“Brave Lullaby” – My First Original Single Releases Today

Dear Friends,

I’ve awaited this day for a very long time…today I release my first original single “Brave Lullaby.” This journey back to music has been so close to my heart. Some of you know that I grew up in a very musical family singing and performing all over the nation and even around Europe in my elementary and teenage years. But when I came out, music is something that I lost along with so many other things. This journey back to music has taken me some time to emotionally and spiritually navigate what that looks like for me now and how to make it fresh and new, while at the same time, connecting it back to that part of me that I lost.

Thank you to each of you who have supported and loved through this process. Because of you, this part of me has begun to be revived and I now get to start sharing it with others again. You can now stream “Brave Lullaby” for free at this link and if you’d like to download it into your very own music library, you can do so by going to: http://ambercantorna.com/books/ and scrolling to the bottom of the page. 


Enjoy and Be Brave Today,

Amber Cantorna

Unashamed Merch is Here!!!

Hellooooo My Unashamed Friends!

I’m so excited because today is the official launch of #UnashamedLGBTQ–a new merch line I’m launching to empower LGBTQ people of faith to embrace and celebrate who they are created to be! In the shop, you’ll find affirming t-shirts, hoodies, hats and buttons for LGBTQ people and allies alike! And don’t miss our #UnashamedLGBTQ button series as well!

So head on over to the #UnashamedLGBTQ Store and check it out. If you purchase anything in the next week you get 15% off!

AND THEN…I would super appreciate it if you would also Like/Follow #UnashamedLGBTQ on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! We want to get the word out about this new swag, but we need your help to do it. Likes, shares, and shout-outs are all super appreciated!

Can’t wait to see this swag on YOU and hear what you think!

Be Brave, Live Unashamed,
Amber

Exciting Things Come from Rest and Creativity!

 

Dear Friends,

First, let me apologize for missing my last blog to you. Some of you may know that last month I was diagnosed with Stage 4 HPA Axis Dysfunction. This largely explains things I have been battling for some time now without a proper diagnosis, such as extreme fatigue and frequent illness. As part of what will likely be a long-term healing process, I have taken July and August to pull back on my commitments and focus on rest and healing before my full fall schedule. This means that my days have largely been built around creativity, rest, and things that are good for the soul (like gardening and time with my pups).

While a lot of this is hard and very challenging, the mandatory pull back is also allowing time for my creative side to come through, which means I have finally been able to invest some energy while home to some projects that have been on my heart for some time. The exciting part of all this, is that you will soon be able to join in the fun. In the coming weeks, several new projects will be releasing!

1. I’ve been spending time on my music and will soon be releasing my first single: Brave Lullaby. I’m so excited to share it with you I can hardly stand it! I’ll also be releasing some older originals that I’ve just never recorded as well as some covers in the coming weeks! Those of you who are Patrons will be first to gain access to this! (If you’re not a Patron yet, don’t miss out! Go over and sign up so that you’re always the first to be in the know and to get cool stuff!)

2. I will be releasing a Merch Line! T-shirts, hoodies, and more will soon be coming your way! So stay tuned! (If you want to help shape what that looks like, all I can say is Patreon, Patreon, Patreon!)

3. Finally, Unashamed is being released as an audiobook and will be available for download as of August 20th!

There’s more in the works, but that’s all I can tell you about for now. So stay tuned for these exciting things to come your way soon!

Be Brave, Live Unashamed,

Amber Cantorna

 

5 Things You Can Do to Support LGBTQ People During Pride Month

In the midst of Pride month, I’ve been asked multiple times: What does Pride even mean? What is it exactly that we are celebrating? Does it mean that we are boasting or flaunting our LGBTQ identity? No, that’s not what it means. Pride, especially for those of us who identify as LGBTQ people of faith, isn’t about being boastful (as in “pride goes before a fall”) but rather a confidence that who we are is beautiful and radiant, and that we are fully loved and embraced by God exactly as we are. It’s a chance to come together with others like us in a place where we feel safe to be ourselves; a place where we can be seen without having to hide. As others have said, “Pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but (out of) our right to exist without persecution.”

