Meagan JacksonMy name is Megan Jackson and I am 25 years old. Growing up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I didn’t think it was possible to experience same-sex attraction and to still be an active standing member of the Church.
I grew up a tom-boy. I have four older brothers and was very much into boyish things growing up. I was always able to get along with guys well, but I was never really attracted to them. I would always say that I was, I think just to fit in with my friends when they would say, “Oh, that guy is cute” or whatever. I went on a trip with my friends at one point and they were checking out these guys and I was just kind of sitting there looking at pictures on my camera. I would try to say things so that I would fit in, but I just wasn’t feeling it.
The first boyfriend I ever had honestly was after my mission which is interesting because that is when I realized I had same-sex attraction. I still hadn’t vocalized it to anybody so I think I was trying to overcompensate; I was trying to appear more normal so I was trying to force a relationship that wasn’t there.
Growing up I honestly think looking back I felt those feelings for a lot longer than I allowed myself to realize. I kept pushing them off or trying to make excuses or think that they were normal because girls were naturally more affectionate, more open, loving, and girls would talk about how pretty each other were and stuff like that. I allowed myself to think it was normal because again I just didn’t think it was possible for me to be feeling that way. I thought that if I did have same-sex attraction I could not be a member of the Church.
It wasn’t until I went away to college that my eyes opened up to the reality that there were people that had same-sex attraction that were active members of the Church and that there was a place for them and that Heavenly Father actually did love all of His children.
My sophomore year of college – I was at BYU, and I kept pestering one of my very best friends I had known since I was little – I asking him why he wasn’t on a mission. We were twenty years old and he had never really given me a straight answer as to why he wasn’t going on a mission and I was just completely naïve and had been asking him, “Why aren’t you on a mission? Why aren’t you on a mission?” He was giving me all sorts of excuses that weren’t matching up. Finally we went out for a drive one evening and he just turned to me and said, “Megan, I’m gay.”
At that moment I really wanted to say something to him, but I feel like the spirit really stopped me from being able to say anything. I didn’t talk for about an hour while I just allowed him to tell me his story. I just let him talk and as he talked to me I started to realize that he was doing the best he could and that through the conversation he was talking about how he didn’t think he should be active in the Church anymore, and he hadn’t really received a lot of positive comments from the people he had told. It made me really sad and I remember distinctly saying to him, I think probably the only thing I said to him in that conversation was, “Okay, so maybe a mission isn’t for you right now because of what you’re explaining to me, but that doesn’t mean the Church isn’t for you.” That moment was the first time that I ever realized for myself that the Church really wasn’t for perfect people; the Church was for helping people to become better and do the best they can.
After that experience I started to allow myself to accept a little bit more what I might be feeling, but I still didn’t really think it was possible for me. I had a lot of self-denial growing up. Every time I started to feel those feelings of same-sex attraction when I was hanging out with friends or things like that I would just deny it and try to brush it off or leave the situation or things like that.
There would be times when I was hanging out with my friends and first of all I would just want to be with my girlfriends; just hang out with them. There would be times when I would want to seek comfort from them, and honestly there would be times when I only wanted to hang out with them and I would get very jealous of my friends when they started dating people or started hanging out with other people. I realized I was feeling way too much jealousy about this and about who was dating my friends because I kind of felt like they were taking them away from me.
That was really hard for me and it formed not so healthy relationships with my friends because of that jealousy. That jealousy was a huge manifestation to me that these really were things that were real, that it was not something that was normal. So it wasn’t until I went on my mission that I started to allow myself to accept that this was something I was struggling with and that it was something I struggled with for a very long time.
I served a mission in New Jersey and I loved absolutely every aspect of my mission; I loved the people, the missionaries, and my companions. It was an incredible 18 months of my life, but when I was there I also was realizing that I was starting to develop crushes on some of my mission companions; that was really really difficult for me.
I thought about telling my mission president, but it paralyzed me with fear. I was just completely frozen at the fact of thinking, what would my mission president say? Would he send me home? Would he pull me away from my companions? Would he send me somewhere else? Would he start to read into too much if I said I was getting along with my companions? I was doing nothing wrong, but I felt like he would look into that and that he would judge me and that I would be told I was not an adequate missionary. That scared me because I loved being a missionary and serving others, teaching, and sharing the gospel.
