not in Primary anymore

sunday spotlight: meli (curtis)

Sunday Spotlight is a series where we profile individuals in the Young Mormon Feminists community to hear their stories and get to know them a little better through Q&A or their personal narratives. This week we talked with Meli (Curtis).


SS meli (curtis)

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

-Walt Whitman

Who are you and what are you up to?

Hi y’all! Some of you know me as Curtis Penfold, others as Meli. I prefer Meli personally. I’m a coffee-loving, polyamorous, genderqueer existentialist.

At the moment, I’m just enjoying the radically free life here in Salt Lake City after being expelled from BYU a little over a year ago. Spend most of my time talking to customers and coworkers about the nature of reality, reading about gender and sexuality, surfing facebook, writing poetry, visiting different spiritual communities, shopping for dresses at thrift shops, and cuddling with my fabulous partner as we watch queer documentaries and anime.



SS meli (curtis)

“This is a church of tenderness and arrogance, of sparkling differences and human failings.

There is no unmixing the two.”

-Joanna Brooks

What makes you a Mormon?

I grew up Mormon. It deeply affected me. Went to EFY five summers in a row. Would hand out copies of the Book of Mormon to my non-Mormon schoolmates. I was the only Mormon in my high school, and in many ways, it became a huge part of my identity. I went to BYU. Served a full mission. Still hang out with a lot of liberal Mormons and people who’ve been deeply affected by Mormonism as well.

Currently, I identify as post-Mormon more than Mormon, though. To me, that means that Mormonism has been a springboard in my life to something even better. It’s introduced me to important questions and concepts that I’m still responding to, even if I’m exploring answers and ideas that I was originally told not to.

And of course, I’m still Mormon culturally on some level. I still belong to that big, nebulous thing we call Mormonism. My ancestors made the track to Utah, for better or for worse. My mom was one of the first converts in Spain, for better or for worse. I feel like I’m still part of that grand, inspiring, oh so problematic, messy legacy of Mormonism, no matter if I’m still a member of the LDS Church or not. (I’m not).




“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single issue lives.”

-Audre Lorde

What makes you a feminist?

Some people say a feminist is anybody who believes that men and women should be equal. I think that’s too simple. Feminism isn’t just saying men and women should be equal. It’s saying that right now, they’re not! It’s saying that we live in a patriarchy. It’s saying that women are systematically discriminated against currently in a variety of countries, cultures, and communities in ways that men aren’t.

I’m a feminist because I agree with that, and more than agree with it, I try my best to apply feminist theory to my relationships with others and myself. I try to make feminism a verb for me and not just a noun.

Going a step further, I believe in intersectionality. I believe that we should be fighting for all marginalized communities. Feminists have opened up the question of gender justice, and I definitely hope that we can find solutions to gender justice that will not just help middle-class, able-bodied, white, cis-het women, but poor women, women of color, disabled women, LBQ women and all my transgender and gender non-conforming sisters, brothers, and siblings.




“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”

Sonia Johnson

What makes you a Mormon feminist?

My community is full of Mormons and ex-Mormons. I care about those that are in it, and I want them to stop being surrounded by the harmful, misogynistic ideals that can be found in Mormonism (and honestly, throughout the entire United States and most of the world).

I’m a Mormon feminist, because I’m a feminist who cares about the Mormon community I live in. I hope to be able to fight, in any little way possible, the toxic sexism, classism, racism, homo and trans antagonism, gender essentialism, and ableism not just found in our workplaces, laws, and television, but also in our homes, in our Sunday School lessons and over our pulpits.



SS meli (curtis)

“What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals, or to life. That art is something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists. But couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?”

Michel Foucault

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Those closest to me know that I want to own a coffee shop some day, one where all sorts of anarchist, socialist, communist, pro-immigration, feminist, LGBTQIA, liberal Mormon, ex-Mormon, atheist, agnostic, and alternative spirituality groups can meet up. A center for the counter-cultures of Salt Lake, a place where revolutions begin.

I want all workers, including myself, to be paid the same, (because the worth of ALL souls is great), and people to be able to pay as much as they are able to, (because all people deserve to eat).

A few other dreams of mine: being a moving drag performer, a well read poet and queer theorist, and a caring parent raising some adopted children with a few awesome partners.

You got to live for something, am I right?



SS meli (curtis)

Ideally, we lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world — in short, we become more critical and more capacious in our thinking and our acting…We have to continue to shake off what we sometimes think we know in order to lend our imaginations to vibrant and sometimes agonistic spectrums of experience.”

-Judith Butler

Any parting words for us?

Open yourself to radical solutions. Consider all possibilities. Read what others have considered. Read and read until your head hurts. Always remember that you could be wrong. Try to understand all perspectives. Fight for what you believe in passionately. Take a break every once and awhile. Love yourself as much as you love others. Spend lots of time with people that love you. Have fun. Laugh. Apologize to those you hurt accidently. Dream big. Make little goals. Make big goals. Remember that life is more than goals and it’s O.K. to just be. Make every experience worthwhile.