So if you identify as part of the LGBTQ community, celebrate your God-given identity this month with people who affirm ALL of who you are. Or use this as an opportunity to discuss with family or friends who may not be fully affirming what this month means to you, and why it is important for LGBTQ people to have this recognition every year.

If you are not LGBTQ, but a parent, pastor, friend, or ally of the LGBTQ community, here are a few ways that you can support those loved ones around you during Pride month:

  1. Call or send a card to an LGBTQ person this month. Acknowledging the LGBTQ people in your life and reminding them that you affirm them and stand with them can be very comforting, especially during a time in our country where people are advocating for “straight pride” and pastors are declaring that all LGBTQ people should be executed. It’s heinous, dehumanizing, and often crippling for LGBTQ people to constantly be demeaned and have to fight for their right to exist in the world. Send them a little love. It could go a very long way.
  2. Listen to the story of an LGBTQ person and what it has been like to walk in their shoes. If you don’t understand Pride or if you’ve never really gotten to know an LGBTQ person before (or even if you have!), find ways to listen to the stories of LGBTQ people. If there aren’t any in your sphere of influence, then you need to broaden your sphere. You can also hear many stories of LGBTQ people through podcasts like Queerology, and through projects like Q Christian Fellowship’s new Unchanged movement.
  3. Tell your story of how you became affirming to people you encounter throughout the month. If you’re affirming of LGBTQ people, chances are, you didn’t get there by accident. Most likely you’ve walked a road of your own that has led you to this stance, whether that’s because a close family member or friend came out to you, or whether you went through a faith deconstruction of your own, or whether you simply took a stand because you didn’t like the way you saw LGBTQ people being treated. Share that story with people who may not be quite where you are yet, and tell them why that has been transformative for you.
  4. Attend a Pride parade. If you’ve never been to a Pride event, step outside your comfort zone a little and go to one this year. You may see some rather “colorful” things, but remember that no one person represents all LGBTQ people. Try and see the heart of the reason behind why people are there: they need a safe place to be and bring all of who they are without having to hide. Sometimes that may mean going to more extreme forms of self expression because they so rarely have the chance to freely express themselves. Sometimes that may mean simply hanging out with like-minded people and having a good time. Sometimes that might mean falling apart in the arms of someone who offers them a Free Mom or Free Dad Hug. Whatever it is, open your eyes and look for the meaning behind the event and see what you can learn from those around you.
  5. Donate to an LGBTQ faith leader or organization that is doing work to bring about change, acceptance, and justice for LGBTQ people. There are numerous people doing incredible work to create a safer and more loving place for LGBTQ people to live and thrive. There are also a number of incredible people doing great work specifically with LGBTQ people of faith. A one-time (or monthly) donation to one (or several) of these organizations will help us collectively continue to move the needle forward so that less LGBTQ people face rejection and harm, and more find a place of true love and belonging. If you’re not sure where a good place is to put your money, a few organizations or people that I wholeheartedly support are: Free Mom Hugs, the Queerology podcast, and Q Christian Fellowship. You can also support me and help continue the work I do with LGBTQ people of faith by donating HERE.

Whatever ways you decide to support LGBTQ people during Pride month this year, my hope is that you will see more facets of God in the people that you meet than you ever dreamed possible, and that in return for your love and generosity, you will be richly rewarded with beautiful stories and examples of Divine love.

Happy Pride Everyone! Be bold, live unashamed,

Amber Cantorna

 

 

The Truth About Me, Blogging, and Health

So the truth is…I’m a sporadic blogger. I’m not good at rolling out blogs on a regular basis, and I have reprimanded myself for it time and time again. I compare myself to other bloggers who create new posts weekly like clockwork, and who engage in debates around everything related to justice on social media, and think to myself…”I need to be more like them.” The internal pressure I put upon myself ultimately leaves me feeling inadequate, like I fail to measure up to others in my lane, and (to use Brene Brown language) like I’m “not enough and therefore unworthy of belonging”.

Then I realized when I looked a little closer, that authors (especially those that published 2 books in under 2 years) didn’t blog regularly either. And I took a bit of a breath. But still I felt the pressure.

