It Just Keeps Getting Better

Tomorrow marks six years since I came out of the closet. In some ways it feels so much longer. So much has happened in the span of those six years–I’ve fallen in love, gotten married to my wife, published a book, and started a non-profit for LGBTQ people of faith. Could it really be only six years ago that I was more scared than I’d ever been in my entire life as I prepared to tell my family following morning?

And yet, it seems like yesterday. I can still see so clearly the stoic look that was on their faces when my parents and younger brother arrived to my house, barely making eye contact as they came in the door. It was as if they knew something was up.

I can still sense the tension in the room that grew with every word I spoke about my journey of reconciling my faith and my sexuality.

I can still hear the deafening silence that hung in the air once the words “I am gay” finally left my mouth. It was the most vulnerable I’d ever felt in my life.

And I can still feel the pain that struck my heart with a knife when my dad looked at me with anger in his eyes and said, “I have nothing to say to you right now,” and walked out the door.

That screen door slamming behind them as my mom and brother followed suit was the sound of rejection. It broke my heart into pieces and I collapsed onto the floor. I so desperately longed for love–for an attempt at understanding. But there was none. Our relationship had never felt so drained of compassion or void of connection in my life.

My family was the family that was always there for one another. Hardly a day went by without talking to my mom on the phone. Living within close proximity made it easy to stop by for a cup of tea or family dinner. My dad started working at Focus on the Family when I was three years old, so our home was steeped in family values, godly parenting, and meaningful tradition for as far back as I can remember. Homeschooled K-12, my mom was a stay-at-home mom and housewife, as my dad went off to do the meaningful work of strengthening families.

I never dreamed that my dad’s position at Focus would tear me away from those I loved the most–but that’s what happened. The news of my sexual orientation tore apart the very fabric that wove us together and none of us were ever the same.

In the following weeks my parents compared me to murderers, pedophiles, and bestiality. They said I was selfish for doing this to the family and only considering what made me happy. They said they’d rather I turned my back on God completely, than pretend everything between me and God was okay.

And then they asked for the keys to their house back. And my world fell apart even more.

In the months following, we tried to find some common ground, but it never worked. I tried to maintain as consistent as I could to prove that I was still the same daughter they’d always known. I wanted their approval and I desperately needed to know that I still belonged. But as time went on, they pushed me further and further to the fringes–sometimes with their words, and other times with passive aggressive behavior. In time, I knew that I was no longer welcome as part of the family.

In the years that followed, I fell in love, got engaged, and married the love of my life. My wife and I will celebrate four years of marriage this June. We bought our first house, I published Refocusing My Family, and I founded a non-profit called Beyond to help other LGBTQ people of faith navigate their coming out process.

My dad still works at Focus on the Family to this day. And what I discovered was that their love, when tested, came with strings attached. In the end, their need to uphold their reputation and their desire to maintain appearances won out over their love for their own daughter. We haven’t spoken in almost four years. Completely cut off from both immediate and extended family, being authentic came at an extremely high cost.

And yet…it just keeps getting better.

Looking back over the last six years, I now know that coming out was absolutely the best decision I could have ever made. Being true to myself saved my life; it strengthened my faith, it gave me an authentic community where I could thrive, and it launched me into the ministry that I somehow always knew God had waiting for me.

In those days leading up to the most terrifying day of my life, I could only dream of the things I have now. Even though I had to let go of almost everything I’d ever known to gain it, I discovered a level of true and authentic joy I never knew existed. I’ve become more light, more free, and more happy than I ever was during my years of wrestling in the dark.

These past six years have been the best years of my life.

Yes, they have been laced with great sorrow and deep pain–experiences and hurtful words that I will never be able to forget. But the freedom of being who God has made you to be in its fullest form has made me feel more alive than I ever knew was possible.

In years past, my Coming Out Anniversary has been a day of solemn remembrance of what’s been lost and the price I paid for being true to myself. But this year, it is a day I celebrate because six years later (with some time and space in the rear view mirror), I see how valuable the journey has been.

If you are wrestling in the midst of that coming out process and still wondering if all this is ever going to be worth it one day, let me tell you my friends: it just keeps getting better.

