Who is the cross-dressing mormon?

Feb 4th, 2015 | By | Category: Current Issue

The book of Erik: a singing prophet
By Elize Manoukian

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The power of the mixed metaphor lies in the attention it calls to incongruity. Together, words like “cross-dressing” and “Mormon”

 

It’s not as though Erik Kulick, the College of Law student wearing the “Google Cross-dressing Mormon” sign, would otherwise go unnoticed on campus. His incredible height, striking blue eyes and overgrowth of blond hair are impressionable to passersby who overhear him strumming his tiny guitar by the Mill Stream on any given day.make a wild combination.

I decided to interview Kulick, who is 34, after a friend showed me the web page for “Cross-dress to Church Day.” Kulick created the event in solidarity with Mormon women who received death threats for wearing pants in protest of gender inequalities within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS).

Kulick soars through over a hundred topics in a minute, punctuated by jokes and

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tone-shifting stories from his childhood in vivid detail.

Long ago, Kulick lived in what might seem like an “ideal Mormon family.” His mother, who found M

ormonism working as a door-to-door saleswoman, brought him into the Church when he was four.

“I thought my goal was to convert the entire world to Mormonism through missionary work,” Kulick reflects. “I was taught at a very young age to read these books that were supposed to be divine inspiration so I held them to have great meaning.”

This reality began to unravel, however, years later when Kulick found “Mormon Stories,” a popular podcast by John Dehlin that questions Mormon teachings. “I didn’t believe half the things [Dehlin] said,” Kulick said. “Hearing him talk about things disturbed me a little bit.”

Kulick began challenging Church doctrine openly, especially LDS’ rigid position on homosexuali

ty. His resistance and activism is well-documented on Facebook, YouTube and his blog, where he’s published critical reviews on teachings, recorded discussions with religious leaders and a letter announcing his excommunication from the Mormon community in Salem on the basis of “clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church,” and other actions that include causing “children to be scared.”

“Unfortunately, a lot of people look at a criticism as being an attack on everything about the thing itself,” Kulick said.

“I think that’s what I saw whenever I looked at Jesus and other great figures, whether they were prophets or otherwise—as being the ones who stood up first. That’s why everyone puts them on a pedestal.”

It’s difficult to avoid the Jesus comparison with Kulick, whose beard speaks as loudly as the image on his Facebook profile of a tithing envelope cast on the floor of a Mormon church.

Where Jesus had parables and Galilee, Kulick has his music and Fred Meyer, where he kills time playing guitar and wearing his sign for all to see.

“I realized those are also like churches…we spend enough time there,” he said.

Kulick talks about his music with the same level of restless intensity with which he describes his community work—in a stream of emphatic metaphors.

Music is just as much of a medium for his message as his “Google Cross-Dressing Mormon” sign.

“It’s a lot easier for people to understand a problem through a parable or fiction,” he said.

Kulick talks about a dream he had, which was kind of like the first episode of “Lost.”

In the dream, part of the plane lands in a place that looks like the banks of the Mill Stream. He says he had the dream before he came to Willamette.

“I’m not bothered by my dreams,” he said. “I’m more bothered by reality.”

emanouki@willamette.edu

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