Up to this point I still had not told anybody any type of hint that I was feeling feelings of same-sex attraction. I kept it very quiet and very closed. On my mission was the first time I had thought about telling somebody which was my mission president, but again I was just completely paralyzed with fear. So I kept quiet and I went through my mission; I kept myself busy enough that I didn’t think about it a lot. It wasn’t something that was at the forefront of my mind. I was able to just throw myself into the work and I had a purpose every day, I knew what I was doing, and I could go forth and do that.
When I got home from my mission is when my life kind of went into shambles. My parents had separated when I was on my mission and so I got home and they were still separated. That was really difficult for me. All of a sudden I was back at school in my senior year of college and I was trying to remember what I had studied before my mission and trying to adjust to this new life. At the same time I was struggling very very hard with same-sex attraction.
I think all of a sudden the fact that my life wasn’t filled with this purpose anymore and the fact that I felt like I had kind of lost my identity when I got released as a missionary. It all of a sudden made me feel very directionless and very lonely. There would be times at night when my roommates at BYU would just find me up crying at the kitchen table.
Luckily I had a lot of things I could blame it on; I could blame it on my parents being separated or I could blame it on adjusting from the mission or things like that; that is typically what I did blame it on. But what I really wanted to say was that I feel alone; I feel completely lost; there is so much pressure to be getting married right after the mission and I wasn’t interested in that at all because I knew that I had same-sex attraction at that point. I knew that I didn’t understand it enough in myself to be able to be in any type of healthy relationship that would lead to marriage and I knew that I needed to take some time to get to that point.
I dated a guy but it only lasted for a month because I couldn’t bring myself to be open with him or to even just be open with myself. Although I knew that I had same-sex attraction I had never vocalized it out loud, not even to myself; I had never said it out loud; I just thought it.
So I spent months scouring lds.org; scouring every pamphlet, everything I could. I found a lot of really good resources, but it all kind of felt like a pat on the back to me. It was just kind of like, it’s okay, keep going. I was like, okay, but that doesn’t really give me answers; it doesn’t really help me.
I started becoming really good friends with a guy I met in marching band and we became really good friends. People were like, “You shouldn’t hang out with him so much because people are going to think you’re taken or that you’re dating when you’re not.” I was like, “I really don’t care if people think I’m taken because I’m not really interested in a relationship right now.” He was a great guy and a really nice person and a strong member of the Church, but I wasn’t feeling it.
I was trying to push something so that to the appearance of others I was normal; I wasn’t, at least I wasn’t feeling that way. I honestly didn’t like myself; I really hated myself and felt like I was completely unworthy; like if my friends knew what was going on with me that they wouldn’t want to be my friends anymore. I felt like if I told one of my best friends at the time, like if I told her as I was getting ready to be a part of her wedding, I felt like she was going to kick me out of her wedding or things like that and so I stayed afraid. I tried to date to try to give the appearance that everything was okay, but it wasn’t.
So that relationship with that guy ended and then I made friends with this other guy, but I just wasn’t looking for relationships at all, I just needed to figure out what the heck is going on. I had been home from my mission for about a year and it was two weeks before I graduated from BYU and I was in my bedroom one night and I was just bawling on my bed; just absolutely crying.
My roommate came in and she just sat on the edge of my bed; she looked at me and she said, “Megan, you are not okay. You can’t blame it on your parents separation anymore,” because my parents had gotten back together since then. She is like, “You can’t blame it on mission adjustment; you’ve been home for a year. I know there is something else going on because you’ve been struggling this entire year since you’ve been home. I know there is something going on and I’m not going to pry and ask what it is, but you need to go talk to the bishop. He can help you.” I looked at her and I was like, there is no chance, I’m not talking to the bishop. She was like, yeah you need to, and she went out and before I knew it she had texted our bishop and said, hey you should ask Megan to come in and talk to you.
I had had my bishop for that full year since coming home. He was probably the most trusted bishop that I’ve ever had. I was nervous to tell him; I mean nervous was an understatement. So when she texted my bishop at first I was kind of angry with her. I was like, why are you texting him? And she said it was going to be okay. The bishop texted me; he was a very open bishop and he was the type of bishop to invite us in like once a month just to check on us and see how we were doing. He was always interviewing us in the singles ward and he would always just want to see how we were doing; especially the returned missionaries to see if we were doing okay and felt like we had purpose and stuff.
