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Help us get this life-changing film into more hands, now.

Blog Aug 07, 2011 No Comments

When people know, they do care

A prominent philanthropist once turned away our modest funding request saying, “No one knows, and no one cares,” as his response to Fred’s story and the message of the Native Two-Spirit tradition. But now that TWO SPIRITS has aired with such great success on PBS, many people do KNOW and do CARE. Now we can change even more hearts and minds.

Many of you have asked us (some demanded even) to work harder to get the film placed in more colleges and universities, communities of faith, and in the hands of more nonprofit organizations.

Contribute to this campaign so that more TWO SPIRITS DVD’s can be distributed to libraries, nonprofit organizations for use in their programs, tribal organizations, colleges and universities. We’ve got a long list of organizations standing by to receive copies provided by viewers. Thank you for expanding the reach of the film in this important way.

PBS stations that chose to air TWO SPIRITS covered about 90% of the country, but that leaves roughly 10 percent where the film is needed most and hasn’t been seen. We’re working quickly to raise $10,000 to target outreach and education efforts to place TWO SPIRITS where it can do great good.

Please help make this happen–a few dollars go a long way


Your Comments

Comments Jun 09, 2011 5 Comments

Please share your stories, ideas and comments here. We’d love to hear how Two Spirits has touched your life.

Melissa Thompson wrote:

I received (my two copies) in the mail, watched it within 15 minutes and cried my heart out. Beautifully done but so, so sad. When will we as humans realize we are all one, and respect eachother?? I doesn’t feel right to say thank you …but thank you for sharing him/her with us, in that way “Fred’s spirit will continue to soar”.

Lenny Hayes wrote:

A beautiful and tragic story……. Quite educating on the meaning of being Two-Spirited. I am a proud Dakota Two-Spirit of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. Our voices are being told through this story. Thank You so much for making this film!

Brey wrote:

People are scared of the unfamiliar, not normal. I can speak from a female point of view. I am 41 right now, and have accepted who I am, but for years struggling with a small town mid-west upbringing. My mother was very supportive of me being me, which was an extreme “tomboy” to the point of being mistaken as a boy quite often in my pre-teen years. However society and other very influential people in my life were not.

My opinion is that a lot of that confusion in school led to many many fights when I was young. Girls couldn’t figure out why boys liked me even though I dressed like them and not all girly… I could do wood and metal shop as well as any of the boys. To this day my children know that I have more of a male personality than a female, and they are good with it.

Winnie Mabee wrote:

I just saw this film in Columbia, Missouri. It was great. If you get the chance to see it or have the opportunity to use it in your classroom, DO IT!!! It was truly moving and definitely educates people about what is going on as far as hate crimes and educates about genders and two spirits.

Eva-Genevieve Scarborough wrote:

We showed the film at our Church a few months ago and it was very well received – several people told me it opened their eyes on the subject. I have watched the movie myself several times because much of it strikes a chord with my own feelings and experiences as a transgender/two-spirit woman.

Christie Walter wrote:

As a two spirited Wolastoqiyik Maliseet person: I want to say Woliwon (thank-you) for the experience of witnessing that video. Peace

Two-Spirit by Mariposa Villaluna

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 you are 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 could he 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.

My biological father would talk about how gay people are evil and sinful, 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 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 custody 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 a balance and a gift. A gift my father never embraced, and was taught to be ashamed of. 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 go there get in a fight, 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 entering Cortez 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. That boy felt no guilt and bragged about his death. This hate upon Native Americans, lesbian, gay, two-spirit, transgender, and intersex peoples happen 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.

– by Mariposa Villaluna, Republished by POOR Magazine/PNN Network



What would happen if 6 million people changed their minds?

Blog Mar 25, 2011 2 Comments

With your help we can reach millions

Making the film TWO SPIRITS began when I sat with Fred’s mother at his grave and she poured out her heart to me.

