Learning to Love Myself

By Meagan Jackson

Be sure to also listen to Meagan share her story. Watch video here.
Meagan was born and raised a member of the Church in California. After a semester abroad and a full-time mission, she graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in psychology. She now works as a middle school teacher and loves every minute of it. When she’s not working, she likes to spend time writing music and traveling the world. In the last several years as Meagan has come to understand her feelings of same-sex attraction, she has learned that while it may be a part of her identity, the most important part of her identity is her knowledge that she is a daughter of God and a member of His Church. She wants to be able to reach out to others and strengthen them to find the peace the Savior can bring.

When I was growing up, I didn't think it was possible to have feelings of same-sex attraction (SSA) while being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Looking back, I think I experienced those feelings for a lot longer than I actually allowed myself to recognize. Girls seemed to be naturally more affectionate, open, and loving than boys and I really was drawn to that. I tried and successfully convinced myself that those feelings were normal and that all girls felt that way. Again, I simply didn't think it was possible for me to have same-sex attraction and it was something that was never really talked about.

My sophomore year at BYU, I had an experience that became quite a turning point for me in how I viewed SSA in the church. I had been talking with a very close friend of mine whom I had grown up with and was kind of pestering him to be honest with me about why he wasn't going on a mission. We were 20 years old and he had been giving me all sorts of excuses that just weren't matching up. Finally one evening, he took me out on a long drive and then turned to me and said simply, “Meagan, I’m gay.” At that moment, I remember a distinct feeling of the spirit coming over me restraining my words and telling me to just listen for a moment and allow my friend to tell me his story. I am so grateful for that restraint from the spirit because in that conversation, I was taught some very important truths of the gospel. When my friend finished his story, I said, “Okay, so maybe a full-time mission isn't for you right now, but that doesn't mean the Church isn't for you.” That was the first time I remember really feeling and believing that it was possible to feel same-sex attraction while remaining a good standing member of the church, but I still didn't think it was possible for me.

Keeping Quiet

While I was on my mission, I started to realize that my feelings of same-sex attraction were real, but I was able to keep myself busy enough that I didn't have much time to think about it. I thought about telling my mission president several times but I was too scared. I was scared that he would think less of me as a missionary or tell me I shouldn't even be serving a mission at all. But most of all, I was scared that he would view my relationships with my companions differently; I held every one of my companions in such high regard and respected them so much, I couldn't bear the thought of anyone thinking there was anything wrong there. So I kept quiet. Looking back now, I know that my fears were unnecessary but I didn't believe that at the time.

In the months after my mission, I struggled a lot with SSA, especially now that I had more time for my mind to wander and less of a laid out purpose day in and day out. I scoured everything I could on lds.org and was able to find some helpful things but nothing that really seemed to give me peace of mind about it. I had grown up thinking that SSA was a choice so if that was true, what choice was I making? I felt impure and weak even though I had done nothing wrong. I was angry at the Lord for giving me a trial that I felt I could not receive any help with. It was an incredibly dark time for me. My friends could tell something was wrong - roommates would find me up at night crying in the kitchen, friends told me I was being distant or mysterious - but I brushed it off to them and claimed I was simply having trouble adjusting from the mission or dealing with family issues. That seemed to satisfy their curiosity so I left it at that.

Finally, about a year after getting home, one of my roommates took action. Susie came into my room one evening and found me curled up on my bed crying. She sat down next to me, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Meagan, I don’t know what’s going on in your life and I’m not going to try to force you to tell me, but you should go talk to Bishop.” I objected and claimed I was fine but she was already in the middle of texting our bishop. I was a little upset but deep down I knew that it was what I needed to do.

Speaking Up

As I walked into my bishop’s office the next evening, he offered me some candy and we chatted about all sorts of random things from school to my calling until finally he said, “So, what is this that Susie texted me about?” I was scared out of my mind. Up to that point, I had never voiced out loud what I was feeling. However, I decided I would tell my bishop for two reasons: one, I was graduating and moving away in a couple weeks so what did I have to lose?; and two, I felt more trust with this bishop than I had ever felt with a Priesthood leader before and I knew that if I didn't tell him, I would probably never talk to anyone about it. Tears started streaming down my face as I vocalized for the first time, “Bishop, I kind of, sort of, just a little bit, really really minorly… struggle with same-sex attraction” (I could not bring myself to be 100% honest with him about the depth of my struggle). I kept my eyes on the ground, waiting for his reaction, but I didn't have to wait long. He replied, “You are not alone. Your Heavenly Father loves you. Tell me about it.” Immediately I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. During the course of our conversation, he helped me to recognize that I had truly done nothing wrong and was still worthy of the blessings of the gospel. Right before I left his office that evening, he asked me one final question, “Meagan, what is your highest priority in this life?” I replied, “To remain worthy of entering the temple.” He then assured me and said, “Then you’ll be just fine.”

I left his office that evening feeling better spiritually but I still struggled with not liking myself. I was angry that I was being faced with such a challenge, one that might possibly leave me feeling alone for a very long time. I hated vocalizing my struggle because I thought that the more I said it, the more it would become real to me and I hated that. I still wanted to just brush it under the rug and pretend like it never existed. Several months later, I finally told my mom, but it was through a one-line email that said, “You want to know why I was struggling so much last year? Read this talk,” followed by a link to a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland titled “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction.” I guess I couldn't bring myself to even type it because I still hated myself for it.