So he texted me and he said, hey, come on in tomorrow night and let’s have a talk. There were two things that really took me into that office that night. The first reason was that I was graduating in two weeks and if it goes horribly wrong then I’m moving, and peace out. I can run away from this situation if it goes wrong. The other thing that took me into that office is that I’ve never had a bishop that I trusted more and I thought that if I’m going to talk to any bishop about it, it has to be this one otherwise I don’t think I ever will again.
I was so afraid going in there because I knew if he had reacted negatively my entire story would have changed. I probably would not be active in the Church right now and I probably would have felt even more ostracized or unworthy. When I went in to his office I was still at the point where I had never even said it out loud to myself. I am great at distracting people and at beating around the bush; we spent half an hour talking about everything under the sun, my post-graduation plan, and everything else.
Finally he looked at me and he said, “Megan, why did Suzy text me?” I just paused for a second and tears started coming to my eyes. I said, “Well bishop, you’re going to judge me.” He said, “I’m not going to judge you. Why did she text me?” I said, “Well I kind of…sort of…just a little bit, maybe, not all the time…just minorly….have same-gender attraction.” I said it and I immediately looked down at the floor. I understated it so much to him because I was so afraid of how he was going to react.
I stared at the floor and it seemed like forever before he gave me a response. He said, “Okay, you’re not alone. The Lord loves you and He is watching out for you.” He said, “What do you want in life? What is your goal?” I said, “Bishop, there is no doubt about it that my number one goal in life is to be temple worthy; to be worthy of a temple recommend throughout my life; that is my number one priority.” He said, “Okay, well you’re going to be just fine.”
At that moment I felt like a weight had just been completely been lifted off my shoulders. Everything wasn’t made perfect in that moment that I told my bishop, but I felt like I had told somebody and it was going to be okay because there was somebody who supported me. I had grown up thinking same-sex attraction was a choice, and if it was a choice then why was I choosing that? Why was I choosing something that was so difficult? As I spoke with my bishop he helped me see that we all have trials and temptations, and the Lord knows what we can handle and He knows what we are strong enough to handle; and He is there for us to help us through it.
As soon as I started to understand that…I mean I only understand it in a very small degree that night talking to my bishop, but it helped me to start changing my mindset as far as what I was going through realizing it was not a choice I was making; it was something that was a real part of me, but it was a choice of how I acted and it was a choice in my priorities in life and what I did with my life.
The months following after I told my bishop I moved away to California and I didn’t tell anybody else. I was scared of vocalizing it because I thought the more I vocalized it the more it would become real. Finally a couple of months later I emailed my mom and it was this one line email and I said, “Mom, you want to know why I was struggling last year? Read this talk.” It was a talk by Elder Holland that was called Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-sex Attraction. Then I just put, “Love, Megan” and then I just sent it.
I feel so bad for my mom because I didn’t really give her anymore explanation at the time. Oh, and I think I wrote at the end, “You can tell dad.” That was it. She sends me back this email and because I hadn’t given any explanation she was a little confused; she was very open and loving, but she was like, “Are you sure? Are you just feeling this way because you’re not dating anyone? What is going on?” So it took a few clarifying emails back and forth; I really don’t like talking on the phone and I’m not good at it and so email was the preferred mode of communication there.
It felt good to know that my mom knew about it, and I told my sister-in-law who I was living very close to at the time. I told her but I didn’t tell my brother who was her husband. For some reason I didn’t tell my brother until several months later when I told the rest of my brothers. It felt good to know my mom was supporting me and that there was more support than just my former bishop.
My sister-in-law’s reaction…we were sitting in her room talking and we were talking about depression and things like that because I had struggled with depression when I was younger. We were talking about how I had overcome that. I had just said kind of casually, “Well if it’s not one thing it’s another.” She paused for a minute and she said, “What do you mean? What are you going through right now?” My brother was at work at the time so I didn’t talk to him, but I told my sister in law and she just gave me a hug. So she was the first person I had told in person and been able to receive that physical…I don’t know how to describe it; you just need a hug sometimes.