The experience transformed me from someone who had very little awareness, to someone who fully embraces gender diversity, because I see how much it adds to all of our lives.The tragic story of a mother’s loss of her child to a brutal murder has challenged us to answer the question she raised, “Why are people killed for being who they are?” And learning that there was a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female, and that there is a place of honor in many Native American cultures for people across a spectrum of sexuality and gender expression, has been a gift. Read more »

“We’Wha the Revered Zuni Man-Woman”

Blog Feb 15, 2011 No Comments

Many people who have seen TWO SPIRITS want to learn more about the important historical figure We’wha (WAY-wah).

In 1886 Washington, D.C. was emerging as the metropolitan capital of a growing nation. The trauma of the Civil War was past; industrialization and urbanization were in full swing. In the West, the last Indian tribes had been defeated. America had achieved its so-called “manifest destiny.” Now it was beginning to face the consequences of rapid growth and settlement. In Washington, a new generation of young professionals was eager to tackle these problems, especially the exploration of the West and its resources, including understanding more about its vanishing native people. Prominent among these were the anthropologists Matilda Coxe Stevenson, one of America’s first women scientists, and her rival, Frank Hamilton Cushing, an eccentric young man fascinated with native people since his childhood.

Four years earlier Cushing had brought a delegation of Zuni Indians on a much-publicized tour of the eastern United States. Stevenson decided she had to keep up, and so early that year she brought a remarkable cultural ambassador to the nation’s capital.

The Zuni “princess” We’wha (WAY-wah), as the local papers dubbed her, was an instant celebrity. Throughout the spring of 1886, she mingled with politicians, government officials, politicians, and the local elite. She befriended the speaker of the house and called on his wife. She demonstrated Zuni weaving on the Mall and worked with anthropologists at the Smithsonian Institution. She even appeared in a charity event at the National Theatre before an audience of senators, congressmen, Supreme Court justices, and the president. Finally, in early June, she paid a personal call on President Cleveland himself.

At six feet, the Zuni “princess” was one of the tallest and, according to Stevenson, strongest members of her tribe. No one in Washington doubted that the visitor from Zuni was a woman, but, in fact, We’wha was born a man. We’wha grew up as an individual who combined male and female traits in a socially-recognized third gender role. Two-spirit people often held honored and influential positions. We’wha was an accomplished potter and weaver, and a recognized expert in Zuni religion. That such an individual could become a representative for the Zuni tribe underscores the degree to which individual differences in gender and sexuality were accepted at the time. In most tribes the ability to combine male and female skills and qualities was not viewed as a liability but as a gift. It came as no surprise to the Zunis that We’wha would travel thousands of miles, overcoming the obstacles of language and culture, to live and mingle with the leaders of a powerful nation. Someone like We’wha was expected to be extraordinary.

Read more in the book The Zuni Man-Woman by Will Roscoe, recipient of the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Society of Applied Anthropology, and a Lambda Literary Award for nonfiction.

Two-Spirit Contributions

Blog Jan 11, 2011 1 Comment

Two-Spirit Contributions

The ongoing success of the annual International Two-Spirit Gathering, the higher profile for Two-Spirit issues in the media, and the national and international release of the documentary film Two Spirits are raising the visibility of Two-Spirit people and their contributions to society. Many indigenous peoples recognized centuries ago the natural complexity of sexuality and gender, and have identified multiple genders and held an honored role for people now described as “LGBT” as ambassadors, healers, counselors, matchmakers, parents to orphaned children, artists, and medicine people who are seen as having special gifts to contribute to the society because of their Two-Spirit status.

Native American scholars are reclaiming ancient beliefs about gender and sexuality that are found in Native cosmology, traditions and ceremonies, and cultural stories. Unfortunately, the research conducted in scholarly circles rarely, if ever, reaches the general public or the media and therefore has not been a focal part of the public advocacy done on behalf of LGBT and Two-Spirit people. For example, in the public debate surrounding marriage rights it has been common to hear unquestioned references to “traditional” marriage without including the voices of Native people who could explain that recognized partnership between people of the same gender has been a part of traditional life on the North American continent for thousands of years. There are critically important lessons to be learned from the way many indigenous people have successfully attended to issues of gender and sexuality, and exploring these ideas will help shape more progressive and humane attitudes and behaviors.

