Navajo Fred Martinez identity cost him his life: 'Two Spirits'
Fred Martinez identity cost him his life. At age 16, he was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was murdered in Cortez, Colorado. Fred Martinez was considered by the Navajo people to be a special gift. That is, one of Two Spirits, possessing a balance of masculine and feminine traits.
In 2001, 16-year-old Fred Martinez was brutally murdered near his hometown of Cortez, Colorado. He was poor, Navajo, and transgendered – a girl in a boy’s body. Fred was blessed to have grown up with the cultural belief there are four genders, not only male and female but mixed identities like his. Among his own people, he was accepted as nádleehí, a word that means “one who constantly transforms” in the Navajo language; it connotes a spiritual and sexual being who is also known to and honored by other Native American cultures as a “two-spirit person.” The traditional roles of such people have included healing, mediation, and the parenting of orphans. The tragedy of Fred’s life, however, is that also he grew up in small-town America, where far narrower views of both ethnicity and gender ultimately proved fatal to him.
A documentary by Lydia Nibley released last month at the Starz Denver Flim Festival, titled Two Spirits, tells the story of the life and death of Martinez.
Why are people harassed, attacked, and killed simply for being who they are? How do these crimes affect society as a whole? And what do we do to end these tragedies? This powerful documentary—together with the project’s interconnected outreach components—place what occurred in Colorado in a universal context, illuminating one of the most complex issues of our day through the story of Fred Martinez.
The number of anti-LGBT incidents reported to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has risen in the past two years, which signals a retrograde environment where violent incidents that range from threats, harassment, and vandalism, to physical assault with weapons and vehicles, and escalate even to torture and murder are on the increase.
Fatal assaults against gender non-conforming people continue to rise, and many teens have been murdered in attacks motivated by their gender identity or gender expression--most of color, disadvantaged, and gay, lesbian, or transgender. Chillingly, offenders who were 18 years of age or under represent fully twenty percent of all offenders. There has also been a disturbing increase in gang-style violence, in which a group of perpetrators "hunt" someone they identify as LGBT, targeting them for harassment or violence.
One of the most important ways to change this dynamic within the culture is by telling the stories that humanize the issues and transform fear and bigotry into insight and compassion.
"Two Spirits has been adopted by more than fifty groups for use in programs aimed at violence reduction, suicide prevention, LGBT equality, and the promotion of safe schools."
Learn about The Fred Martinez Project
Read previous NowPublic coverage on Transgendered Individuals
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North Tonawanda, New York, United States