I couldn’t really get that from my bishop, and I couldn’t get that from my mom because I had emailed her and so my sister-in-law, just knowing that she was still there for me…I was worried that she would be like, “Oh, I don’t want you to baby sit my kids anymore,” or things like that. It is so silly to think that now. I love my nieces and nephews and I was really worried she would give me a reaction like that, but she didn’t. She gave me a hug and said, “We love you and support you; you are always welcome here and can always come for holidays and everything like that.” I expressed to her that I was afraid I might never get married. She said, “You are always always always a part of our family and we love you and want you to feel like you have a place you can go and feel like you belong.”
After I told my sister-in-law my mind kind of went back and thought about a talk that I had heard in conference; it was the October 2011 General Conference at the Relief Society session. Elder Uchtdorf gave a talk about a woman and how she had gone through her entire life and never got married. She had been bitter and angry with the Lord because she hadn’t been married and hadn’t been able to have kids and wanted to have kids of her own. I have thought about that talk many times since. When my sister-in-law said those things to me about always being welcome at their house it made me incredibly grateful to realize that…you know, I may never have kids of my own, I would like to; I would love to be married in the temple and everything like that. It may never happen, but I know the Lord is blessing me with amazing nieces and nephews and people that I can interact with all the time and help make a difference in their lives.
I had spent a lot of time very angry with the Lord; I had spent a lot of time questioning and even though I had told three people at this point I was still very unclear and didn’t understand at all what I was going through. They asked me questions and I didn’t really know how to answer them. I was angry and embarrassed that I had such a hard trial. Yeah, I was accepting it, but it still didn’t make it easy. I was still very much like, “Why am I going through this? Haven’t I gone through enough difficult trials? This is such an embarrassing trial; this is a trial that involves other people; involves the people that are closest to me.”
People would compare it to alcoholism, you know we all have our struggles and stuff like that. I would so much rather prefer to struggle with alcoholism than with what is going on right now. It was a very dark time for me in those six months in California while I was telling my sister-in-law and stuff. I was still confused and lost; even though I had come to the point where I had told people I was still confused and angry.
It wasn’t until I moved to Las Vegas a couple of months after that…I was visiting one of my very best friends and I wasn’t planning on telling her at the time, but we were out at dinner one night and it just came out. I don’t know why or how, but I just started crying and I told her. I thought that she was going to send me home…again, not want me to visit, not want me to…you know, she had just had a baby, so not want me to be around her kids or anything like that. That still scared me a lot and again I was received with open arms; very loving.
She had told me that she would still be my friend, but there was a part of me that inside that was thinking, “Well she is just saying that because I am in front of her right now; things are going to change.” But they didn’t; they haven’t changed. If anything our relationship has gotten stronger now. I have found that with each person I have told, every single time I tell one of my friends or my old mission companions or my old roommates – every single time I have told somebody I have been so scared that they would react in a negative way. So far I have been very blessed that the people I have told have been very positive and supporting. Of course I have been very selective of who I’ve told until now of course.
I have felt the love of the Lord so incredibly much. When I think about the hope of the gospel I think about what it says in my patriarchal blessing. It promises that I will get married to a righteous son of Israel. I don’t know if that will happen in this life or the life to come; I don’t know, but I believe enough in the promises that the Lord has made to me. I have that hope and that trust in the Lord that He will fulfill those promises. I am willing to wait it out and I know the Lord has a plan and that every single thing that I do every day is a part of that plan and that He knows where I am going long term.
So I keep going and it is still a struggle all the time. I hang out with my friends now and there will be times when we’re hanging out and I…I feel like I just want to kiss one of my friends or something like that and I get scared and I leave and walk away from the situation. That is kind of how I’ve learned to deal with it. So my friends tease me because they don’t know what is going on. They are just like, “Oh, that is Megan; she leaves all the time just randomly in the middle of get togethers.” They don’t know that a lot of the time the reason I’m leaving is because I just need to go and clear my mind and get myself together.
When I told one of my mission companions and she was a companion that I had a crush on…I had told her after the mission and she just looked at me and she was like, it was the weirdest reaction, she was like, “Good for you.” I was like, why are you saying good for you? And she said it was because more people need to talk about this and more people need to be helping others understand what it is like. She said it didn’t change anything about our friendship. She was like, “I respect you that much more now.” Again, I was just so incredibly grateful for that.