Raising Awareness About Two-Spirit Issues

The Two-Spirit community wants to ensure that Native spirituality is included in interfaith discussions and in the dialogue around LGBT issues taking place in communities of faith. Two-Spirit leaders are working to have Native spirituality included in interfaith coalitions and in the national dialogue taking place between the LGBT community and people of faith to include nature-based cosmologies that respect the variety of ways in which human beings naturally manifest their sexuality and express a range of gender. This information is a welcome addition to the ecumenical dialogue around LGBT issues.

Native Two-Spirit people are more vulnerable to homophobic violence and also to self-inflicted violence and suicide than the general LGBT population. Native LGBT teen suicide is a particularly urgent issue, and clearly a major contributing factor is that many two-spirit youth lack a sense of connection to the inherent dignity and respect that should rightly be afforded Two-Spirit traditions and values. Many Two-Spirit people live in geographic isolation from LGBT resources and/or in cultural separation from their two-spirit traditions. Native LGBT people want to be more connected to each other, and they also want to be more involved in making a difference to LGBT equality work locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Some issues of greatest concern and where more support is needed include:  violence reduction, safe schools initiatives, suicide prevention programs, LGBT equality work, religious inclusion efforts, youth at risk programs, marriage equality efforts, anti-discrimination programs in the workplace, racial equality and civil rights work, human-rights initiatives, advocacy for policy change at the local, state, and federal level.

Building On Strengths and Meeting Needs

Two-Spirit people want to be more connected to each other and to their heritage, and to be more involved in making a difference locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. For thousands of years, many indigenous cultures had traditional roles of authority and leadership for women, same sex relationships were celebrated, transgender people were respected for the contribution they made to society, and there was a place of honor in the culture for people who expressed multiple genders. On the North American continent, people from many tribal traditions have lived for thousands of years in the fully equal kind of life that present-day civil- and human-rights activists are striving to achieve for LGBT people. It is important to bring this history forward to positively influence the future.

The intersection of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and social justice is deserving of special attention by foundations and individual philanthropists. There has been a long-term lack of funding for the organizational development and capacity-building of individual Two-Spirit groups nationwide, and this lack of funding continues to weaken the Two-Spirit community’s collective ability to meet its own needs. The majority economic profile of LGBT Native people is poor or working poor and this status is unfortunately reinforced by the lack of opportunity afforded Two-Spirit people as they face discrimination in their own tribal communities and in the culture at large. It is essential that that the Two-Spirit community finally receive the funding and organizational development and capacity-building support necessary to address basic needs and to establish the ability of the community to meet its objectives of health, stability, and cultural revitalization.

The leaders and activists of the Two-Spirit movement are working to shape more progressive national attitudes toward gender and sexuality with the general public and within tribal communities. Two-Spirit people are making the most of the increased awareness generated by the film Two Spirits and other resources to build the framework for long-term development and by working with public sector partners, foundations, philanthropists, and tribal leaders. Thank you for your help in raising awareness and visibility and for sharing the information and stories that make a difference.


Blog Oct 29, 2010 No Comments

THE MEANING OF HOME by producer Russell Martin

When Fred Martinez’s savagely beaten body was discovered in a shallow canyon on the southern edge of Cortez, Colorado, five days after he had disappeared from a rodeo carnival, news of his murder shocked and outraged friends of mine in Cortez. I also struggled to come to terms with a crime that seemed incomprehensible, particularly because I had grown up in Cortez forty years before. For me, too, the annual visit of that same traveling carnival was an event I eagerly anticipated—providing me, as it did Fred, a raucous and brightly lit glimpse into the world that lay beyond the high mountains that ring the isolated town. Yet when I returned to my hometown to help make Two Spirits, I discovered a community that no longer seems separated from the larger society, one now as multicultural and multifaceted as any American place, one where national celebrities build expensive vacation homes, but where poverty and despair remain endemic; a place where gay immigrants are welcomed and integrated readily in the community, but also where a terrible hate crime took the life of a beloved young man on a celebratory summer night.

