Refocusing My Family Releases TODAY!!!

Hey Friends!

The day we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived! Refocusing My Family officially releases today and is now available (almost!) everywhere books are sold! You can go into your local bookstore, or place your order on Amazon today.

I’m so excited to finally share my journey with you in the form of this memoir. It’s been a labor of love and I’m so glad that it has finally turned into something tangible you can now hold in your hands and share with your friends.

If you have a moment, there are 4 ways you can help spread the word about Refocusing My Family:

  1. Take a photo of yourself holding the book, or a photo of you and your family (or family of choice) with the book, and post online-tagging me (@AmberNCantorna) and including the hashtags #RefocusingMyFamily and #RMFtour.
  2.  Write and post a review on Amazon (and if you have time, copy and paste it in Barnes and Noble too!) as soon as you finished the book. The review doesn’t have to be long, a couple sentences is just fine!) but it goes a long way in helping the book gain traction.
  3. Share a quote from the book or encouraging shout-out on social media, tagging me (@AmberNCantorna) and including the hashtag #RefocusingMyFamily and #RMFtour.
  4. Encourage your friends to attend one of the 20+ Refocusing My Family events nation-wide coming up! The tour schedule is below and we are continuing to add new dates and locations. Almost all of these events are completely free, so come when you can and encourage your friends to do the same!

Thank you again so much for all your support and encouragement! I read each review, each shout-out on social media, and each note of encouragement I receive and they all mean so much. I can’t wait to see where God is going to take us on this journey. Together we can make our world a more loving and safe place for us all to live.

 

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

 

 

Refocusing My Family (An Excerpt from Ch. 18 of “Refocusing My Family”)

In early 2016, I sat across the dinner table from the national trans advocate and former megachurch pastor, Rev. Dr. Paula Williams. I told her I was thinking of going public with my story and asked if she had any advice for me. She sat calmly, probing a bit, and asked me a series of difficult questions. Feeling a little like I was being interrogated, it was clear to me she was getting at something; I just wasn’t sure what it was. Then, after collecting the information she felt she needed, she looked me in the eyes with an intensity that came both from a heart of love and a heart of compassion, and said, “Amber, embedded in your identity is a responsibility to be a voice for change.”

I sat with that profound statement and let it resonate for a moment. It felt like God in human form had just spoken to me. It was a divine moment that confirmed what I already felt I was supposed to do with the story I’d been given. Struck with both the weight of that responsibility and the magnitude of it, that phrase repeated itself in my spirit for days. That’s how I knew it was God. And that’s how I knew it was time to tell my story.

It’s not an easy story to tell. Writing it has taken me on quite a journey. But I believe that part of the reason I’m still alive today is so that my story could be used to help change the culture for those still searching for hope to live authentically.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are over eight times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their LGB peers who report no or low levels of family rejection. 40 percent of transgender adults have reported attempting suicide with 92 percent of them doing so before the age of 25.

One of the driving forces behind writing this book was how close I came to being one of those statistics. The way family and friends respond to LGBT loved ones when they come out, directly affects their lives, and their perceived worth. I wish my parents understood that. It could have saved us all from so much heartache.

I’m so grateful for the life I have now and the joy I find in the family my wife and I are creating together. But looking back, I still think about my life in two parts: before coming out, and after coming out. In many ways, it feels like I’ve lived two completely different lives divided by one defining moment of authenticity. I’ve tried to blend those two worlds together whenever I can—like carrying on some of the traditions from my childhood. But when it comes to having my parents as a part of Clara’s and my life, I’ve had to allow myself grace to accept the uncomfortable disconnect and grieve the loss.

In many ways, I’m still the same person I’ve always been. I still love music and have a strong passion for worship. I still love the holidays and fostering traditions that make them special. I still love creating a cozy home and hospitable environment. I still enjoy coaching and have a deep heart for people. And I still cuddle up next to the fireplace every fall for an Anne of Green Gables marathon. Being gay is just one part of who I am, but so much of me remains the same.

And at the same time, because I have been ostracized by people who want my sexuality to define me, much of me has changed. I’ve had to fight for my relationship with God against a culture that says you can’t be both gay and Christian. I’ve had to study the Bible deeply for myself and learn how to defend my faith to those who question it. And I’ve had to look at issues through the eyes of the marginalized. I now stand with all people living in marginalized groups, whether I’m a part of them or not, because I believe that’s what Jesus did, and because I’ve seen firsthand what happens to people when we don’t. All of these things in turn have made me a stronger, healthier, and more well-rounded individual.