Eventually, this is something that I have had to come to terms with and accept about myself and my current situation. I do not have a manager, or an agent, or event planner, or a social media guru, or a marketing person…those are all things I do myself on top of writing, speaking, traveling, and managing my personal life and working another job. So it’s a lot.

Some of you may know (and others of you may not) that I also have chronic health issues. I deal with chronic pain and chronic fatigue on a daily basis and my immune system does not function properly. This in itself has been a huge challenge and taken a lot to manage. I’ve had to learn to do things differently than most people, to manage my time better, and to be very gracious and patient with myself, my body, and the limitations I currently live within. I am a “spoonie” which means that I have to ration the amount of energy I’m given every day with the tasks that need to be completed. If a “normal” person wakes up with twenty spoons everyday…on a good day, I may wake up with fifteen, on a bad day I may wake up with only five…never do I get all twenty. So it becomes a strategy game of time management, saying “no” to things I’d really like to do, and listening to what my body needs…which is definitely not what I anticipated at this stage of my life. (If you’re not familiar with the term “spoonie”, you can read about it HERE.)

So I’ve had to learn to accept my blogging “flaws” and give myself grace to not run the hamster wheel of perfection. And hope that you all love me in spite (or maybe because of) it.

Maybe it’s time to give yourself some grace too. Maybe it’s time to breathe, go for a walk, take a nap, read a good book, and just let that thing on your to-do list sit awhile longer. In the end, your health and time with those you love far exceeds any to-do on your list. Make memories and fill your moments with love every chance you get. As many of us have seen recently with the tragic and unexpected death of Rachel Held Evans, life is so very, very short.

When your time comes, what is it that you wish you would have done more of?

Whatever it is…do that. And let go of the need to please, perform, and perfect. Changing the rhythm of how we work, play, and rest can be challenging but it can also be very rewarding.

Over the summer, my goal is to do a series of blog posts that will release every 2 weeks covering different topics that I’m passionate about and that have been dear to my heart in recent months. I’m hoping they will be encouraging to you…and that you’ll give me grace if they are not always released in two week increments.

With so much love,

Amber Cantorna

7 Years Later: Gay Daughter of Focus on the Family Executive Opens Up About the Years Since Losing Everything

April 14th, 2012 was the day that separated the life I had, from the life that was about to be. It was the day that defined everything. The day that determined that everyday that followed would be different from every day that came before.

The fear of coming out to my family was a weight on my chest that wouldn’t leave me alone–it followed me every second of the day and haunted me every minute of the night. I lived constantly with the anxiety that coming out as gay to my family–the family that was the epitome of perfection to the conservative Christian world–could potentially cost me everything; but I was not prepared for the fact that it actually would. With a father who’s been employed as an executive at Focus on the Family for over 30 years and a mother who stayed home to school and raise us, I knew this news would not be easy for me to share, nor easy for them to hear. 

Gathering my family in my home that day, I held notes in my lap as points of reference for when my nerves got the best of me. Giving it my all, I took them on the journey I had been walking over the past several years, until the moment finally came when I told them I knew I was gay. My words hung in the air, forming what I now know to be an unbridgeable gap between us. I’d never felt more vulnerable in my life than I did in those moments awaiting their response. Then, with anger in my dad’s eyes, he simply said, “I have nothing to say to you right now,” and he walked out the door. 

That door closing behind my family as they left that day felt like they were simultaneously closing the door on me, not only as their only daughter, but also as part of the family. As soon as they were out of sight, I collapsed into a puddle of devastation and tears. 

THE FIRST YEARwas the hardest. It was the year I didn’t know if I’d survive. The next conversation I had with my family was one where they looked me in the eye and told me they felt like I had died and that given the choice, they would choose God over me. They compared me being gay to murder, pedophilia, and bestiality. They called me selfish and said they no longer trusted me to have open access to their home. The unconditional love my parents professed growing up suddenly had very clear conditions attached, and as I walked out the door, they asked for the keys to their house back. That was the day I became an orphan.

Suicide was a very real threat to me in the months that followed as harsh words, passive aggressive behavior, and ghosting confronted me from all sides. I lost almost everyone and everything: my parents, my only sibling, my relatives, most of my friends, my home church of fourteen years, and the only hometown I’d ever known. 

