My Evening with the Mama Bears

Inkedflat,1000x1000,075,f.u1_LIThis week, I had the opportunity of being the special guest on Serendipitydoodah’s Facebook LIVE event. Serendipitydoodah is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. With currently over 1,900 members they continue to grow and connect across denominations and struggles as they share one thing in common: their LGBTQ children.

This is my second time speaking to this group and each time it is an honor. With the presence of my own parents absent from my life, I love soaking up all the Mama Bear love and in turn offering some of my own insight and experience.

Prior to my Facebook LIVE event the other night (which feels a lot like talking to yourself in the mirror and hoping someone is listening!) the moms of the group had the chance to submit questions for me to answer during my hour of time with them. I’ve chosen three of them from the list to share with you here this week:

What can we do to help our LGBTQ kids stay connected to their faith?

Love them unconditionally. Kids learn about God from their parents. If you demonstrate an unconditional love for who they are and celebrate their sexuality, then they will have no need or reason to distance themselves from God. Your embrace eliminates the stigma, shame, or belief that who they are is not acceptable before God. If they feel fully loved by you, then they will feel fully loved by God. That is how you keep them connected to their faith.

Do you have advice on how we can be supportive to those in the LGBTQ community who do not have support from their parents/families?

Yes! First of all, love them. You have no idea what level of rejection they’ve faced from their own family, friends, or church. Feeling embraced and loved, especially from a parental figure, goes so far.

Second, be vocal allies for them. Stand up for them in the circles you interact with and include them just as you would anyone else.

Lastly, remember holidays. Even five years later, holidays continue to be hard for me. But it’s not just the big three (Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas); it’s also Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my Coming Out anniversary, my wedding anniversary, my birthday. I remember the first year after Clara and I got married my adopted Nana called me and wished me a happy anniversary. That meant so much to me that she remembered and cared enough to call. Or the first year after I met Clara’s parents, Clara’s mom called me for my birthday because she knew my own mother wouldn’t. Those moments mean everything to those that have lost family. It’s the little moments, the thoughtfulness, the feeling of being remembered and celebrated the way you should that makes all the difference in the world to those who have lost support and love from their biological families.

What advice do you have for moms who are dealing with close family members and friends who are not affirming and view their child as sinning if they date or marry someone of the same sex?

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Stand by your child. I realize this may cost you some relationships with people you love. Essentially, you are having to come out just like your child is having to come out. It’s different, but you are still experiencing some of the consequences of authentic living. Regardless, I encourage you to be the parent and protect your child. Learn to set healthy boundaries. This is not easy to do with the ones we love. But for your health, safety, and sanity you will need to learn to set them. Think through and know ahead of time what you will and will not tolerate before going into a potentially risky situation with your close family or friends. Your relatives may not understand, but your child will feel safe. And in the end, that is all that matters.

 

Above all, remember….love makes all the difference.

Amber Cantorna

P.S. Tour dates are officially starting to show up on the Events page of my website. Check it out! And shoot me an email if I’m coming to YOUR city…or if I’m not yet, but you’d like to help schedule an event in your area!

Why My Heart Aches on Father’s Day

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“I’m so proud of you Amber,” my dad frequently told me growing up. He said it more times than I could count. It didn’t matter whether it was a new piece on the piano I had accomplished, a story I’d written, or a good grade I got on a test, my dad was good at telling me that he loved me, and that he was proud that I was his girl.

As his only daughter, my dad and I were close. I was the apple of his eye and we shared a special bond that can only be formed between a father and his little girl. From butterfly kisses, to Saturday morning cuddles, to special “father/daughter” dates, I never doubted that I was loved.

Although our connection shifted a bit as I got older and entered my teen years, we still made an effort to get together for coffee, or watch a late-night action film; things we not only enjoyed but that kept us bonded and close.

But all that changed 5 years ago when I came out. Once I shared with my dad that I was gay, I never heard those words “I’m proud of you” from him again.

