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, Two Spirits explores the life and death of Fred Martinez and the ancient Native American two-spirit tradition. Two Spirits premieres on the PBS series Independent Lens, , Tuesday, June 14 at 11 p.m. on KUED Channel 7.
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 age 16.
"Between tradition and controversy, freedom and fear, lies the truth - the bravest choice you can make is to be yourself," says director Lydia Nibley, a former Utahn who viewers may recognize from her on-air hosting during Fund Drives. Two Spirits explores issues of national concern including the bullying and violence commonly faced by LGBT people, the epidemic of LGBT teen suicide, and the range of gender expression that has long been seen as a healthy part of many of the indigenous cultures of North America.
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 60 organizations nationwide to have six million people see the film and to help expand the national conversation about gender," says Nibley.
"Two Spirits is a film that shows humankind at both its best and worst," remarks Lois Vossen, producer of the Independent Lens series. "It's gutwrenching at times, but also hopeful and very engaging."
For interviews with the filmmaker, call 818 824-3944.
This episode of Independent Lens can also be viewed:
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 @ 11:00 pm on KUED HD Channel 7.1
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 @ 2:00 am on KUED HD Channel 7.1
Sunday, June 16th, 2013 @ 2:00 am on KUED HD Channel 7.1
We’wha, Zuni leader who was born male but functioned in female roles, 1886.
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