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Author Amber Cantorna returns to Colorado Springs to share book on coming out while Christian 

Queer&There

For members of the LGBTQ community, it can be especially difficult to recognize our privileges — the systemic advantages we have over others when it comes to existing comfortably in society. Though all LGBTQ people are impacted by discrimination, the circumstances we are born into affect the challenges we face. For instance, I was born into an open-minded family who took little time to come to terms with my sexuality when I came out at the age of 16. I still lived under my mother’s roof, and still enjoyed financial and emotional support from her, my father and my step-parents. This privilege undoubtedly helped me become a stable adult.

Not every LGBTQ person has such a family. Amber Cantorna, who like me grew up in Colorado Springs, spent her whole life focusing on what her family wanted from her, and now that she’s out and proud, she has had to forge her own way forward. But damn, she has done it. As the author of two books, and a touring speaker on the subject of LGBTQ identities and Christianity, Cantorna has made a life and career for herself, and managed to turn her painful past into a balm to soothe others’ wounds.

Her childhood was not an easy one. Since she was 3 years old, Cantorna’s father has been an executive at Focus on the Family, the anti-LGBTQ religious organization that’s so massive it has its own ZIP code on the Springs’ north side. Though Focus on the Family has spread its roots throughout the United States and internationally, its headquarters here in Colorado Springs has proven to be a major influence on local politics and attitudes.

It took Cantorna years to come to terms with the fact that she was gay, partly because she had little help. Around the time Cantorna was trying to find answers in the late aughts, many resources that are available today (especially online) simply didn’t exist, nor did she have the means to go looking for them. Even today, she says, LGBTQ people who come from faith-based backgrounds struggle with access to help.  “I think the problem is that the people that are in that evangelical bubble often don’t even know that they can find those resources online,” she says, “or they’re too afraid to because they’re taught that to reach outside of that bubble is to doubt God, to doubt faith. You’re putting your faith at risk.”

Cantorna did risk her faith when she embraced her lesbian identity. She risked a lot more than that. She describes, both to me and in her first book Refocusing my Family, the depression and suicidal thoughts that took hold of her before she finally decided to come out in 2012 at the age of 25. It was only at what she describes as the end of her rope that she was able to reach out to a support system. But, she says, everything has changed since she embraced her identity. She’s now happily married to a woman she loves, living in Denver and writing her books. Refocusing my Family, a memoir, came out in 2017, and Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians was published earlier this year. It’s the first book of its kind to tackle coming out from a religious perspective.

After spending all these years reconciling her enduring faith in God with her love of herself and her identity, she is now passing on the power of reconciliation to others. At speaking events across the country, she has attracted LGBTQ people of faith who have gone through similar experiences to her own, and others still in the closet. She has met allies who want to support their LGBTQ loved ones. And she has discovered affirming communities of faith in all corners — communities that may someday help people like her through their own struggles.

In April, Cantorna hosted a private talk with the youths at Inside Out Youth Services here in Colorado Springs, but she hasn’t hosted a public speaking event here since she left in 2012.
That’s about to change. She will be speaking at First Christian Church on Sunday, July 28, where she will share her story, speak about her book and take questions from an audience who will, no doubt, need a little guidance.

From my place of relative privilege, I had questions for her, too. I asked her whether it will be hard to come back, whether she still struggles with shame, whether it really does get better, like they say.

“There’s always moments that are just still hard,” she says. “Like, I haven’t spoken to my family in five years... But I absolutely wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I feel like I came alive the day that I came out, and my family has missed the happiest years of my life.”

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