When she said that I was like, “Yeah, I need to be talking about it more.” I said earlier that I was scared of vocalizing it because then it would become more real to me, and yes it has become more real to me, but that is okay because as it has become more real it has become easier to accept and easier to understand and love myself; I had hated myself for so many years thinking that I was impure and unworthy or something like that.
As I was able to talk to my friends and family members about it I learned how to love myself again as the Lord loved me; I learned how to see myself again as a daughter of God. I have a lot of friends who are LDS and a lot of friends who are not LDS. I feel like on both sides of the equation there is a lot of misunderstanding. For LDS people there is a lot of misunderstanding as to what it is like to struggle with same-sex attraction and to strive to live the commandments and to hold out for the promises that the Lord has made to us. On the non-LDS side of the equation there is the misunderstanding of, “Well why don’t you just embrace this? This is a part of you; just live it.” Yes it is a part of me, but the strongest part of my identity is my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; I am a daughter of God. That is the strongest part of my identity and that is what I strive and live for.
I hold true to that first priority that I told my bishop years ago; that I, no matter what, want to be worthy of a temple recommend and be able to feel all those blessings. I have come to realize that if you keep an eternal perspective this life is so short; this life is so short in the realm of eternity, and if the blessings of the gospel are true and if the fact that I can return to live with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and be with my family forever – if that is all true, and I believe that it is, then there is absolutely nothing that I can do in this life, no mortal pleasure that would be worth giving all that up. There is nothing that would be worth giving that up.
I want to be with my family forever and I’ve worked so hard for that through various trials that my family has gone through and I’m not going to let this stop me. I want to see those blessings come to reality and I want to help other people understand that it is not just a black and white picture; there is so much emotion pulled into it and there are so many aspects and facets that are difficult to understand unless you’ve really been there. From both the LDS side and the non LDS side there needs to be a lot of understanding.
So much in the Church we use language such as, “I struggle with same-sex attraction.” I’m very careful not to say that now because to my non-LDS friends, it is not a struggle and it is portrayed very poorly and so I try not to say that. They say, “Well why aren’t you just living it? Why aren’t you embracing it?” I find myself kind of hesitating because a part of me is about to say, “Oh well because of my standards and values,” and then they say, “What? I don’t have values?” I’m like no; I’m not trying to say that at all. It is just hard to explain unless you’ve been there; unless you understand. I hope that there can be an understanding and growth; that there can just be love and understanding that I’m doing the best I can.
One of the things that helped me the most to start feeling the Lord’s love again in my life was a couple of months after I moved to Las Vegas I told my bishop there what I was going through. About three weeks after that he called me into his office and gave me a calling into the Relief Society Presidency. I remember sitting there in his office and I was like, “Bishop, you know what I just told you. Why are you calling me into Relief Society? Why are you doing this to me? It is an incredibly difficult calling knowing that I struggle with same-sex attraction and to call me into Relief Society. Why are you doing this?”
I remember he distinctly said to me, “Because the Lord loves you and this is where you need to serve. The Lord isn’t going to let anything stand in the way of you serving where He needs you. There are things you need to do in that calling and people you need to help and a difference you can make.” At that point I was caught off guard, but that was a huge turning point for me in emerging out of that dark spot that I had been in and really opening up to the love of the Lord and growing to love myself.
I’ve learned so many things since then. My journey has been short comparatively to others because I was in so much self-denial for so long. I’ve learned about the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. He truly is there for us and He knows exactly what we’ve gone through even when we feel like nobody else knows what we’re going through; He knows. I’ve learned that the words I’ve recited every night before I went to bed – We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us and we love Him – I’ve learned just how true that really is.
He has a plan for us and He wants us to be successful. He wants us to serve others and to grow and learn. For me, talking about it is the way I serve others; it is the way I grow and learn. When I go through something hard in my life I figure it out and then I talk to people about it because it helps me to come to more understanding about it, and it helps others to come to more understanding about it. If they are struggling it helps them as well.
I’ve learned that the promises and blessings of the gospel are true and that nothing is worth giving them up; the people who love me the most will be there for me. God has us where we are for a special purpose and He has us interacting with the people that we do for a special purpose. He is going to keep moving our lives in the direction we need to go as long as we’re doing everything we can to follow Him and keep His commandments. I am so grateful for that.