One tragedy took place after another that year ranging from loss, to critical illness, to death; it put a strain on me that, looking back, I still don’t know how I survived. I truly believe to this day that the affirming community I found in Denver, and my service dog, Half Pint, are what saved my life that year. When everyone else walked out, they stayed. And because of them, I’m alive today. 

Cantorna’s service dog, Half Pint, continues to travel with her nation-wide.

THE SECOND YEAR was the year that love entered my life. I held in tandem a dynamic of losing everyone I’d ever loved and simultaneously gaining the unconditional love of someone who, for the first time, saw the real me. I rode a rollercoaster as the connection with my family became ever more strained, and yet I discovered joy and peace in my own skin unlike any I’d ever known. I fell in love, but couldn’t share that love with my very own family. By the end of this second year, I was engaged, and ready to share what should be some of the most exciting news of my life with the world, but rather than sharing that news with my family first, they ended up being among the last to know. It broke my heart in a way that words can’t explain. Yet somehow, the freedom I was finding to be myself kept me moving forward, as I slowly let go of the the love and acceptance my heart craved from my family. 

Cantorna and her then fiance, now wife, Clara.

THE THIRD YEAR was the year I got married. It was the day I’d always dreamed of: the white dress, the first look, the first dance. People from my affirming faith community stepped up and stood in where my family should have been, filling the gap and making the obvious emptiness bearable. It’s a day that was everything I’d always dreamed it to be…almost. And yet the ache of what my family missed that day still stays with me, knowing we can never go back. It’s too late. They missed one of the happiest days of my life. Just three months after my wedding, my family cut me off completely. Their hope for “change” had waned and they gave up on our relationship. We haven’t spoken since. 

Cantorna on her wedding day.

THE FOURTH YEAR was the year that we bought our first home. With the help of friends, we moved into a house and made it our own. We struggled with emptiness that comes with not having family support, especially around the holidays, and fought to bring some of the traditions of our past into our present, and to let others go in place of creating our own. It was a year of shifting, of growth, and of beginning to establish our own family, even without the love of our biological families. Together, we held onto love and let that fill our life.

Closing Day on the Cantorna’s First House

THE FIFTH YEAR was the year I wrote Refocusing My Family and began sharing my story with the world. Following what was clearly the voice of God through one of my friends, I was told that “Embedded in my identity, was a responsibility to be a voice for change.” I knew God was calling me. It was a hard and taxing book to write, but so rewarding. That year was the launch of what has now become my life’s work: writing, speaking, and using my story to help others with theirs. 

Cantorna releases her story of growing up the daughter of a Focus on the Family executive and later coming out as gay in her groundbreaking memoir, “Refocusing My Family” (October 2017).

THE SIXTH YEAR was a year of continuing to grieve for the loss of what could or should have been with my family, while also finding strength and grounding in the family my wife and I were creating together. It was a year of letting go, a year of building up, and a year of finding strength in each other when things were tough. As I traveled and spoke across the country, I heard hundreds of stories that were far too similar to mine and because of it, soon published a second book (Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians) in order to provide the very first resource for LGBTQ people of faith to navigate the complications of internalized homophobia, coming out, setting healthy boundaries, grieving rejection and loss, and embracing who God created them to be to the fullest. 

Cantorna continues to produce meaningful work by releasing her second book within eighteen months of the first, and publishes the first coming-out guide for LGBTQ Christians.

THE SEVENTH YEAR…this year…is the year that I strive to embrace healing and wholeness to its full capacity. It’s the year that I seek to pour life into others, and be filled with life myself. Amidst all the pain and loss I’ve experience over the past seven years, I can honestly say I wouldn’t go back or trade what I have now for the world.

I came alive the day I came out, and my family has missed the happiest years of my life.

I now get the privilege of doing deeply meaningful work by helping other LGBTQ people of faith find their own purpose and self-acceptance. I get to live my life free of shame, guilt, and condemnation and instead know that there is a God bigger than my box that loves me completely and unconditionally. And I get to share a love with my wife which only continues to draw me closer to the divine Spirit of God.

Cantorna and her wife, Clara, will celebrate five years of marriage in June. She continues to have no contact with her family.

