CONSERVATIVE, CHRISTIAN, AND GAY

Amber Cantorna, author of “Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God,” shares her story of growing up in a conservative Christian family and the struggles she experienced growing up gay and conflicted. Now an activist for LGBTQ inclusion in the church, she is here to share journey of claiming her identity.

Aired on January 25, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> IN 2012 AT THE AGE OF 27, AMBER CAME OUT TO HER FAMILY AS GAY.

AS A DAUGHTER OF A FOCUS ON THE FAMILY EXECUTIVE, TELLING HER TRUTH GAME INDEED AT A PRICE.

IN HER NEW BOOK CALLED 'FOCUSING ON THE FAMILY,' SHE SHEDS LIGHT ON THE ULTRACONSERVATIVE FAMILY AND THE LIBERATING JOY OF FINDING LOVE.

SHE TELLS HOW SHE DISCOVERED THE TRUE LOVE OF GOD.

THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

IT YOU TRIED TO CAPTURE IN A BOOK LIKE THIS SOMETHING OF THE BACKGROUND, IT'S HARD TO DO.

IT'S COMPLEX, AS YOU KNOW.

SO LET ME START BY ASKING YOU, JUST GIVE US A CAPSULIZATION OF HOW YOU GREW UP.

WE TALKED ABOUT THE ULTRACONSERVATIVE ORGANIZATION, YOUR FATHER WAS AN EXECUTIVE THERE FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS.

TELL US HOW THAT WOULD STRUCTURE YOUR YOUNGER LIFE.

WELL, YOU'RE RIGHT THAT HE DID WORK AT FOCUS ON THE FAMILY AND INDEED STILL DOES, SO THAT WAS REALLY ALL I KNEW GROWING UP.

I WAS HOMESCHOOLED K-12 AND REALLY WAS COCOONED IN THIS ULTRACONSERVATIVE BUBBLE THAT KEPT ME PROTECTED FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD AND . I HAD NO IDEA HOW MUCH I WAS MISSING.

AND IN FACT PEOPLE WOULD ASK ME QUITE FREQUENTLY, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE KIND OF BEING KEPT FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD?

DO YOU FEEL SHELTERED?

AND OF COURSE I SAID NO, I THOUGHT I WAS HAVING THE EPITOME OF A CHRISTIAN LIFE, EVERYONE LOOKED UP TO US AS THE ICON IT CHRISTIAN FAMILY, AND WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO HAVE JAMES DOBSON AND HOMESCHOOLING AND ALL THOSE THINGS AND TO ME THAT WAS THE PERFECT WORLD.

CLEARLY YOU HAVE THE CLARITY OF HINDSIGHT.

THE ABILITY TO LOOK BACK.

WHEN YOU WERE CRAVING AUTHENTICITY, DID YOU REALIZE THEN THAT THAT'S WHAT YOU WERE CRAVING, OR IS IT NOW THAT YOU LOOK BACK ON ITS YOU'RE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND IT BETTER?

I THINK PROBABLY AROUND THE AGE OF 15, 16, I STARTED TO REALIZE THAT I WAS CRAVING AUTHENTICITY.

BECAUSE EMOTION WAS NEVER EXPRESSED IN OUR HOME.

SO THE EMOTIONS OF HAPPY AND EXCITED AND STUFF WERE ACCEPTABLE.

BUT EMOTIONS LIKE ANGER OR SADNESS WEREN'T ACCEPTABLE IN OUR HOME, SO I NEVER LEARNED HOW TO EXPRESS THE RANGE OF EMOTIONS IN A HEALTHY WAY.

SO I THINK WHEN I BECAME 16 OR SO, I STARTED TO REALIZE THAT, THAT I HAD SUPPRESSED SO MANY EMOTIONS FROM SUCH A YOUNG AGE, THAT I WAS CRAVING A WAY TO BE ABLE TO EXPRESS THOSE EMOTIONS IN A VERY WELL WAY TO UPHOLD THE REPUTATION OF OUR FAMILY.

SO MUCH OF THIS BOOK IS NOT SO MUCH A RECITATION OF YOUR LIFE, BUT IT GIVES INSIGHTS, I THINK IT OFFERS SUGGESTIONS TO OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED LIFE THE SAME WAY YOU HAVE.

