When Fred Martinez, a Navajo teen living in the Four Corners town of Cortez, New Mexico, came out to his mom and brothers, they were very accepting. His mother explained that in Navajo:

half woman half woman, they call it  nádleehí.

His oldest brother though cautioned him to be careful, a prescient warning. Fred–who moved fluidly and gracefully through his personas of Fred, FC and Beyonce–was murdered by a meth-dealing thug who boasted to his friends that he “bug smashed a fag.”

Two Spirits is an exploration of Fred’s life and death, as well as an in-depth look at spiritual nature of gender and sexuality and our often ignored connection with the afterlife. The Navajo believe in four genders: Male, female, male essence in female form and female essence in masculine form. Fred was the latter, nádleehí, “one who constantly transforms.” Before the European conquest and enforced Christian belief systems, many Native tribes recognized gender diversity and fluidity; multi-gendered people were revered as teachers and guides. Today Native activists use the term “two-spirit” as shorthand to express the nature of those who express multiple genders.

Fred and other two-spirit people are connecting with their own traditional values, ones much older (and which were here first!), yet we have so called "traditional values" advocates  working so hard to destroy anything they don’t approve of. Two Spirit shows us that the traditions to value are those which place an emphasis on caring, nurturing and acceptance of living and letting others live in grace and beauty.

Fred’s loving mother, one of his teachers, members of the two-spirit community and non-Native LGBT activists guide us through Fred’s life and the history and reclaiming of two-spirit tradition, as well as his senseless death. His horrific murder and its aftermath point out a stark societal reality: Fred was one of the youngest hate crime victims in modern history, yet at first the District Attorney is unaware or unwilling to prosecute Fred’s murderer under that statute.

Currently 45 states and the District of Columbia have anti-hate crime laws. And yet according to Human Rights Campaign, of those states with hate crime statutes, only 31 and the District of Columbia cover sexual orientation in their legislation.

The following are U.S. hate crime statistics collected by the FBI under The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990:

In 2007 1,460 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias were reported by law enforcement agencies. Of these offenses:

    * 59.2 percent were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.
    * 24.8 percent were reported as anti-homosexual bias.
    * 12.6 percent were prompted by an anti-female homosexual bias.
    * 1.8 percent were the result of an anti-heterosexual bias.
    * 1.6 percent were classified as anti-bisexual bias.

This weekend a gunman opened fire at Tel Aviv LGBT youth center, killing two. Last week at the Outgames in Copenhagen, as many as three explosive devices reportedly detonated in two track stadiums, leaving one person with minor injuries, while three men were beaten as anti-gays slurs were shouted by their attackers.

On the night of July 16, the Senate approved the long-sought Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act by voice vote. The measure, however, was approved as an amendment to an annual defense-spending bill, with the death penalty attached by Jeff Sessions as a poison pill.  The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference committee to work out differences between the two versions of the legislation and should be voted on in early September. The hope is that the death penalty will be dropped for life imprisonment.

After Fred’s burial, his mother and brother experienced his presence in their home. They performed a traditional ritual to set his soul free, and later his mother experienced a miracle. Fred does live on in this world–through this film, through the Fred Martinez Project, though the continuing recognition and acceptance of multi-gender people, and in the hope that we can all accept and appreciate our self’s and each other’s expression of identity.

Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.