TUBE REVIEW: ‘Two Spirits’ looks at LGBT Native Americans, airs on KERA tonight

KERA closes out National Gay Pride Month with a program both unusual and intriguing: A glimpse at gay American Indianrican life.

In American Indian culture, there are not two sexes, but four: Men, women, feminine men and masculine women. Persons who embrace the “other” in themselves are seen as having Two Spirits, which is the name of this documentary from Independent Lens. Traditionally, such people have been respected in their tribal cultures (marriages between nadleehi were common), though in modern society there is still some resistance on the reservation.

It wasn’t all that bad for Fred Martinez, who early on started dressing in his mother’s clothes — sometimes going to school as a boy, sometimes as a girl. “He had a high degree of self-acceptance about who he was,” notes one friend.

But somehow these stories never end happily. Fred was eventually gay-bashed in a brutal murder that the local authorities refused to categorize as a hate crime.

What sets Two Spirits apart from the usual gay-crime procedural — introduce the victim, explain and humanize him, lay out the crime, walk through the hunt for the killer and the trial — is that the latter part doesn’t really happen. The murderer is caught quickly and pleads guilty. That frees up a lot of the hour-long doc to concentrate not on the perpetrator —nor even the victim himself — but on the culture and its approach to queer issues. It’s a perspective not often seen in reference to gay life, and completely compelling.

Airs on KERA channel 13 at 10 p.m. tonight.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

‘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.

—  admin