For 5 years now the tape of his voice that I’ve heard in my head (even in his years of silence) is “I’m embarrassed by you,” rather than “I’m proud of you.”

The first two years after coming out were full of turmoil and hurtful words from my dad. The last 3 years, we’ve been completely estranged.

The monumental moments that my dad has missed over these last 5 years can never be replaced: falling in love, getting married, buying my first home, publishing my first book, founding a non-profit organization to help the marginalized. The happiest and most fulfilling years of my life have also held the deep and painful absence of someone I loved and held so dear: my father. It breaks my heart to know we can never get those years and moments back. And it breaks even more knowing that going forward (unless something changes), he will continue to miss even more of them.

I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. Oh, how I wish my dad could see that and celebrate it with me. I no longer feel burdened and weighed down by something deep in my spirit that holds me captive. I feel free and light. I wish my dad could understand and share in that joy. I wish that he could recognize the family my wife and I are creating together and that we could all sit around enjoying meals, conversation, and laughter like we used to. I wish we could share holidays with one another and that I could enjoy this Father Day’s with him over brunch and mimosas.

I wish he was still proud of me.

But 5 years ago “Come by again soon, Amber. I miss you!” was replaced with, “The door is always open IF you ever change.”

And it’s now been 5 years since I heard “I love you” from my dad and felt like he really meant it.

It’s a bit ironic that for those of us who live in Denver, Gay PrideFest always falls on Father’s Day weekend. It’s a solemn reminder of how much I wish my own father could still love me and be proud of me for all that I am and for all parts of me that make up my identity. Everyone longs to be accepted and celebrated for who they are.

So if you are feeling the lack of acceptance from a father this Father’s Day, know that I share your pain. If you’re estranged from your father because of who you love, know that I share in your sorrow. And if you are a father to anyone today, I urge you:

Accept your child. Embrace them for all the beautiful things that make them unique. Hold them tight, cherish your time together, and tell them you are proud of them every chance you get.

 

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

 

Our Internal Struggle with Power

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I have a confession: my wife and I enjoy binge watching Scandal. Similar to other TV series we’ve watched like Revenge, Prison Break, and Breaking Bad, something about the suspense and over-load of twisted details keeps us ever engaged and always wanting more.

I can’t watch them week by week, mostly because my mind can’t keep track of all the intricate moving pieces that weave the story into the twisted plot that keeps me addicted. My wife is much better at this. We may have a several month sabbatical from one show while waiting for the next season to release (or line up in our queue) and before sitting down to watch it, she can recall the entire story line (including names and details) of the previous episode in perfect detail. I usually have to watch the final episode of the previous season anyway. My brain does not have a strong enough storing cabinet for such details. But thankfully, she indulges me.

Finishing the final episode of Scandal’s most recent season caused me to ponder the kind of society we live in that has created such a strong pull for these type of shows. Then I realized, if you put them side by side, you see one common theme throughout them all: the corruption of morals due to a lust for power. These people blind-side, back stab, and even brutally kill in cold blood to climb their way to the top of political power and the social status ladder. These characters are somehow convinced that doing so will make their life more fulfilled.

What kind of world are we living in? I asked myself more than once as I saw eerie similarities between some of Scandal’s most recent season and our current political climate.

It’s shocking, and often horrifying, what people will do for money, power, fame, reputation, and appearance.

But scale it back a bit and these shows really aren’t that far off from our everyday life. Now, hopefully none of us would ever even contemplate physically murder someone, especially as coldly as Huck or Jake Ballard do. But I bet each of us has done something dishonest or something that goes against our morals/values in order to gain power or maintain appearances.

Perhaps it’s the white lie you told to your boss that made you look better, but took the credit away from another co-worker. Or maybe you embellished your skill set to make yourself more marketable for the next rung on the corporate ladder. Or perhaps you threw a friend or family member under the bus to maintain appearances in front of your “cool” friends, or snubbed someone you felt was beneath you just to make yourself feel better. Maybe you even convinced your LGBTQ child to stay in the closet to protect their reputation (or your own), or introduced your son’s partner as a “friend” to your own circle of loved ones in order to guard yourself and keep the peace. If we look closely, don’t we, just like the characters on TV, somehow convinced ourselves that doing these things will make our life better? More power-full? More fulfilled?