But in the process, I’ve also had to refocus a few things…

Refocusing My Family officially releases tomorrow, October 1st! You can order your copy HERE now!

Also, mark your calendar for the Refocusing My Family event nearest you!

Orphan Amber (An Excerpt from Ch. 13 of “Refocusing My Family”)

It was three weeks before my parents contacted me again, telling me they were finally ready to talk. Although it made me uncomfortable, I agreed to meet them at their house, rather than in public, so we could talk more privately. Settling into the family room in the basement that held so many fond memories for me, it was clear that this conversation wouldn’t be pleasant.

My mom and dad sat side by side, presenting a strong, cohesive force. They prefaced the conversation with, “Before we say anything, Amber, you need to know that we love you. But . . .” and so it began. I’m not sure why Christians always feel the need to preface their harsh words with, “I love you” before telling you that you’re wrong about something. The theory of tough love is a common one among Christians, and I’m sure Dobson’s support of that theory influenced my parents a great deal. When it comes to the gay community specifically, Dobson said, “We are obligated as Christians to treat homosexuals respectfully and with dignity, but we are also to oppose, with all vigor, the radical changes they hope to impose on the nation. It is vitally important that we do so.”

In the same article Dobson also denies having ever done or said anything that would be harmful to the gay community. But encouragement from evangelical leaders to implement a tough love approach has been severely detrimental to many LGBTQ people, causing them to feel like they have to change an innate part of themselves in order to be acceptable to God. “Speaking the truth in love” is often used as a free pass that allows Christians to say whatever they want. As a result, it has driven many away not only from the church, but from a relationship with God.

That’s what my parents were about to do: “speak the truth to me in love.”

“I feel like you’ve died, Amber—like I’ve lost you,” my dad began with a grievous look on his face. My mom agreed.

“I feel the same way. You’ve turned your back on God and everything we’ve ever taught you,” she stated with resolve. Everything I’d told them three weeks ago about how much time I spent seeking God and searching the Bible, everything I’d said about how this whole process actually brought me closer to God, not further away, had been disregarded. They only heard what they wanted to hear.

“We’re hurt that you didn’t come to us with this sooner,” my dad continued. “We would have loved to help you by sending you to a Love Won Out conference.10 We would have loved to walk through this with you. Even if you still arrived at the same decision, at least we would have known that we did everything we could to persuade you. But because you didn’t include us in your journey, it’s too late. You’ve already made up your mind.

“But you’re deeply deceived, Amber. Like Eve, you’ve eaten the fruit from Satan. You’ve gotten in with the wrong crowd and they’ve brainwashed you. You’re putting your soul in jeopardy. I’m afraid that you’re damning yourself to hell.”

My dad went on to compare me to murderers, pedophiles, and bestiality.

“If I want to just go and marry a donkey, is that okay? Or if I see a little kid and want to have sex with them, can I just go ahead and do that and act on whatever I feel? You could even get a bunch of murderers together to form their own church and just make that all okay!”

Their words shattered me. I was devastated by their attacks on me, their own daughter, and felt gravely misunderstood. I didn’t know what to say. I was tongue-tied and ill-equipped to handle such accusations. I never imagined I’d hear such horrible and harsh words from my own parents.

Stay tuned for additional excerpts being released throughout the week. Refocusing My Family officially comes out this coming Sunday, October 1st. You can order your copy HERE now!

 

My Adventure in Odyssey (An Excerpt from Ch. 1 of “Refocusing My Family”)

“Okay, Amber, we’re ready for you. Let’s head on back to the recording studio and get you set up.”

I hopped off the stool where I waited for my cue and followed the engineer into the soundproof recording booth.

“Have a seat right here, honey. This microphone is for you,” he explained, walking over with me to help me get situated. I placed my script on the music stand in front of me and plopped myself down in the chair.

“Here are your headphones. Just put them on your ears like this,” he continued, as he adjusted the wide black strap across the top of my head and placed an earphone over each ear. They felt like a pair of winter earmuffs, only much heavier. My head bobbed at the weight of them, and the suction they created around my ears muted all sound, causing the world to go silent.

