Fred Martinez was a Navajo boy who was also a girl. In an earlier era, he would have been revered. Instead he was murdered.
By Mari V. , POOR Magazine
When I was little, I always knew my biological father was different than other dads. I used to tell my childhood friends, “My Dad acts like your Mom.” I remember the times when he would realize he would seem more feminine and then try to ‘buck up’ and act more masculine. I thought it was always funny, and didn’t really understand it when I was little. I remember telling him, “Dad, I like it more when your like a girl instead of you trying to be a boy.”
When I got older, I started to learn what the word gay meant. I started to ponder if my dad really had two spirits. I thought he did, but I didn’t understand how he could be married to my mom if he was. To me, it was no secret that my Dad never loved my mom the way I saw other two people love each other. I even remember finding an old picture of my parents kissing, and was so surprised to find out that they actually ever kissed.
Eventually my parents divorced, and I never wanted that to happen. I finally thought, well maybe they both can be happy since they don’t have each other. My mother found happiness without him, and remarried. My biological father found hate, became abusive, and a new wife whom he never kissed either.
I used to hear how my biological father would talk about how gay people are evil, and how they were going to hell. I thought it was weird how he always talked bad about gay people, and I knew he was gay. In my teenager circle, gay guys were the coolest guys, and I always came to them for advice. Finally, I thought I am going to confront him about being gay. I told him, “I think that God loves gay people as much as anyone else. God doesn’t hate gay people.” He was so furious that I said this, and began to scream and of course beat me in different ways. He finally admitted, “I used to be gay.” He still couldn’t say “I am gay.” He started to disown me after this, and eventually I was returned back to my mom.
I grew up with a Biological father who was taught by a society to hate himself for who he is. He learned that hate so well that he hurt his child physically, mentally, and spiritually. I still think if I had a father who loved himself, how would I have turned out? Would I still have him in my life? Could he heal himself and be free so could we have a relationship again?
I took these questions with me when I went to see the movie Two-Spirits, a movie about a Dine’ nádleehí (someone who possesses a balance of masculine and feminine traits) named Fred Martinez Jr. who was brutally killed about an hour from where I live. Traditionally in his culture, being two-spirit is seen as balance and a gift. A gift my father never embraced, and was taught to be ashamed. Martinez was sixteen, and one of the youngest hate-crime victims and was killed in Cortez, CO.
I have traveled to the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation many different times, which is next to Cortez, CO. I remember having a conversation with one of the tribal citizens over there. He would tell me, “I don’t go to Cortez. Every time I get in a fight there, they are so racist there.” With talking to other people on the reservation, he was not the only one who thought this. It seemed as if the folks I talked to when straight to Wal-mart when leaving and then right back to the reservation. I think about Fred, not only was he Native but also openly a two-spirit and was never ashamed of whom he was meant to be.
Fred Martinez left to go to a rodeo carnival and five days later was found dead. He was beaten to death. A human being who had so much love, caring, and laughter and gave it to the world was killed by a boy who bragged about his death. This hate upon lesbian, gay, two-spirit, transgender, and intersex peoples happens too often and is accepted by mainstream society. I work with kids where I hope to share a message of love and peace, where they can discuss their feelings and break down prejudices so it would never lead to the hurt of another human being.
My biological father never learned to love himself for who he fully was, but Fred did and it cost him his life. Fred I hope you are receiving my digital smoke signal in the spirit world and I want you to know that I honor you for who you are. I hope this article in some way honors your legacy and maybe that you became a martyr for the protection of other two-spirits, like my closeted biological father.
Two-Spirits will open your mind to a world that Fred walked, in being Native and two-spirited. It will make you laugh, cry, and wish for a better world. Hopefully, that wishing will turn into action and make you think about the world Fred walked in, so there will never be another death committed by hate.
For more about Indigenous Peoples Media Project of POOR Magazine go to poormagazine.org
TWO SPIRITS interweaves the tragic story of a mother’s loss of her son with a revealing look at a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.
Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. But the place where two discriminations meet is a dangerous place to live, and Fred became one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at sixteen. Between tradition and controversy, sex and spirit, and freedom and fear, lives the truth—the bravest choice you can make is to be yourself.
Visit the film’s website at TwoSpirits.org