If you are an LGBTQ person of faith struggling to come out, know that there is love, acceptance, and peace waiting for you on the other side. You can love God and a person of the same-sex without any conflict in between. You can be LGBTQ and be at peace with the fact that God loves you fully and completely exactly as you are. For more helpful information, check out my Resources page. 

If you are a parent, pastor, or ally of an LGBTQ person, I urge you to see the damage that faulty religion has done to my family and make a different choice for yours. You don’t have to understand completely to love unconditionally. Be willing to learn, to grow, and to expand your understanding of God. You willingness to be stretched could save the life of the ones you love.

I came out seven years ago today. I love my life and I’m not looking back. 

Photo credit and thanks goes to: Missy Hill Photography

Amber Cantorna is a national speaker and the author of Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians and Refocusing My Family. You can learn more about her work and view her speaking schedule at AmberCantorna.com or follow her on social media @AmberNCantorna. To support the continuation of Amber’s work, visit: Amber’s Patreon Page.

Gay Daughter of Focus on the Family Executive Releases First Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ People of Faith

As the recent United Methodist Church’s decision to tighten their restrictions on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and performing same-sex marriage demonstrates, being LGBTQ and Christian can be difficult and unwelcoming. But there is hope and there are affirming faith communities who embrace Christians of all kinds.

Author and LGBTQ advocate Amber Cantorna (Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God) empathizes with the feelings of loss, depression, and despair that LGBTQ Christians are feeling. As the gay daughter of a thirty-year-plus Focus on the Family executive, Cantorna was cast out of her family and her church when she came out. However, Cantorna found acceptance and healing through her faith and by finding an affirming community to support her during her coming-out journey. Now as part of her work dedicated to reconnecting LGBTQ Christians with their faith, Cantorna has published, Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians.

This practical and rich guide is invaluable for LGBTQ Christians as they consider coming out, and it is a precious tool for the allies who walk alongside them. Cantorna shares the wisdom she’s gained and teaches others about demolishing their internalized homophobia or transphobia, finding or building an affirming faith community, preparing to come out and coming out to loved ones, setting healthy boundaries, and coping with conditional love.

“LGBTQ Christians are desperate for guidance on how to navigate the unexpected journey of coming out,” Cantorna says. “They’ve been backed into a corner by religion, taught to be ashamed of who they are, and have lived in fear of being abandoned by both God and those they love if the truth about their identity leaks out. They want to live authentically, but they lack the needed resources to guide them.”

Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide to LGBTQ Christians is now available from Westminster John Knox Press and other major retailers.

Amber Cantorna is a national speaker, a columnist for Patheos, and the author of Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God. As a leader dedicated to supporting LGBTQ people throughout their coming-out process, Cantorna uses her platform to inspire others and works to dissolve shame, foster self-acceptance, and generate a message of love and inclusion for all.

-Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY (March 12th, 2019)

Check out Amber’s Tour Schedule Here

Advanced Praise for Unashamed

“Unashamed is a step-by-step guide to liberation, a manual for answering that holy call to stand in our own God-given skin and be exactly who we are.”
—Linda Kay Klein, author of PURE: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free

“Amber speaks with the wisdom of someone who has lived through the kind of shame only evangelicalism can impart. For those with the courage to let the world know who they are, Unashamed will guide you, lovingly and
competently, one step at a time.”
—Paula Stone Williams, Pastor, TED speaker, LGBTQ advocate

“Unashamed is the book I wish my child would have had when he came out. With practicality, compassion, and wisdom that comes from personal experience, Amber Cantorna broaches coming out in a way that no other
book has done.”
—Sara Cunningham, founder of Free Mom Hugs and author of How We Sleep at Night: A Mother’s Memoir

“Amber Cantorna beautifully radiates God’s love and hope for all God’s children as she masterfully weaves 
together helpful action steps and stories that are both informative and empowering. Unashamed is filled with golden nuggets of hope, healing, and truth. . . A must-read for everyone!”
—Jane Clementi, cofounder and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation

“As the gay, closeted son of a Southern Baptist pastor, I didn’t think I’d ever come out. It was too scary. . . . I 
had no guidance, no resources, and very little confidence. I felt like the only person in the world who’d gone through this. Thanks to Amber Cantorna, no closeted Christian LGBTQ person should ever have to feel that way again.”
—B. T. Harman, creator of the blog and podcast Blue Babies Pink

“This is Amber Cantorna at her best! She takes the nitty-gritty experiences that every LGBTQ person of faith 
experiences and breaks them down in an incredibly accessible way. . . . Reading it feels like having a personal coach on all things LGBTQ and Christian. It’s just so good!”
—Candice Czubernat, founder and therapist at the Christian Closet

Unashamed is a heartfelt, supportive resource for LGBTQ Christians finding their place in the church and in the world. I’m so glad Amber Cantorna created such a vital and important work.”
-Mike McHargue, host of Ask Science Mike and author of Finding God in the Waves

 

“Unashamed” is Out of the Closet!

Hello Friends,

I am so excited to write today and let you know that my newest book, Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians is out of the closet and now on the shelves of your nearby bookstores…or your next Amazon order. 

I know that my blogging and updates have been sporadic and that is primarily because A) I’m only one person doing the job of many people, and B) I’m realizing (and learning to accept) that weekly blogging just isn’t my thing, and that’s okay. Plus, I’m also trying to get to the bottom of some additional health challenges that I’ve been facing,  but that’s another story for another time. 

For today, with the release of this new book, there are THREE important things I want you to know…

1. Unashamed is now available on Amazon. Pick up a copy for yourself, or a loved one. The great thing about it is that this resource is super helpful for LGBTQ people and allies alike! So whether you’re a loved one, a parent, a pastor, a therapist, or just someone wanting to know what it is like to walk in the shoes of an LGBTQ person of faith, this book is for you!

This is one of the first 10 reviews that came through on Amazon this morning.

You can order your copy HERE.

2. With the book launch we’ve also announced The Unashamed Tour dates today! Tickets are now live and can be purchased via Eventbrite. To view a full list, visit: AmberCantorna.com/events. More cities and dates are coming soon!

3. I had the opportunity to interview with about a dozen podcasts over the last two weeks. Queerology is one that is near and dear to my heart and just released today. You can listen to my conversation with Matthias Roberts HERE

Thank you for all you’ve done to support me and this project. Anything you can do to help spread the word about this book, the tour events, and my work is SO appreciated. 

Remember…you are loved, so live unashamed.

Amber Cantorna

Loving Yourself without Shame (An Excerpt from Unashamed)

It was a snowy Saturday afternoon in Denver, Colorado, when I showed up to lead a workshop at the 2018 Q Christian Fellowship conference. Together with Susan Cottrell of FreedHearts, we led a sixty-minute session on “Navigating Life and Relationships with Non-Affirming Families.” Anticipating the need for a presentation on this topic, the conference team arranged for us to have the largest workshop room available. Just as they expected, when the doors opened, hundreds of people (in fact, one-third of the conference attendees) made their way in and packed out the room. This was my first indication that the topic of coming out to conservative families was tremendously underrepresented in the LGBTQ Christian community.

Susan and I planned to divide our hour of time into two parts. The first half hour would be spent discussing tools and tips for coming out, and the second half hour we would open it up for Q&A. We wanted to allow plenty of time to engage with the audience and address their concerns. But we were not prepared for the overwhelming need we were about to confront. As soon as we opened the floor for questions, a sea of hands immediately shot into the air. There was an audible gasp of shock and surprise that suctioned the oxygen from the room. I was stunned and a bit alarmed that the petition for questions was so vast. There was an obvious desire and need for these people to be heard.

For months, I’d received a steady stream of emails and Facebook messages from people seeking advice or wanting to share their story with me. It numbered in the hundreds. So yes, I knew there was a need to address this topic. But to witness it in such a tangible way and visibly see the lives that are being affected by rejection and pain in such startling numbers made one thing very apparent: LGBTQ Christians are desperate for guidance on how to navigate the unexpected journey of coming out. They’ve been backed into a corner by religion, taught to be ashamed of who they are, and lived in fear of being abandoned by both God and those they love if the truth about their identity leaks out. They want to live authentically, but they lack the needed resources to guide them. The books available to us thus far are limited to theological reconciliation. But the questions that arise about how to practically live out abound.