Because Love STILL Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

*You can read more about Amber’s journey in her memoir, Refocusing My Family, available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. If you are in the process of navigating your own coming out process, you can find resources at Amber’s website and keep an eye out for Amber’s second book coming Spring 2019 which will provide helpful tools to guide you along this journey.

Video Link, QCF, and New Resources on the Horizon!

Hello Dear Friends!

Greetings post GCN/QCF conference! For those of you who weren’t there, the Gay Christian Network (as of this last week) has officially been renamed Q Christian Fellowship and we just finished a fantastic weekend together in Denver, CO! Thank you to each one who joined us, who visited me at my exhibit booth, who came to my workshop with Susan Cottrell, and who stopped me in the hall to share your story with me. It was truly and honor to meet each of you and allow our life stories to intersect. A few things I want you all to know:

  1. If you came to my workshop on “Navigating Life and Relationships with Non-Affirming Parents”, thank you! I realize 60 minutes was not nearly enough to delve deeply into all the things on your hearts and I have already informed the powers that be that this workshop needs a 90 minute slot next year. There were so many questions that I know we didn’t get to and I want you to know that I value each of your journeys and hearts right where they are right now. If you are one of the many people who did not get your question answered at the breakout, don’t panic, because….
  2. You can still have a voice! I am already working on some new resources around this topic of navigating your way out of the closet as a gay Christian, especially for those of us who come from conservative Christian backgrounds. Tools and resources on this subject are clearly needed and I am working to get them to you. So if you have thoughts, feelings, or questions you would like to be taken into consideration as I assemble the data for these resources, please take a minute to complete this brief 5 question survey. I would SO value your input!

    Survey for New Resources Data

  3. If you did NOT make it to the workshop, but still want to take it in, we now have it available on video to watch and share with your friends! You can view it by clicking the link below!

4. If you did not get a chance to purchase a copy of Refocusing My Family, you can do that on Amazon by clicking HERE.

5. Finally, if you want a direct link to the Resources that I mentioned during the workshop, you can access them by clicking this link. If you want the downloadable version, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Thank you all again so much for joining us this past weekend. I truly had a wonderful time meeting so many of you and really hope you will take just a few minutes to answer the survey. You voice is welcomed and wanted even if you did not attend QCF!

Take care and know each of you are dearly loved!

 

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

 

P.S. If you want to see the TV interview that I recently did with PBS while I was in NYC, you can watch it now by clicking here!

CONSERVATIVE, CHRISTIAN, AND GAY

Believe Out Loud: When Coming Out Costs You Everything, by Amber Cantorna

Hey Friends,

I had the privilege to write for Believe Out Loud this week in honor of National Coming Out day and share my story as well as give some advice to those who are considering coming out. You can read about it here:

When Coming Out Costs You Everything, by Amber Cantorna

Also, if you or your friends live in Albuquerque, please come see me tonight (10/12) at Bookworks at 6pm or on Saturday (10/14) at Church of the Good Shepherd at 1pm!

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber

Note: This post was originally published at Believe Out Loud, a program of Intersections.

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?

c71588af1e4a76ced90c0a77ae3f4b5b--mama-bear-momma-bear-quotes

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!

5 Years Ago Today I Came Out (Video)

5 years ago today, I came out to my family. This is my “It Gets Better” story to commemorate this day:

You can read my story by clicking here: Refocusing My Family.

Please consider partnering with us as we launch our new non-profit for LGBT people of faith, called Beyond. For more information, click this link: Beyond Campaign Launch.

An Exciting Announcement from Amber Cantorna!!!

Please watch this short video and then read the letter below!!!

(If you would like to view this video in ASL, go to AmberCantorna.com and hover over the “Donate” tab)

Dear Friend,

Five years ago this week, I sat my family down and spoke the three most terrifying words of my life: “I am gay.” Growing up in a fundamentalist, home-schooled, conservative Christian family with a father that’s been an executive at Focus on the Family for almost thirty years, speaking those three small words forever changed the course of my life. I faced instant rejection from those I loved the most and over time, I lost not only my relationship with my parents and only sibling, but also my extended family, many of my friends, my church, and my hometown. Sadly, their desire to be right won out over their ability to love. This amount of devastation sent me into a downward spiral of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. I didn’t think I was going to survive until the end of 2012.

