Can You Help?

Hey Friends,

Just a reminder that there is still time to enter the Unashamed Giveaway! (I will tell you that right now the chances of winning are very high as we’ve only had a couple new people join the financial pledge this past month. So you have good odds!) While I am so grateful for those people, I am still not anywhere close to the goal I had hoped to reach. I know, according to society’s standards, we are “supposed” to keep these posts positive and optimistic, but the truth is, I’m overwhelmed at all that lies before me, and I’m tired of hustling. (Those of you who have done ministry work understand.)

I don’t want to stop. I’m committed to this work for the long-haul. But without an increase in financial support, it may come to the point where I have to look at taking a sabbatical.  I hope it doesn’t. I don’t even want to think about that as a possibility. But I also can’t keep up with running an entire ministry on my own, plus a second job, plus my manage my health (which is struggling…more tests are being ordered), plus take care of my family. I’ve cut back in every way I can, but it’s not enough. 

So if you believe in the work that I do and if you can help it continue by contributing financially, whatever level you are able to give would help so much as I plan for the 2020 year. I have meetings coming up over the next few weeks to talk about future projects, but I’m bearing in mind my limitations and what I can realistically take on. 

I also recognize that the platform of Patreon may feel confusing or foreign to you (it was to me too in the beginning!) But it really is no different than supporting a church, a missionary, or anything else you’re passionate about. You choose a monthly amount that feels do-able for you (or for your church) and you pledge to give that amount on a monthly basis. Patreon is just the platform that is used to make the transaction (and it also gives me the opportunity to connect with you and get to know you better). 


It’s hard as a public figure to be this vulnerable, but I feel it is important to be transparent. Nobody can do it all. And it’s hard for you to help if I’m not communicating my needs, right? So this is my opportunity to invite you on the journey with me.

I also realize that not everyone is in a place where they can give financially right now. Please know that I still so appreciate your prayers, your online support and sharing of my work, and the love and encouragement you send my way.  


If you have any questions at all about Patreon, or about my work and where I’m hoping to take this in the coming year, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Also, if you sign up to give anytime between now and the end of the month, you will be automatically entered into the giveaway drawing. It’s that easy. 

TO PLEDGE A MONTHLY FINANCIAL GIFT VISIT: Patreon.com/AmberNCantorna

ONE TIME DONATIONS ARE ALSO HELPFUL AND CAN BE MADE AT: http://ambercantorna.com/donate/


(*Note: One-time donations are not eligible for the giveaway but are greatly appreciated and go towards projects that I am working on for 2020.


I am grateful for each of you as we journey on together.

Be Brave, Live Unashamed,
Amber

You Can’t Be a Half-Hearted Ally

In my work with LGBTQ people and their families, I hear an abundance of both heartbreaking and redeeming stories. The heartbreaking ones remind me of why I do the work that I do, while the redeeming ones are a reflection of the work that we as a progressive faith community are accomplishing. However, over the last few months, I’ve had a handful of both public and private encounters that have reminded me that we have not come as far as we think when it comes to educating those who say they support us. Whether people realize it or not, a great deal of responsibility comes along with being an LGBTQ ally (or an ally of any marginalized group for that matter.) This post is meant to outline some traits of a true ally in hopes that you will read it, meditate on it, and grow because of it…and that then you will share it with others.

This post might make you uncomfortable…and that is good. If you can lean into it, you will grow. So I invite you to take a deep breath, open your heart, and read with a spirit that is willing to learn…for that is how we make the world a better place.

Here are 5 Ways to Be an LGBTQ ally…

1. You Must Identify Your Own Privilege and How it Has Empowered You.

As a straight, cisgender person, there are privileges afforded to you that have not been afforded to your LGBTQ peers. For instance, have you ever had to scan the room before holding your partner’s hand to gauge the safety level of room? Did you have to think twice about if you would be allowed to get married in the venue of your choice? Have you ever had to correct someone when they see your wedding ring and automatically assume that you are married to a person of the opposite sex? Or worry about losing your job if your employer knows who you love? Have you ever had to deal with the intense anxiety and mental anguish that comes with being disowned by your family for something you cannot change? The answer to these questions, of course, is no. You’ve never had to experience these things because as a straight, cisgender person, you are considered to be part of the cultural norm. But until you recognize the imbalance of power between your privilege and those who are marginalized, you can never truly be considered an ally.