Which then begs me to ask the question…WHY aren’t we fulfilled?

What is it that keeps us always reaching for the next best thing, even when it exhausts us day after day?

We’ve all said or done things we regret in order to make ourselves look better than we really are. But it comes at a cost. Think for a moment about how the “other” person–the one you snubbed, the friend you didn’t side with, the person you beat out of a job, the child you silenced–felt. Think about the way your actions dented their own spirits, hurt their feelings, or bruised their self esteem.

And then, think about this: what if we were simply content?download

What if, instead of wanting what other people have, we were thankful for what was already present in our lives and right in front of us?

What if, instead of putting others down to make ourselves look better, we brought them up to our level by speaking more highly of their skills than we do of our own?

What if, instead of making our child or someone we love suppress who they are in order to make us comfortable, we instead put our own reputation on the line and fiercely stand by them in alliance?

What if, we believed in each other, valued one another, and put others needs ahead of our own?

Then maybe, just maybe, that lust for power and position and money could be replaced with things like equality and justice and love.

And maybe, we could change the world and in turn, make it a more fulfilling place to live.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber

Just a Quick Note Before the Weekend to Say…

Hey Everyone!

So I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. At least, not completely. I am still here and working hard for equality every day. In fact, it’s been such an insane couple of weeks that I can’t seem to even stop long enough to breathe and collect my thoughts in order to compile them into something coherent for you to read!img_3106

I realize this is a problem. Breathing is in fact, important. And I am aiming to do just that this weekend. But while I try to collect myself enough and calm my soul to write something half-way inspiring, let me give you a quick update of what’s been going on.

Here are a few of the things
I am doing and how you can engage with me:

1) First, Refocusing My Family endorsements have all come in this week and I am very excited about the list of people gracious enough to read and stand behind my work. Among these names are people like John Pavlovitz, David Gushee, Jennifer Knapp, Brian McLaren, Paula Williams, and Colby Martin. I am so humbled and honored by their support and can’t wait to share all of their comments with you!

2) Refocusing My Family should be available for pre-order on Amazon by June 15th! As soon as I hear it’s available, believe me, I will let you know.

 

How-to-bubble-map-83) We are in the process of nailing down speaking engagements and tour dates all across the country. We filmed a pre-released reading and interview last week and are putting together a press kit that should be ready to go out early this next week.  If you are wanting to help be “feet on the ground” to get either a speaking engagement or a book reading/signing event scheduled in your area, now is the time to step up and volunteer! You can email me with your interest and inquiries at Beyond.AmberCantorna@gmail.com.

4) We are still in desperate need of funding to get Beyond off the ground and to really spread the message of hope across the country. What we are doing now, we are doing in faith, believing that the funding we need will come through. We are looking for both personal and corporate sponsors. We have sponsorship packages we are offering to corporate sponsors that include marketing opportunities for their organization as well as incentives for personal sponsors available. All gifts are tax deductible. If you or someone you know may be interested in one of these options, please email me. We are open to sponsorships from churches, bookstores, LGBT centers, and LGBT affirming organizations/ministries as well as personal donors! So help me think outside the box!

5) Finally, if you blog, run a podcast, or write for a newspaper/magazine (or know someone who does) and would be interested in featuring a story on my upcoming book, please contact me! We are lining up interviews for the summer to get a strong push behind the book and need your help!

So those are a few of the main things going on in my world. I hope you will pick one of those ways to jump in and help. I’d love to have you as part of the process and get to know you better! And of course, I value your prayers, support, and messages of encouragement.

That’s all for now. I promise this next week I will stop long enough to breathe, decompress a bit, and write something more heart-felt to you all. But I’m grateful that you are understanding of the craziness that life brings on this journey and thankful that you are traveling along with me.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

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