SS meli (curtis)

11 Responses to “sunday spotlight: meli (curtis)”

  1. Anonymous

    I find it contradicting that you try to reach out to all minority groups and advance their causes, yet you only seek to associate with those who have similar beliefs to you. For example, What about the non-liberal Mormons? Can they be included? Can they come to your coffee shop and freely express their opinions without the judgement which, no doubt, you have felt and continue to feel? Mormonism is technically a minority in the US.

    I know. I am the critic. I don’t seek to put you or your cause down but merely point out inconsistencies. Don’t give up on the world. Liberal is a strength, but conservative is also a strength of a different kind.

    • curtispenfold

      I’m talking about starting a coffee shop in Salt Lake City. Mormonism does not qualify as a minority here, and it’s definitely not a marginalized or oppressed group.

      If somebody walked into my coffee shop someday and wanted to promote the same ideas you can find almost everywhere in Utah that dehumanize so many REAL marginalized communities here, I’d honestly ask them to leave. There’s plenty of venues for them to do that.

      (Recognizing, of course, that even within liberal communities, there’s a huge range of stances on all subjects, many of which strongly contradict with one another. Some level of respect for contradicting perspectives need to be established in every liberal circle, although only for those perspectives that are based in both fact and compassion).

      • Katherine

        Tolerant, but not tolerant, huh? Grade A Hypocrisy right there.

        “I want all workers to be paid the same.” So then do you believe that a brain surgeon should be paid the same as a grocer? That’s no disrespect to the grocer of course, but obviously the value of work is astronomically different.

        How do you propose this would actually happen by the way? How will we all be paid the same, Curtis?

      • curtispenfold

        I don’t really know what you’re talking about with me being tolerant or intolerant. I never claimed to be either. My moral system doesn’t really focus on the idea of tolerance. It’s not really a word I use.

        What have I written that makes you think I’m a hypocrite? Can you go into more detail?

        With that quote, I was specifically talking about about workers in my coffee shop of the future. Sorry that wasn’t clear. A brain surgeon is more than willing to work in my coffee shop, as long as he doesn’t mind getting paid the same per hour as everybody else.

        That said, I do dream of an anarcho-socialist utopia where everybody does what they do because they love it and everybody receives all the same basic benefits just for being alive. This is what I think we should be working towards.

  2. Katherine

    I see. And again I ask, how would that work in reality? And can you point to any other historical examples where that type of idea has been successfully implemented?

    And back to the coffee shop. Would you pay a better, more experienced worker the same as a teenage newby?

    • curtispenfold

      There’s a variety of countries that are getting close to creating socialist utopias. If you look into social democracies, you’ll see a little bit how that’s working right now. It works best in more “tribal” settings (such as the law of consecration), but I have faith in human ingenuity in being able to establish a more equal society.

      We’ve traveled to the moon, eliminated small pox, have large functioning governments without kings–humanity has the ability to make what seems impossible, possible. We might not know how to implement true equality yet, but if we focus on it, as a species, we’ll be able to figure it out eventually.

      I would pay everybody the same, from dishwasher to upper management. Because every member of a work team is valuable and necessary in order to make a successful business happen.

      • Katherine

        I agree every member is valuable. I just vehemently disagree that they are all
        EQUALLY valuable. You can be inherently equal as a human and serve in positions with different economic value.

        As I’m sure you are aware, many people work harder in jobs because they are incentivized by the potential of a pay raise. How would you plan on keeping your workers motivated? And how would you keep them from quitting and changing to another company where they COULD advance?
        The truth is that communist/ socialist societies have never worked. They have all failed spectacularly. That’s not me being mean, that’s just accepting reality. And all those great human advancements you listed (the eradication of smallpox, traveling to the moon, etc) all happened BECAUSE of economic competition. And free markets have done infinitely more to lift people out of poverty than has any government problem.
        I hope you do open a coffee shop if that is your wish. Truly! But I think you need to acknowledge the reality if it’ll survive.
        Take care.

      • curtispenfold

        We have social democracies are functioning throughout Europe.

        NASA sent us to the moon. Not a private company that had anything to gain financially. The incentive to end small pox was saving lives, not getting an extra buck.

        I don’t think we’ll enter true equality overnight. But if we work towards it, I think we can get closer to it. Line upon line. Precept upon precept. Here a little and there a little.

  3. Katherine

    Whenever there is freedom, there are going to be people who earn more and who earn less. That’s just the way it is.

    What current social democracies do you see as successful?

    Money is an exchange of energy. It is not bad to be incentivized by it. And again I ask you, how would you keep your employers motivated or keep them from quitting in pursuit of a better paying job?

    When you say “true equality,” what exactly do you mean? Exact economic income for everyone?

    You won’t be surprised that I find it quite ironic (and also deeply troubling) that you quote LDS scripture as evidence to support you advocacy of progressive and eventual socialism. You twist scripture/ Mormon ideas to fit your agenda, when in so very many ways you denounce the faith (understand). If I am not mistaken, you resigned from the Church. And clearly your views on LGBTQ issues could not be more different than that of the church. Now I’m all for religious freedom, but it makes no sense at all to misinterpret and misconstrue LDS scripture and doctrine to fit your views when clearly you don’t believe it…


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