“Until you recognize the imbalance of power between your privilege and those who are marginalized, you can never truly be considered an ally.”

QUESTIONS FOR INTROSPECTION: What doors has your privilege opened for you that you aren’t even aware of? How do those opportunities differ for LGBTQ people (specifically LGBTQ people of faith)?

2. You Must Use Your Privilege to Elevate the Marginalized.

This is a two-part task. The first part is that you must speak up and speak out. Using your voice (as a person of privilege) to bring attention to, and raise awareness of, the ways in which people are being marginalized is crucial for the forward movement of LGBTQ equality. It is not enough for you to love LGBTQ people quietly behind closed doors. LGBTQ people are dying at the hands of ignorance, fear, and bad theology. We must speak up and speak out in order to reduce the amount of lives that are being lost every day. Whether you speak out in person when you hear someone say something unjust, or whether you use your social media feeds to promote conversations of equality, you must use your voice to advocate for change. Ginette Sagan said, “Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor,” and she’s absolutely right. To remain silent implies apathy and consent. You cannot remain neutral (aka silent) and call yourself an ally.

“You cannot remain neutral (aka silent) and call yourself an ally.”

The second part of this task is that actions speak louder than words. As we just discussed, your words and your voice are undoubtedly important. But if your words say one thing (“I’m an ally”) and your actions say another (“I don’t want to lose my privilege”)…you are not truly an ally. Your words must be congruent with your life in order to gain the respect and trust of LGBTQ people.

Questions for Introspection: Where have I spoken up for the dignity and worth of LGBTQ people? Where have I failed to speak up? Are my words and actions consistent with my life? In what way can I use my privilege to elevate the voice of the marginalized?

3. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

If you truly care about social justice and equality, you need to care about it in every aspect of your life. Words of love and friendship mean nothing if you continue to fuel the problems of injustice with your actions and finances. This doesn’t mean that you have to exceed your budget or do more than you can financially afford. It means that you begin to think differently about where you spend your money and what kind of policies/systems are being perpetuated with that money. Giving or spending your money at institutions or stores that are known for their anti-LGBTQ policies (or who support conversion therapy) continues to perpetuate a society of hate, discrimination, and inequality. A few changes you can consider making are:

  • Stop donating to The Salvation Army, and instead donate your items to your local Goodwill.
  • Stop shopping at Hobby Lobby, and instead shop at Michael’s.
  • Stop tithing to non-affirming churches, and instead give to churches that are fully-affirming or to organizations that are working directly with the LGBTQ faith population. (Come on, I know that one made you uncomfortable!)
  • Intentionally shop at stores that champion diversity, like Target, JCPenny, and Starbucks (who, by the way has the most comprehensive transgender health policy in the world. Read more here.)

Bottom line, saying you support LGBTQ people when you continue to invest your money in ways that directly harm or limit their access to equality is to still live within your privilege, without thinking about those who live without it.

“Continuing to invest your money in ways that directly harm or limit (LGBT people’s) access to equality is to still live within your privilege, without thinking about those who live without it.”

We aren’t perfect and this doesn’t mean that you have to do an in-depth Google search on every store that you ever enter, but it does mean that you think carefully about the places you invest your money, what stores you purchase from on a regular basis, and where improvements can be made.

QUESTIONS FOR INTROSPECTION: Am I currently investing my money in a place that is directly or indirectly causing harm or limited access to marginalized people? If so, what changes can I make to invest it better?

