Independent Lens “Two Spirits”
June 14, 2011
Fred Martinez was a Navajo boy who was also a girl. In an earlier era, he would have been revered. Instead he was murdered.
Two Spirits interweaves the tragic story of a mother's loss of her son 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. Powerful and moving, Lydia Nibley's “Two Spirits” explores the life and death of Fred Martinez and the ancient Native American two-spirit tradition. Two Spirits will premiere on Independent Lens , hosted by America Ferrera, on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 10 p.m.
Fred Martinez told his mother that he felt as if he was both a boy and a girl, and she explained that this was a special gift, according to traditional Navajo culture. But the place where two discriminations meet is a dangerous place to live, and Fred became one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16. Between tradition and controversy, freedom and fear, lies the truth — the bravest choice you can make is to be yourself.
Two Spirits explores issues of national concern including the bullying and violence commonly faced by LGBT people and the epidemic of LGBT teen suicide, and reveals the range of gender expression that has long been seen as a healthy part of many of the indigenous cultures of North America, and of Navajo culture in particular.
The Navajo believe that to maintain harmony, there must be a balanced interrelationship between the feminine and the masculine within the individual, in families, in the culture, and in the natural world. For the first time on film, Two Spirits tells stories from the Navajo tradition of four genders. The first gender is the feminine woman. The second is the masculine man. The third is the male-bodied person who has a feminine essence — nadleehi. The fourth is the female-bodied person who has a masculine essence — dilbaa.
In Navajo, nadleehi means “one who is transformed," and as the film traces the ramifications of Fred's murder, it also shows the transformation being undertaken by Native activists who are working to restore the rich heritage of two-spirit people and to claim their place within their tribal communities.
“The film team is working with over sixty organizations nationwide to have six million people see the film and to help expand the national conversation about gender,” says the director of Two Spirits, Lydia Nibley.
Lois Vossen the producer and founder of Independent Lens explains, “Two Spirits is an important film that tells a modern story with deep historical roots and does so in a way that is surprising and striking. It's a film that shows humankind at both our best and worst. It's gut-wrenching at times, but also hopeful and very engaging.”