My Dear Friends,
This last weekend, I had the rare and incredible opportunity to gather with a group of 50 women from across America for a unique conference experience titled “She is Called.” Together we had discussions around the topics of sex and power, intersectionality and equity, and prevention and repair. We made art, we did yoga, we encouraged one another, we laughed together, we cried together, and we bonded in a way that only women can. It was magical.
I admit I was highly hesitant to walk into a space of all Christian women given my previous experience with evangelical women’s retreats in the past. The last thing I wanted to do was sit around in dresses, drink tea, and talk about purity and submission. But this was far, far from that. It was rich with conversation, deep with emotion, and all about empowering one another to fulfill our calling in these progressive and inclusive spaces. Not at all like my previous women’s retreat experiences!
These women were small business owners, pastors, artists, leaders of non-profit organizations, marriage podcasters, sex therapists, and just about every other beautiful occupation you can imagine for a woman to make roots in.
For many years prior to coming out, I was an avid journaller and musician. And while I’ve done a lot of writing and blogging since coming out, I’ve struggled to reclaim the artist, songwriter, poet side of me. But being around such powerful women this weekend awakened something inside of me that I’ve been struggling to arouse on my own. And during one of our contemplation periods, a poem of sorts emerged from my soul. It wasn’t even what I had planned to write about, it’s just what came out. At the end of our weekend together, we held an Open Mic. This is what I shared:
I am Me
Coming out six years ago, the price of authenticity was high.
Nothing will ever be able to erase the memory of the anger on my dad’s face
As he compared my being gay to murders, pedophiles, and bestiality,
Or the look in my mom’s eyes as she told me she felt like I had died.
Nothing will ever make me forget my dad asking for the keys to his house back
Saying he no longer trusted me to have open access to my only childhood home.
In that moment, I wanted to die
As all that I loved and held dear was being ripped
From the threads of the fabric of my soul.
The gift of authenticity felt like it left me with nothing
But the dusty remains of what once was.
Surviving one awful day at a time,
I grasped for particles of hope
But only continued to lose more
Of the relationships I held dear as time went on.
My parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, and church
All labeling me as abominable,
As if I deserved to share a prison cell with a rapist or a serial killer
Simply for loving a woman instead of a man.
When did love become a crime?
When did feeling alive become something worthy of being damned to hell?
If peace and honesty and vulnerability and transparency
Can’t be something we value and hold space for
Then I am already in hell as it is.
The first twenty-seven years of my life felt like hell
As I wrestled with something that was nameless and unrecognizable
Because of my sheer lack of exposure to diversity of any kind
Yet ate away at my soul day by day,
Causing depression, anxiety, fear, self-hatred, self-injury, and suicidal ideations.
No, coming out did not damn my soul to hell.
It set my soul free!
Free to release myself from perfection,
Free to take off the mask,
Free to let go of the expectations of others,
To release myself from the burden of protecting appearances,
To finally feel ALIVE.
Yes, I came ALIVE the day I came out.
Even in all its heartache,
These past six years have been the best years of my life.
I finally get to be ME.
And as I move forward,
I will continue to embrace vulnerability, authenticity,
Courage, wholeheartedness, and true belonging
In all its gifts and forms
Because that is the essence of life in its fullest capacity.
And I will live!
There is nothing that I am not worthy of.
I am ME.
© Amber Cantorna, 5-18-18
Go boldly into the world my friend. Claim your space. You are brave, bruised, and beautiful. There is nothing you’re not worthy of!
Because Love Makes All the Difference,