4. Put Your VOTE Where Your Mouth Is.

In case you haven’t noticed, this is a critical year in politics. We cannot afford to push issues aside or ignore them any longer claiming that they’re not “our issue.” Children are dying in cages at the border, people are filing bankruptcy due to lack of affordable healthcare, white supremacy is on the rise, racism has somehow become acceptable, and children are afraid to go to school because mass shootings have become a devastatingly common occurrence.

People, for the love of all that is good and holy, VOTE! Vote for women and people of color, vote for policies that will bring justice to our healthcare system, and to families separated at the border; vote for people that will address our ever-rising concern of climate change and the problems of mass incarceration. VOTE! It is one of the single most powerful things you can do to help create lasting change for the marginalized. And YOU have the opportunity and the privilege to do it simply, easily, and freely. These are not just LGBTQ concerns, these are humanity concerns and you have the opportunity (regardless of political party) to vote in a way that elevates the common good for all people.

“These are not just LGBTQ concerns, these are humanity concerns.”

QUESTIONS FOR INTROSPECTION: How has my voting in the past affected people on the margins? Have I voted for issues that will only benefit me, or have I voted for issues that will affect the common good of all people? What might I do differently this year to better elevate people in the margins?

NOTE: If you are not yet registered to vote, you can do that here: https://vote.gov/
You can also learn more about the Vote Common Good Campaign by visiting: https://www.votecommongood.com/love-in-politics-pledge/

5. Listen and Learn.

There is a lot that can be learned by simply listening to the stories of LGBTQ people. Many of them are even open to the genuinely curious questions of those seeking to better understand. But don’t expect LGBTQ people to be the ones to educate you on the “biblical interpretation of the clobber passages.” Just as you shouldn’t expect people of color to educate you on racism in America, you also shouldn’t expect LGBTQ people to educate you on theology, homophobia, or anti-gay belief systems. Instead, educate yourself. There are a number of good books that will help you (a few of my favorites are listed here.) Then, use your time with LGBTQ people to really listen and seek to understand what life is like in their shoes.

It is inevitable that you will make mistakes along the way. We all do. But if and when that happens, stay humble. Apologize for your mistake (without trying to justify why you made it!) and simply listen to how you can do better next time. A sincere apology will go a long way; a half-hearted one will not.

QUESTIONS FOR INTROSPECTION: How can I become a better listener? What topics do I still need to grow in? What resources will help educate me best in those areas?

Bottom Line:

You can’t be a half-hearted ally.

There is no middle ground.

You either have all your skin in the game, or you don’t.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t make mistakes. What it means is that you can’t hold on to your privilege and your ally card too. You can only choose one. Because when you try to hold onto both, damage is done, trust is betrayed, and people are hurt. I have seen this multiple times in both my professional and personal life in recent months and I am begging you to step up and make a change.

“You can’t hold on to your privilege and your ally card too.”

We need allies. We need you. We are asking you lay down your pride, use your privilege to elevate the voices of the marginalized, and have integrity to stand by what you say–mean it with all of your heart–and then walk it out on this journey alongside us towards a more just, equal, and safe place for us all to live.

Support the Continuation of Amber Cantorna’s Work this #GivingTuesday

If you know me, you know I hate fundraising. It’s not in my nature and I wish I could do everything for everyone all the time. I hate feeling limited. But I am. And the reality is, we all have living and operating expenses.

Today, I’m going to be super open and vulnerable with you and tell you that currently, I’m only receive $312 a month on Patreon. While I am incredibly grateful for each and every person that is supporting me in this way, as you can imagine, it doesn’t go very far each month when it comes to living and operating expenses. I want to do the work that I currently do with LGBTQ+ people full time and not have to worry where funds are coming from each month, but the reality is that right now, I still have to work a second job to keep things running. And I have chronic health problems. And a family. And it’s just a lot.

I know there are SO many amazing places that you could invest your money, both today for #GivingTuesday and for the upcoming 2020 calendar year. But I’m asking you to consider if you have just $25 a month, or $10, or even $5 that you could invest into furthering my mission of helping LGBTQ people of faith navigate their coming out process in a healthy way.

