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).
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
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.
“This is a church of tenderness and arrogance, of sparkling differences and human failings.
There is no unmixing the two.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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?”
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?
“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.”
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.