There was no way that Susan and I could begin to address all the questions people had in the room of our workshop that day. We picked a random hand out of the myriad of those raised and answered as many questions as we possibly could in that thirty-minute time frame. But we barely scratched the surface of the stories and questions represented. Following the session, we both stayed, offering to talk with anyone who still had a burning question they wanted to ask. Each person carried a story, a struggle they were up against in the face of coming out, and a desire to be seen. I wanted to stay all night and talk to each of them; I wanted to validate their journeys, stories, and struggles; I wanted them to know they weren’t alone; and more than anything, I wanted them to know that they had nothing to be ashamed of—that they could embrace and love the person that they are, because who they are is beautiful and reflects the very image of God. As the line wound down and the last person left for the night, I couldn’t help but think about how many people didn’t stay but still had unanswered questions lingering in their heart. Recognizing the magnitude of the need that day was what birthed [my upcoming book, Unashamed].

At first, I didn’t know if I was ready to write another book. Writing my first book (a memoir of my own coming-out journey) had taken an emotional toll on me, I was just winding down from a national book tour, and I had a few other projects I was hoping to accomplish before returning to writing. But I couldn’t ignore the request from so many people seeking guidance, nor the wind of God’s spirit speaking to my soul that this book needed to be written—now.

So this book (Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians) is my labor of love to each of you who identify as an LGBTQ person of faith. It is written to those of you who have lost your faith, to those of you who are desperately trying to hold onto your faith, and to those who of you who want to reclaim your faith.

It is written for each of you who have emailed or messaged me on social media and shared your coming-out story and the pain you have faced as a result. It is written for the preacher’s kid, the missionary kid, the church kid, the home-schooled kid, the “Adventures in Odyssey” kid, the bullied kid, and the kid who never quite knew how to fit in.

It is written for the outcast, the leper, the black sheep, and those of you who feel like you are somehow never quite enough.

It is written for the LGBTQ person who did everything you could to be the “perfect Christian,” who tried to pattern your life after the Focus on the Family model, who went through ex-gay therapy, conversion therapy, and psychological abuse, suppressing your sexual feelings and desires because you were told you had to conform to the literal interpretation of Scripture in order to be acceptable to God. It is written for those of you who were forced into celibacy or a marriage to a person of the opposite sex because someone convinced you that God required it of you.

It is written for those of you who are thinking about coming out, for those who are in the process of coming out, for those who have already come out, and for those who have previously come out but who ended up back in the closet again due to fear.

This book is for those of you who struggle with worthiness, who were told that setting boundaries was disrespectful, who believed the lie that God despises who you are, who carry suffocating shame about your identity, who feel terrified to be seen, and who feel so isolated in your struggle that you don’t know if you can live another day. This book is for you.

I want you to know that I see you. I see who you are. I see the struggles you face every day, the fear that overwhelms you, the pain that is so heavy it takes effort just to keep breathing. I see you.

Know that you do not walk alone, though at times it may feel lonely. Countless others out there are also trying to navigate this same path. Writing this book is also my way of journeying with each of you and doing what I can to give you a compass for your trail. My hope is that as you go through this book, you will discover another set of footprints as well and realize that God is also walking alongside you, and always has been. Have courage, my friend. Don’t let fear win. Come, let’s journey together and learn what it means to live unashamed.

(***Excerpted from Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Chrisitans, © Amber Cantorna. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press.)

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A Few Simple Ways to Love on the LGBTQ People in Your Life this Holiday Season

Image via Pixabay (title belongs to the author)

With December already upon us and the holiday season in full swing, it is a happy and joyous time for many, but unfortunately, not for all. This year, my heart is heavy for several of our close friends facing very difficult and challenging situations this season with health, with relationships, and with loss.

For LGBTQ people in particular, the holidays can be an especially difficult time of year. Many have lost relationships with family or friends as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And those who have maintained relationship with family members often still experience a relational strain that lingers in their family interactions, making holidays with family just as challenging as for those without family.

For many, myself included, even in the midst of joy and celebration, there’s a deep sense of loss, of sadness, and of grief for that which could be.