AND I WAS STRUCK BY AT THE VERY BEGINNING IN THE PRO LOGUE, YOU WRITE AT THE AGE OF 27, I HAD A SECRET, A SECRET I WAS AFRAID TO ADMIT EVEN TO MYSELF.

SO NOW YOU SAID AT AROUND 15 OR SO YOU STARTED SENSING YOU WERE DIFFERENT IN A WAY.

NOW YOU'RE 27 AND YOU'RE STILL WRESTLING WITH THIS SECRET.

WHAT WAS IT THAT FINALLY CAUSED YOU TO SAY I DON'T WANT THIS TO BE A SECRET ANY LONGER?

I THINK IT WAS NOT ONLY THE CRAVE FOR AUTHENTICITY, BUT THE DETRIMENT IT WAS HAVING ON MY LIFE PERSONALLY.

KEEPING THAT SECRET WAS HOLDING ME CAPTIVE AND IT WAS CAUSING SUCH AN ARRAY OF EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS OF SELF-LOATHING AND SELF-HATRED AND SELF-INJURY AND DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY THAT I GOT TO THE POINT WHERE I KNEW IF I DIDN'T FACE THIS, IT WAS GOING TO KILL ME.

DID YOU TRULY BELIEVE THAT IT MIGHT COST YOU EVERYTHING IN TERMS OF YOUR FAMILY?

NO.

I FELT LIKE IT WAS A POSSIBILITY, BUT A FAR OUT PO POSSIBILITY.

I DIDN'T THINK THAT'S WHAT WOULD REALLY BE HAPPENING.

HOW DID YOU --

IT WAS A MUCH MORE EXTREME REACTION THAN I EXPECTED.

AND I DON'T THINK I WAS FULLY PREPARED FOR THAT.

AND IT WAS BASICALLY DISOWNING ME.

AND INITIALLY, WE TRIED TO BRIDGE THE GAP, WE TRIED TO HAVE SOME CONVERSATIONS BUT IT WAS VERY TOXIC FROM THE BEGINNING AND MY PARENTS TOLD ME, WE FEEL LIKE YOU'VE GUYED, WE WOULD RATHER YOU TURN COMPLETELY AGAINST GOD THAN TO -- THEY IT WAS EXTREMELY HARD FROM THE GET-GO, THERE WAS NEVER THIS LET'S TRY AND UNDERSTAND ONE ANOTHER.

IT WAS A VERY DIFFICULT CONVERSATION FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.

AND YOUR BOOK FOLLOWS THAT CONVERSATION, BUT AS IN THE LAST COUPLE OF MINUTES WE HAVE HERE NOW, WHERE HAVE YOU GOTTEN TO IN TERMS OF THIS PERSONAL JOURNEY THAT YOU QUITE LITERALLY BEGAN BACK WHEN YOU WERE 27?

SO MUCH HAS CHANGED OBVIOUSLY, BUT I HAVE MET THE LOVE OF MY LIFE AND GOTTEN MARRIED AND SO THAT'S BEEN EXTREMELY WONDERFUL AND THE BEST THING I COULD EVER HAVE.

I MEAN AS FAR AS MY FAMILY, UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAVE NEVER RECONCILED SO THEY HAVEN'T SPOKEN TO ME IN YEARS, THEY HAVE NEVER MET CLARA, MY WIFE, AND WE HAVE NO CONTACT WHATSOEVER.

AT THE SAME TIME, I HAVE NEVER FELT MORE FREE OR MORE HAPPY OR MORE AT HOME IN MY OWN SKIN.

AND IT'S JUST THE BEST DECISION I COULD HAVE EVER MADE BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO LIVE AUTHENTICALLY AND TO LIVE FREE AND HAPPY AND THAT'S CREATED SUCH A PEACE INSIDE OF ME TO FEEL LIKE I'M BRINGING MY WHOLE SELF TO THE PICTURE.

THE BOOK IS CALLED 'REFOCUSSING MY FAMILY' BEING CAST OUT AND DISCOVERING THE TRUE LOVE OF GOD.

IT'S A VERY REAL LOOK AT A COMPELLING JOURNEY THAT YOU TAKE US ON.

THANKS FOR SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US.

AND BE WELL.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY --

CORPORATE FUNDING FOR 'METROFOCUS' WAS PROVIDED BUSINESS MUTUAL OF AMERICA, YOUR RETIREMENT COMPANY, AND P SRKS EE AR & G STRENGTHENING THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY AND INVESTING IN THE FUTURE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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