Amber Cantorna, the daughter of an executive at Focus on the Family, has come out as a lesbian in a new memoir.
Focus on the Family is one of the most vehemently anti-LGBT faith organizations in the country: It’s donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight against marriage equality, sponsored conferences advocating for conversion therapy, fought against same-sex parents having adoption rights, and supported anti-trans bathroom bills and other anti-LGBT legislation.
“My Focus on the Family upbringing had taught me that the LGBTQ community were basically the archenemy of Christianity and were responsible for destroying the family unit,” Cantorna writes in Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God. Even though she was terrified, Cantorna says after making peace with her sexuality, she felt she had to come out to her family.
“My family and I were always close,” she told Out Front magazine. “We did everything together… So this pressure, feeling like I had to filter everything I did and said to ultimately make them comfortable, was exhausting. I got to the point where I felt like, no matter the cost, I had to be authentic with myself.”
After coming out in 2012, though, Cantorna was immediately rejected—not just by her family, but also her church, and many of her old friends. The excommunication was devastating, and Cantorna was so heartbroken she says contemplated ending her life.
“I think what really drove me to write the book was how high the suicide rates are among LGBTQ people,” she told Out Front. “I, myself, was close to becoming one of those statistics after I came out. All the devastation I went through, the loss, the grief… A lot of those memories are still tender.”
Now, though, Cantorna is thriving: She and her wife, Clara, live in Denver, where they’re currently building a family of their own. She works as a motivational speaker and recently founded Beyond, a nonprofit that help LGBT people of faith through the coming-out process.
In her book, she admits she never expected her life to take this direction: “If someone had told me ten years ago that I’d one day be writing a book advocating for LGBTQ people in the church, I would have scoffed and said they were crazy,” Cantorna writes.
She also says that, although re-visiting some of her old memories for the book was painful, she hopes Refocusing My Family can help teach Christian families they can be allies instead of rejecting their LGBT kids, and bring comfort to people who are going through what she did.
“LGBTQ people who are rejected by their family are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers,” Cantorna told Out Front. “I want to help change that and bring those numbers down and give these LGBTQ people hope knowing that they can reconcile with their sexuality. They can have a great future.”