Last Friday, a friend and I attended a free screening of the documentary Two Spirits at the local office of the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado. This deeply affecting documentary, now a few years old, follows the story of Fred Martinez, a Navajo teen who lived near Cortez, Colo. Fred, who also went by F.C., was an openly transgendered individual who presented as female, and sometimes male.
Fred's family was welcoming and accepting: "They felt pride in his being gifted with a deep understanding of the duality of the human experience, believing that, as a nadleehi, he would live a rich and expressive life." A nadleehi person, best translated as "one who is transformed," comfortably embodies both the feminine and the masculine, and were thought by the Navajo to be gifted and extraordinary.
The film explains this concept in detail, adding that in other Native American cultures, "two-spirited" people were widely accepted, if not celebrated. The spectrum of gender wasn't polarized. Homosexuality was similarly welcomed.
But Fred would be murdered over who he was. Shaun Murphy, 18 at the time, bludgeoned 16-year-old Fred to death in 2001. The degree to which Fred's body was beaten, experts say, reveals this to be a hate crime because of the obvious passion behind it. (Those who commit hate crimes often "overkill" their victims.)
Fred's mother, Pauline Mitchell, speaks openly and carefully in the film. She is the most devastating figure of all, especially when describing how Fred has appeared to her in dreams, comforting her and dancing in the mountains. But this film doesn't offer any quick uplifts — it ends abruptly, leaving the injustice searing through the audience.
Two Spirits isn't on the schedule for the Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival, or the Independent Film Society of Colorado, but screenings can be requested through the film's website. There, you can also watch the trailer and read in-depth information about Fred, the idea of two spirits, and ways to get involved: twospirits.org.