Our Sister’s Keeper

(5 PM – promoted by TheMomCat)

Tonight Independent Lens will be presenting Two Spirits, movie about the death of a young Navajo in 2001.  I will be there.  I hope others will also find the time.

I expect this to be an intense experience.

There are some stories which I do not enjoy the privilege to share.  One is the story of the two-spirit people of Native American culture.

This is the true story of a Navajo boy who was also a girl.

On one level I understand that so very well.  But on the other hand, I am not Navajo, so I cannot ever be nadleeh.

As a Lakota person, my spirituality informs how I walk through the world. My spirituality has taught me that each person is on their own spiritual journey and we cannot judge someone else’s path.  Fred’s family understood that he was different, they did not judge that. They relied on their traditional knowledge to accept and love him no matter what. In his own community, Fred was safe.

–Coya White Hat-Artichoker

Coya is winkte.

The term two spirit which gives us the title of the movie comes from the Ojibwa Niizh manidoowag.  Male and female two-spirits have been

documented in over 130 tribes, in every region of North America, among every type of native culture.

–Will Roscoe, The Zuni Man-Woman

Some transpeople, perhaps understandably, have tried to appropriate this Native American cultural tradition.  I have always tried to avoid this, though I admit that when I first read about the “berdache”, as they often have been called derogatorily (the word berdache derives from the Persian word for (sex-)slave), it was difficult not to identify.

But this is the story of Fred Martinez, rather than ancient gender variation.  If you wish more about the latter, I suggest maybe hanging out here:  Trans Bodies Across the Globe (Department of Gender Studies, Indiana University Bloomington).

He was last seen the night of June 16, 2001, when he went to the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo. From what officials pieced together, Martinez first met 18-year-old Farmington resident Shaun Murphy at a party on the night of the rodeo. Later, Murphy and a friend gave Martinez a ride as they were headed to a friend’s apartment. The men dropped off Martinez before they reached the apartment, but later that night, Murphy and Martinez met again. The reason remains unclear.

Five days later, Martinez’s body was found in a rocky canyon off a dirt road in town, his bludgeoned body barely identifiable.

Murphy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 40 years in jail. According to an anonymous tip, Murphy had bragged that he had “beat up a fag” that night.

It brought it out into the open a lot more, and it probably did do some informing of people who may not have thought about these issues beforehand, issues like what it would be like to be a Native American teen in the local community who was either gay or transgendered.

–Gail Binkly, who covered the story for the Cortez Journal

Spurred by the teen’s death, several groups including the alliance and the Four Corners Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), teamed up to form a safe schools coalition. Their work focused on diversity training and anti-discrimination projects in the schools.

If we really wished to honor the lives of people like Fred, we would, as a nation, stand up against the nearly daily expressions of hatred directed with fear and loathing towards people like us.


    • Robyn on June 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

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