Two Spirits: Sexuality, Gender, and the Murder of Fred Martinez

Two Spirits: Sexuality, Gender, and the Murder of Fred Martinez

USA, 2009, 60 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Activism, Discrimination, Documentary, Gay, Homophobia, Lesbian, Native American / Indigenous, Religion / Spirituality, Transgender
Program: Documentary
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Lydia Nibley

Sixteen-year-old Fred FC Martinez dressed as a girl one day, as a boy the next. Always purely himself, Fred was loved and accepted by his family. For such unapologetic authenticity, he was brutally murdered in 2001.

Director Lydia Nibley deftly weaves together the life and death of Martinez, traditional Navajo gender roles, and stories of other Two Spirits. Indigenous LGBT people use this moniker to emphasize a pre-conquest sense of social role and belonging, not just individual sexual identity. Two Spirits embody both male and female essences and are traditionally esteemed as leaders, counselors, healers, medicine people, teachers and foster parents of orphans. Lucky Two Spirits are recognized by elders early on and nurtured for who they are. Others like Fred have to fight for their lives.

Pre-Christian Navajo knew four genders: feminine women, masculine men, feminine men (nadleeh, ‘one who transforms’), and masculine women. In more traditional Navajo society, Fred would have been honored as a nadleeh. But in a rapidly assimilating environment, his mother’s love could not protect this different child from such dangerous freedom. This full spectrum of gender roles and sexual identities is passing with traditional Navajo elders. But, a hopeful spark lives on in the fluidity and acceptance of many LGBT youth. — CAROL HARADA

Text Voting Code: D308

Copresented by

Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits, Native American AIDS Project and Native American Health Center

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