The next year was filled with ups and downs as I continued to try to figure out just how my SSA fit into my life as a member of the Church. I latched on to any friendship I had with a guy because I felt like I was able to justify being flirty or talking about him all the time, so I did. My friends warned me that other guys would think I was taken and get discouraged from asking me on dates but I didn't care. I needed some time to get to know myself again and that was buying it. The emotional state I was in at the time was not going to land me in any type of healthy relationship so I held off on dating for a while until I came to understand it better.

Speaking Out

It was not a fast or easy journey toward understanding. I began to very desperately want to talk to my close friends about it but remained overcome by a paralyzing fear of what they would think of me. I distanced myself from many of them, leaving activities early with no explanation or making up excuses to not go at all. The first couple of friends I told, I choked the words out through torrents of tears. It was so hard for me to talk about mostly because I still hadn't accepted that this was something I was truly struggling with. However, I grew to see that as I talked more, I started to be more comfortable with who I was and accept me for me. I learned that while SSA was not the sole definition of who I was, it still was a part of me that I needed to come to terms with, and I was ok with that. As I told more of my closest friends, still with a great deal of caution as to when, how, and to whom, I was blessed to receive very positive, supportive, loving answers from them. My tears dried faster, my voice became steadier, and my eyes looked up longer. Their responses began a healing process for me and assured me that those who loved me most would be there. I thought that once I told someone, that would be the only thing they would see when they looked at me but I realized that my friends were still willing to hang out with me, give me hugs, and continue developing our friendships as before. I truly felt the love of my Savior Jesus Christ coming from each one of them and his reassurance that I was not nor would I ever be alone.

As I healed and came to understanding within myself, my desire to reach out to others with SSA increased. I thought back to my friend who had come out to me several years prior and realized for the first time that I had been given this trial in my life in order to help lift up others around me. I moved to a new city for a job and decided to just throw myself in and not slow down. After a few months, I told my new bishop (about two years had passed since that first conversation with my previous bishop) and said that while I wasn't ready to come out publicly yet, I was in a position in my life where he could refer others in the ward to talk to me if they came to him with a similar struggle. I found meaning and purpose in my life again in both my job and my church callings, and was able to trust that the Lord was not going to let my struggles stand in the way of me serving in whatever capacity he needed me to fill.

Becoming a Voice

That brings me to where I am now. Being a woman who struggles with SSA, I feel that it is still much more stigmatized to talk about it than it is for men, which gives me all the more reason to become a Voice in this project. I was hesitant, not wanting to paint myself into a corner in the LDS dating community until the words, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” came flooding my mind and I knew I had to act. When I was scouring the internet for comfort, I wish I had been able to find a young, single female talking about how she came to know her Savior better through dealing with SSA, but I couldn't. I hope to be that Voice for someone out there looking like I was.

I still struggle with SSA on a daily basis and it will likely be something I will struggle with for the rest of my life; but at the same time, I know the Lord is there for me and strengthening me every step of the way. Do I still want to marry a man in the temple one day? Yes I do. It will obviously have to be the right guy, but that applies in every relationship, not just those in my situation. For now, I’m at peace with where I am and I’m truly happy. The things I have learned over the last several years are things I would not trade for anything.

I have learned that by uplifting others, you are uplifted yourself.

I have learned that no mortal pleasure is worth sacrificing the eternal blessings of the gospel I know to be true.

I have learned that temptations do not make you weak, they make you strong.

I have learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ does not necessarily take away burdens, but it lightens them enough that I can bear them.

I have learned that there are many parts to my identity, but the most important part is that I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father and a member of His church. That trumps all other parts for me.

I have learned to love myself and if I love myself, whether in this life or the next, someone else will love me too. Until then, I will keep living my life according to my desire, which is to remain worthy to enter the temple all my life. That’s the choice I’m making...and I’m okay with that.

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Elizabeth Hendricks
14 Apr, 2014

You are an amazing example. Thank you for having the courage to be a light to others.

Debbie Hill-Beal
15 Apr, 2014

Meagan, you and I are not acquainted, but I met your parents nearly 34 years ago when I joined the Church. I found your essay because your mother shared the link on FB. I wanted to share with you that I am deeply touched and impressed by your righteous desires and righteous choices. You are a valiant daughter of our Heavenly Father, and you are a wonderful Voice. Thank you for sharing your story <3

Kadi Heath
15 Apr, 2014

Meagan, thank you so much for sharing your story. You are so brave and I'm so glad you stepped up to help lift and strengthen others. It's an honor and a pleasure to count myself among your friends. Keep your chin up, girl! :)

Judy Gobble
16 Apr, 2014

Thank you for being so brave and honest. Doesn't Change our feelings for you! We will always love you. What a strong woman and what an amazing story. Love you always

Johnette Howells
4 Nov, 2014

You are a powerful person. How lonely it must have been to not only come to terms with yourself, which is hard for everyone with all kinds of imperfections, but to also stand before the world as the first. People follow more often than they lead because they get to be with others, whereas leading sets you completely apart. I am glad that you have found people with love and understanding, because that support will, and probably already has been, essential to your own stance as a beacon. We're all human, and we all need love. I am going to more closely exam my own sexuality which for me ranges from a desire to have none at all, to attraction to women, to men, to different ages, and back to none. It's pretty muddled. What a good thing you are doing. The interesting part about good things is they can have tremendous prices. I guess like the rest of this life and its things, it will in the end be worth it. Thank you for your light. May God continue to bless you, if He hasn't


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