Now, as I mark this anniversary 5 years later, I am married to the love of my life and we are building our own family together in Denver, CO. Despite the continued grief I feel from the loss of my family and friends, I am more at peace, more free, and happier than I’ve ever been in my life.

But it’s not that way for everyone. Countless others still wrestle inside conservative families that tell them they can’t be both gay and Christian. My own journey through this pain has ignited a deep passion in me to help others, which is why I’m writing.

This week we are announcing the launch of a new non-profit organization called Beyond. Our mission is to walk alongside other LGBT people of faith and their loved ones who are struggling to resolve the conflict they feel between their faith and their (or their loved one’s) sexuality. We will also focus on creating conversations for change among parents, pastors, family, and friends so that those in the LGBT person’s closest circle of influence can become their strongest allies, rather than shun them out of fear.

Statistics show that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. And those coming from a rejecting family like mine are 8.4x more likely to attempt suicide. Not only that, but 40% of transgender people have reported attempting suicide, with most of them doing so before the age of 25. These numbers are astronomical which is why support from those they love can make all the difference for them between life and death.

I was so close to becoming one of those statistics. It’s only by the grace of God that I am still alive today. But with that gift of life comes a responsibility: a responsibility to be a voice for those who still can’t speak and a responsibility to create change in our culture so that LGBT people are more free and more safe to come out and be who they really are. That is why I founded Beyond.

This is where you come in! To get this non-profit off the ground, we need seed money. Our budget for this first year of ministry is $52,000. This will enable us to bring a message of hope to LGBT people all over the country. I believe that hearing personal stories is what transforms a culture and promotes change. Nothing is as powerful as seeing someone with your own eyes and hearing the story of how they made it through the very tragedy you are facing. As you may know, I spent this last year writing my own story in the form of a memoir. It’s titled Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God and will release from Fortress Press on October 1st, 2017. I believe this will be a valuable resource to many and because I believe so strongly in the power of stories, I want to share my story with as many people as possible. To me, it has nothing to do with book sales. I couldn’t care less about that. To me, it’s about giving people a story they can relate to so they feel a little less isolated and a little more encouraged in their own personal journey. Sharing my story could be the difference between life and death for them. We currently have 16 cities across the U.S. and Canada that we’d like to travel to within the next year to share this message of hope through speaking engagements and events. Your financial gift will make that possible.

But we can’t do it without your help. If you know me, you know I hate asking for money, even when it’s for the most worthy cause. The only thing I hate more than asking for money is know that someone else’s life is on the line if I don’t. And that is the case today.

So as we launch this campaign this week, I’m asking you to dig deep and consider a generous donation to help get Beyond off the ground. I know that you share in my passion for reaching this demographic, which is why I specifically chose you to partner with me. While $52,000 feels like a lot to someone who hates fundraising, I am committed to this mission and know that together we can reach this goal. Because Beyond will be a 501(c)(3) organization, your gift is tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law and 100% of your gift will go towards helping LGBT people and their families find hope, healing, and freedom both in their faith and in their relationships with one another. Our goal for raising these funds is June 14th, 2017.

You can donate by clicking here. I am also offering incentives that correlate with certain giving levels. You can learn more by clicking this link! Please also consider sharing with your friends and on social media. Your help in spreading the word will make such a difference.

If you would like to discuss our mission, budget, or your financial contribution in more detail, you can contact me directly at 720-598-6903 or Beyond.AmberCantorna@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for your prayerful consideration in this endeavor. I look forward to hearing from you soon and thank you in advance for your generosity. Your contribution could save someone’s life this year.

 

Because LOVE Makes all the Difference,

Amber CantornaCrowdriseFinal
President/Founder of Beyond, Author of Refocusing My Family
18601 Green Valley Ranch Blvd, Ste 108-133
Denver, CO 80249
Phone: 720-598-6903
Email: Beyond.AmberCantorna@gmail.com
Website: RefocusingBeyond.org

*To read more of Amber’s story click here. You can also sign up for her blog, and read more about Beyond at RefocusingBeyond.org.