Maybe that comes from rejection, or from tension with loved ones, or from ultimatums that say they are welcome at holiday gatherings but their same-sex partner or spouse is not. Each of these situations cause pain, feelings of not really belonging, and emptiness where the celebration should be.

So I’m challenging you this Christmas, if you know or have an LGBTQ person in your sphere of influence, to reach out to them in one of the following ways this year and add some joy to their holiday season:

1. Send them a Christmas card.

Image via Pixabay

Ok, so it doesn’t have to have a rainbow on it. In fact, it’s probably better if it doesn’t! But something as simple as sending a card with a hand written inscription at Christmas time can make your LGBTQ friend feel loved.

For years, I’ve always put the Christmas cards I’ve received on the back of my front door. It was a tradition in my family growing up that I’ve continued on into adulthood. But since coming out, the number of cards I’ve received has fluctuated over the years. Some years, there’s not been many at all. And in those times, it’s often a painful reminder of just how many people I’ve lost due to being authentic about who I am. Still, each time I open the mailbox to see a personalized Christmas card to me, I light up inside like a little kid. And for the LGBTQ person receiving your card, being remembered will undoubtedly make them feel loved too.

2. Invite them to join your family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Image via Pixabay

Yes, it may mean that someone new is in your home at Christmas. And it may be a little different than what you are used to. But just realize that if you don’t invite that LGBTQ person, they may not have anywhere to go. Oh, they may pretend they have plans or pass it off like it is not a big deal, or it’s not as painful as it really is…but deep inside, they’re longing and looking for a family to fit into for the holidays.

For me, when we don’t have a plan for the holidays, my anxiety escalates. The unknown makes me uneasy. Once we have a plan in place, it wanes and I feel more at ease. Some years we’ve been successful at arranging plans and we’ve had a great Christmas. Other years it has been very lonely. We make the best of whatever it is and create new and fun traditions whenever possible, but that doesn’t erase the pain that can accompany the fact that it is just the two of us alone on Christmas day.

3. Call them on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day.

Let’s face it, sending a text is nice, but it’s not the same as when someone takes the time to pick  up the phone and call you. Yes, the holidays are a busy time for you and your family, but think of your LGBTQ friend who may not have anyone (or may only have their spouse) to share the holiday with. If they’ve been completely rejected by their family, it is quite possible that nobody calls, nobody comes by with gifts or handmade goodies, and nobody joins them for Christmas dinner. What my wife and I have found is that, even with our friends with whom we are the closest, when it comes to the actual holi-day almost everyone still has somewhere to go. That means that our house is often quite and calm as we celebrate together what the two of us have. A phone call from you could brighten up an otherwise very quiet day.

If you have to, set a reminder or alarm in your phone or calendar. The call doesn’t have to be long, but I promise it will make them smile.

Image via Pixabay

I’ll never forget the time my adopted Nana called me on my wife and I’s 1-year wedding anniversary. It was so very thoughtful for her to remember me and make the time to pick up the phone and call to congratulate us. It reminded me of something my mom would have done if she was around and it made me feel special and like someone cared enough to remember our special day. Small things really do go a long way.

4. Send them a care package.

If you’re making up a stocking or care package to send to one of your kids (or even if you’re not!) put together a little Christmas box of goodies and stocking stuffers and mail it to them. Go to the store and have a little fun picking out some little trinkets for them, or hop on Amazon and have it shipped directly to their house (you could even include a copy of Refocusing My Family!). Amazon makes it super easy and convenient (you don’t even have to get out of your pj’s!) and I promise you’ll make their day.

When I returned from one of my tour trips last year, there was an unexpected box at my house. It was from a Mama Bear. She had made me a blanket by hand as part of the Banner Blanket Project (a project started to make and send blankets to LGBTQ kids who have been rejected by their families) and sent it my way. When I opened it, I cried. It was the first thoughtful gift like that I had received in years and I felt so very loved. I wrapped myself up in the blanket that night and felt truly loved by a Mom for the first time in a very, very long time.

Image via Pixabay

Little gifts make a big difference. Thoughtfulness goes a long way.

What can you do to bring a little love to someone you know this holiday season?

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna