Two Spirits Debuts on Independent Lens Tuesday, June 14
Fred Martinez, a Navajo youth, is remembered as being kind to everyone, a sensitive soul who felt great empathy for others. He will also be remembered as “one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history,” for he was brutally murdered when he was sixteen years old. Fred was a nadleehi (“one who is transformed”), which in Navajo tradition is “a male-bodied person who has a feminine essence.”
When Fred realized his sexual orientation as transgender, he had a meeting with his family and explained it to them. His brother told him to be careful; his mother told him she would always love him. Shaun Murphy, an eighteen-year-old, bludgeoned Fred to death after meeting him at a party, and later bragged, “I had to beat up a fag.” Although it sounds like a hate crime, it wasn’t prosecuted as one.
Lydia Nibley’s Two Spirits “interweaves the tragic story of a mother’s loss…with a revealing look at the largely unknown history of a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female, and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.” Two Spirits explores the Navajo view of the interrelationship of feminine and masculine in individuals and the natural world, and examines issues of national concern, such as bullying of and violence against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) individuals and the suicide epidemic among LGBT teens.
Fred Martinez made a courageous choice—to be himself—and paid for it with his life. This in a country where rugged individualism and freedom of expression are highly treasured traditions. Two Spirits is a moving film, a tribute to his courage.
Included in Two Spirits are interviews with LGBT Native Americans who discuss their own experiences and philosophies, and music contributed by Patti Smith, as well as a number of Native artists. It can be seen on PBS, Tuesday, June 14, 2011, at 10 p.m. (check local listings).