Then a loud, clear voice from within the earphones broke the dead air. The sound came from a man on the other side of the glass where the engineers sat in front of their mixing boards, ready to record.

“Okay, Amber, let’s test the microphone. Do you have your script?”

“Yes, but I already know my lines.” I smiled with pride. “Alright, then here we go!”

I was a home-schooled third-grader. When most kids visit their dad at work, they go to an office, or a storefront. I, on the other hand, was in a recording studio at the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs where my dad worked as an executive. The script on the music stand in front of me was to another episode of the popular kids’ radio drama, “Adventures in Odyssey.” Venturing into the world of Whit’s End with characters like Mr. John Avery Whittaker, Connie Kendall, and Eugene Meltsner, a “world of discovery, imagination, and excitement” awaited all who listened.

#1 Caption- Will Ryan (Eugene Meltsner) and me

I listened multiple times to every episode ever made. I knew them all by name, which cassette or CD package to find them on, and the story line of each. The episodes of “Adventures in Odyssey” helped me fall asleep at night, gauged the time remaining on a road trip, and made cleaning my room a little easier. The excitement of playing one of the characters was only matched by seeing the details of how the episodes were created. I loved watching the actors record, listening as the voice parts were mixed with music to create smooth transitions between scenes, and seeing how foley (the sound-effects) made the whole story come to life. But the “world of discovery, imagination, and excitement” didn’t just live within the fantasy of Whit’s End; it also lived within my everyday life—especially my home life. From the time I was very young, I was taught the utmost importance of one thing: family.

Stay tuned for additional excerpts being released throughout the week. Refocusing My Family officially comes out this coming Sunday, October 1st. If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can order your copy HERE now!

 

Refocusing My Family and Beyond Update

Dear Friend,

     Since my last email to you announcing the launch of Beyond, many exciting things have happened!
 
     Refocusing My Family is currently being reviewed by people for endorsements. Among those willing to endorse the book are author/theologian Brian D. McLaren, singer/songwriter Jennifer Knapp, Christian ethicist David Gushee, film producer of “For the Bible Tells Me So” Daniel Karslake, and well known blogger and activist John Pavlovitz, as well as about a dozen others. I’m excited about this strong list of names and believe it will help in catching the eye of those who may not otherwise open the book. We are excited that it will be available for pre-order on Amazon in just a few weeks!
     Since the launch of Beyond, I have met with someone from Out Front Colorado that is helping us network with other LGBTQ+ organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, PFLAG, and The LGBT Center. I also had an interview with another person from Out Front yesterday and they will be running an article on Beyond and my story in one of their upcoming editions.
     We’re also in the process of bringing a part-time intern on board to help with the many tasks that still lie ahead of us to really get Beyond up and running. I am interviewing a candidate this weekend and am excited about the prospect.
     As far as our fundraising campaign goes, we’ve had a handful of donations come through from people who follow us online or receive the weekly Beyond Blog. However, those donations have only covered about 2% of our total goal. We’ve scaled back our initial budget from $52,000 to $48,000 for this first year but we still have so very far to go in raising the needed funds. Part of this will be done through applying for grants and talking to larger corporations. However there are still a few ways you can help!
 

Three ways you can help:

1) Consider giving a tax-deductible gift to Beyond by visiting http://refocusingbeyond.org/donate/. Every donation counts! There is no amount too small!
2) Share and talk about this with your friends. The more we spread the word, the more people we can reach. Our goal through Beyond is to focus on helping LGBTQ+ people through their coming out process, especially those that come from conservative upbringings or strict religious families. There’s still so many people that need to hear a message of hope.
3) Consider whether your company may want to partner with us in this mission of social justice and activism. They can do that two ways. A) They can simply make a donation through the link above, OR B) They can consider being a sponsor and funding one or more of the cities on our upcoming speaking tour. By doing that, their company logo would then be placed on our marketing materials that we will be taking to our 16+ cities. If this seems like it may be a good fit for your company or for more information, please contact me at: Beyond.AmberCantorna@gmail.com.
   
 Thank you again for your love and support during this time. It is both exciting and overwhelming but I can’t wait to see what God does and the doors He opens for us in this coming year.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

 

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.