Focus On The Family Exec Had Own Daughter Thrown Out For Coming Out

Amber Cantorna with her wife, Clara, on their wedding day (image from Cantorna's Facebook)
Amber Cantorna with her wife, Clara, on their wedding day (image from Cantorna’s Facebook)

If you have as many LGBT friends as I do, inevitably you’ll hear gut-wrenching stories about how they were effectively thrown out of their own families after coming out–presumably in the name of “loving the sinner and hating the sin.” Recently, the daughter of a high-ranking executive from Focus on the Family, one of the organizations responsible for promoting this canard, told her story about what happened when she came out as a lesbian.

Amber Cantorna sat down last week with Christian Left blogger Benjamin L. Corey to discuss her experiences. Her story aired on Corey’s podcast show, “That God Show,” on Friday; listen here. Cantorna’s story first gained notice when she wrote about it on Facebook on the day after last Christmas.

When she was three years old, her dad took a job with the then-fledgling Focus on the Family in Glendora, California; a suburb of Los Angeles. They followed Focus on the Family to Colorado Springs in 1991. She spent most of her formative years at New Life Church, the charismatic megachurch founded by Ted Haggard.

Her upbringing was very typical of fundie girls of my generation (I’m only six years older than her). She grew up largely “cocooned” in an environment that wasn’t exactly the most diverse in the world. She was homeschooled, and was taught that she shouldn’t date. Instead, she was to wait for her “knight in shining armor” to come into her life. She also had it drilled into her head that homosexuality was 1,000 percent wrong.

Cantorna was thrown for a loop not long after she turned 23. She discovered that she was falling in love with her college roommate–a woman. Based on all she had been taught, she believed that if God hated homosexuality, “He disapproved of me.” It was particularly hard for her because for most of her life, she was taught not to express any emotion other than happiness in the interest of keeping up the front of being the “perfect Focus family.” This isn’t entirely surprising, given my own contacts with hyperfundies. You were taught to put on a mask most of the time. After several months of soul-searching, she got in touch with a number of people who were both LGBT and committed Christians. Combined with some Bible study of her own, she concluded that God accepted and loved her “for exactly how He made me.”

She finally came out to her family on April 14, 2012. She knew that the chances were very high that her family wouldn’t accept that their image as the “perfect Focus family” was now in shambles. Her father initially didn’t want to talk about it, which was to be expected. However, what she heard a few weeks later hit her from somewhere around nail level on the floor. Her parents likened her to a murderer and a pedophile, and eventually told her to turn in the keys to her family home. Within a few months, she was forced to move out of Colorado Springs as well–which isn’t surprising, since Colorado Springs isn’t exactly the most friendly place to be gay.

After a few months, she found her way to Highlands Church, an LGBT-affirming evangelical church in Denver. About 10 months after coming out, she was sharing her story at Highlands when she met a woman named Clara. After a few months, they started dating, and within a year and a half, they were married. Her relationship with her family, already on life support, ended altogether when she and Clara were engaged.

Cantorna has a soft spot for people who, like her, have effectively been thrown out of their families after coming out. She now travels the country to reach out to people who are being pulled between their gender identity and their faith. Having gone through the struggle of being thrown out of her family, she wants to make sure no one else has to be alone while going through the same thing. More power to her.

Send Amber some love on Facebook, on Twitter, and on her Website.

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.