Tuesday, June 28, 2011

“TWO SPIRITS”, Story of Murdered Navajo Teen, to Air Nationally on PBS: Independent Lens

This looks like a good film - and it's important to get the message out about hate crimes against transgender and intersexed people. This was posted at (and the film supported by) HRC Back Story, an LGBT equal rights organization.

PBS began showing the film on June 14, so it may be too late to see it on television, but I think we can watch it on the Independent Lens website.

“TWO SPIRITS”, Story of Murdered Navajo Teen, to Air Nationally on PBS: Independent Lens

By Charlie Joughin
June 9th, 2011


TWO SPIRITS is a film about Fred Martinez, a Navajo teen who didn’t want to have to choose between being a boy or a girl– he wanted to be both. According to the ancient Navaho culture, it was a gift to be born with a male body and a feminine nature. In an earlier era, he would have been revered. Instead, he was brutally murdered at the age of sixteen for embracing his identity and living the life he was born to live.

From the director of the film, Lydia Nibley:

Making the film TWO SPIRITS began when I sat with Fred’s mother at his grave and she poured out her heart to me.

The experience transformed me from someone who had very little awareness, to someone who fully embraces gender diversity, because I see how much it adds to all of our lives.The tragic story of a mother’s loss of her child to a brutal murder has challenged us to answer the question she raised, “Why are people killed for being who they are?” And learning that there was a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female, and that there is a place of honor in many Native American cultures for people across a spectrum of sexuality and gender expression, has been a gift.

Vote for the film for PBS’ Audience Award here and give it 5 stars: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/award/

Visit Two Spirits for information on ways you can help spread the word about this truly remarkable story, or to purchase your copy of the DVD. You can also purchase the video for download on iTunes.

HRC is proud to be an Outreach Partner Organization of such an amazing film.

About the Film

Two Apache warriors with headdresses and war paint to their faces, gently touch foreheads. Zuni leader We’Wah, a two-spirit, is pictured in this black and white portrait from the 19th century when she visited Washington D.C. Historic, sepia-toned photo of Navajo couple from the collection of the Museum of New Mexico

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.

Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. He was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16. Two Spirits explores the life and death of this boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender.

Two Spirits tells compelling stories about traditions that were once widespread among the indigenous cultures of North America. The film explores the contemporary lives and history of Native two-spirit people — who combine the traits of both men and women with qualities that are also unique to individuals who express multiple genders.

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. Two Spirits reveals how these beliefs are expressed in a natural range of gender diversity. For the first time on film, it examines the Navajo concept of nádleehí, “one who constantly transforms.”

In Navajo culture, there are four genders; some indigenous cultures recognize more. Native activists working to renew their cultural heritage adopted the English term “two-spirit” as a useful shorthand to describe the entire spectrum of gender and sexual expression that is better and more completely described in their own languages. The film demonstrates how they are revitalizing two-spirit traditions and once again claiming their rightful place within their tribal communities.

Two Spirits mourns the young Fred Martinez and the threatened disappearance of the two-spirit tradition, but it also brims with hope and the belief that we all are enriched by multi-gendered people, and that all of us — regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or cultural heritage — benefit from being free to be our truest selves.

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