 327454, and 616; Senate Bill 132) under the guise of fairness for all.

Our elected officials are twisting parents’ fears into fodder for political gain. Over the last two years, more than 390 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced across the country.

READ THE FULL COLUMN on The Columbus Disptach‘s website.