I continue to receive emails regularly from those who resonate with both my story and my work and with each one that I receive, I remember how important this work still is and how much it is still needed.

I have several new projects that I am considering for 2020, but at the moment, I honestly just feel overwhelmed as to how to “do it all.” So if you believe in the work that I do and are able to help even a little, I would be so very grateful.

You can give a one time gift by visiting my website AmberCantorna.com (or using Paypal or Venmo or Google Pay).

Or you can join Patreon and support me on a monthly basis. I love the $25 tier as it enables me to get to know you better on a personal level, but any amount is available and I am so very grateful any level that you are able to give.

I hope that as you enter this holiday season, you find peace in your heart despite the chaos, and an abundance of love, laughter and joy.

So Much Love and Gratitude,
Amber

A (Progressive) Blessing for Your Thanksgiving Table

Friends, 

I know it has been awhile since you’ve heard from me. My speaking schedule has been so very full this fall and my wife and I just returned from a wonderful (and much needed!) vacation in Italy to bring our crazy year to a close. In the new year, I will be transitioning to a monthly newsletter/blog format to ensure that you hear from me on a more regular basis outside of social media. But for now, as we enter the holiday week, I wanted to share with you this blessing. Feel free to share it at your Thanksgiving table if it feels right for you. And if you do, I’d love to hear from you how it was received at your table. 
 
Remember each of you are dearly loved and deeply blessed,
 
 
 
 
 
A Blessing for the Thanksgiving Table 
 
 
Blessed are the grateful,
Those who gather in homes near and far to enjoy good food and the company of others,
Those who give thanks for the big things, and especially the small ones, as they reflect back on their year,
Those who realize that it is not about what they have, but about whom they share it with,
And that the heart that beats beside them is the most precious gift of all.
 
Blessed are those who share what they have with others,
Those who set a grand table and prepare dishes for an entire week in advance,
Those who have food delivered because they don’t have time (or desire or energy) to cook,
Those who enjoy both the gift of the meal and of the friendship,
And find beauty and gratitude in it all.
 
Blessed are those who make room at their table for orphans,
Those who don’t have families to go home to,
Those who have been disowned by their families because of who they are or whom they love,
And those whose spiritual deconstruction has ostracized them from their family and/or faith communities.
You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
 

Blessed are those whose table is set with grief,

Those who’ve lost a parent to illness, a friend to a tragic accident, a sibling to gun violence, a child to suicide.
Blessed are those who sit with them in their pain,
Who honor their grief without a timetable, and who realize they are powerless to fix it.
 
Blessed are those that travel thousands of miles to be with loved ones,
Those who can’t afford to,
Those who spend their holiday serving food to others at shelters,
And those who have too much social anxiety to leave the house.
 
Blessed are those who share a table with whom they disagree,
Who speak up for the marginalized,
Who risk uncomfortable conversations for the sake of others,
And who don’t take their privilege for granted.
 
Blessed are those who keep the peace for the sake of grandma.
 
Blessed are the families separated at the border,
The indigenous people whose land we stole,
And those who are afraid for their lives due to circumstances they can’t control.
 
Blessed are the first responders who work the holiday for our safety,
The Black Friday employees who’ve haven’t been given a choice,
The snow plowers and street sweepers who clear the roads so that we can get where we are going,
And those who have just been laid off just and enter the holiday season with fear and insecurity lingering in their hearts.
 
Blessed are the toddlers, the elderly, the single mother, the single father, the person who is proud to be single, the person that longs for companionship, the married couple who is happy, the married couple who is struggling, the family with kids, the family who longs for kids, and the family with fur babies.
 
Blessed are the marginalized.
 
Blessed are the dream-chasers, the goal seekers, the fearful, the hopeless, and the wandering.
 
And blessed are YOU…whoever and wherever you are, whatever you’ve gone through, whatever you have or have not accomplished this year, whatever failures or dreams may still be lingering…you are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.
 
Amen.
 
 
 
Copyright 2019

“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.