Remembering Fred Martinez: ‘Two Spirits’ tells story of a murdered Navajo boy

Posted on 10 Jun 2011 at 4:00pm
‘Two Spirit’ — Fred Martinez

There’s been some talk here on Instant Tea this week about the documentary Out in America and whether or not KLRU, the PBS channel in Austin, would air it during Gay Pride Month. I am proud of the LGBTs in Austin — especially Meghan Stabler — for speaking out and getting KLRU to add the film to its Jun line-up.

But it seems that there is another important documentary that may have gotten a bit overlooked in the meantime. It’s called Two Spirits, and it weaves the story of a 16-year-old Navajo boy, Fred Martinez, who was murdered because of his feminine ways, and the history of many Native American tribes who considered what we now call LGBT people to be  gifted individuals who had an honored place in society. They called them “two spirits.” You can watch a trailer for the film below.

Two Spirits aired on the KERA-HD channels earlier this week, and will air again Sunday, June 19, at 11 a.m. on KERA 13.2. I don’t think I get the HD channels at home, but that doesn’t mean I am willing to miss it. So I went to the Two Spirits website today and ordered my own personal copy of the DVD.

Since I haven’t watched the documentary yet, I certainly can’t review it. But I can say it has been well-received by those who have seen it. I am also willing to say, without having watched it, that I think this is an important story that more people need to see and hear — and not just because it talks about the dangers of hatred and bigotry. I think this film may also have a very strong message about the role that racial bigotry plays, even within the LGBT community.

Think about it: When Matthew Shepard, a young white man, was murdered, the whole world took notice. He became a martyred icon of the LGBT community and the effort to end hate crimes. But when Fred Martinez, a poor Navajo boy, was murdered, how much attention did we pay to that crime?

I’m certainly not trying to downplay Matthew Shepard’s murder, nor would I ever want to try to take anything away from the grief and pain his family suffered and the years of effort his parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, have put into the fight against hatred. That heinous crime and that family with their tireless effort deserve all that recognition.

But Fred Martinez’s murder was no less heinous, and his family’s grief and pain no less severe. So why don’t more people in our community recognize his name?

Every person lost to hate — those murdered by others who hated them, and those driven to suicide by the hate they had to endure — deserve our attention and our respect. They are all martyrs, in a way. I hope that Two Spirits can help open some people’s eyes so that we don’t have to keep adding names to the list.

(Just as a sidenote, Sandy Swan over at the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library mentioned on Facebook that if anyone wanted to buy a copy of the DVD to donate to the library, it would be much appreciated. I do know that the Two Spirits website offers a “buy one, get one half price” deal, and you can get a price break, too, if you buy in bulk to donate copies to libraries or schools or whatever.)

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