Like the Diné—the Navajo, who believe they first entered the world through a reed high on a mountain that shadows Cortez, I entered the world there as well, although, in my case, via the rather more commonplace route. I was young in Cortez and optimistic and impatient to make my way out into the world at large, just as Fred had been. Like him, I was a teenager who was eager to fit in, yet I was similarly aware that something about who I most deeply was meant that I never could do so completely. The high school from which Fred repeatedly was sent home to put on boy’s clothes was the same school where a job-weary Army sergeant who headed the ROTC squadron long ago ordered his teenage soldiers-to-be to beat some sense into me, a wannabe hippy who wore long hair and openly argued against the war in Vietnam. Both Fred and I were regularly taunted and teased and sometimes felt the blows of our adversaries’ fists; both of us had circles of friends who, we knew, would defend us, as well a godsend teacher or two who did their best to assure us that we mattered and that high school really could be survived.

But our boyhoods differed in dramatic ways as well. I was raised in a modest red-brick, ranch-style house fourteen blocks from the trailer park where Fred and his family lived, but the distance might as well have been a world away. I had many advantages he did not, and I personally knew nothing of the racism, classism, and genderism that shaped his days. And I’m made forever uneasy when I note as well that I successfully departed Cortez, went to college, and made my way safely into middle age; by now I’ve seen much of the world he could only long to discover. My history troubles me because it stands in such sharp contrast to the reality that Fred’s life was cut outrageously short, that it came to a close in only his sixteenth summer, at the rim of a trash-littered sandstone outcrop just a quarter-mile from his home. Life doesn’t offer each of us equal destinies, of course, and a search for fairness is likely as futile as the hunt for any other absolute, yet during the making of Two Spirits, I’ve thought at length about the magnetic poles of privilege and poverty, the terrible blow of intolerance, the essential nature of the masculine and the feminine and the exquisite interplay between them that metaphorically and quite literally gives us life. I’ve wondered too about the meaning of home, about the strong and securing gift of place—that Four Corners country, in particular, which the Navajo believe is the beautiful locus of the world—as well as the vital gift of getting away from a place that feels too small to contain the life you want to live. I’ve considered as completely as I could murder’s true meaning and the violence it visits on the living as well as the deeply grieved dead, and I’ve considered whether a killing ever can be redeemed.

It was an enormous honor for me to help bring this film into being. It’s a movie that’s inextricably linked to a place I never truly can leave. I am bound to Cortez and the emotive landscape surrounding it in precisely the way a child powerfully and forever loves a parent, yet in the time since I was roughly Fred Martinez’s age, I have brought to it a dozen other emotions as well including anger with those in my hometown for whom anything “different” is somehow dangerous and probably virulently contagious as well, rage at those who twist their own deep wounds into reckless and catastrophic violence. Yet I remain enchanted by the feel and pungent aromas of the region’s ragged forests of piñon and juniper trees; I love the cliff-line of Mesa Verde gone red at almost every sunset; the certain paradise of cool summer mornings. I’m strangely buoyed by the site of men in irrigating boots leaning against the bed of a battered pickup, their important conversations sometimes virtually wordless; I’m hugely comforted by the deepening lines in the faces of people I’ve known for fifty years as well as their strong embraces; and my heart rises with a kind of solace I can’t explain when someone from far away discovers the region around Cortez and decides to stake a claim to it, making a new and true home out of the place that became home to Fred Martinez and me without our ever having chosen it.

“These things happened a long time ago,” a Navajo storyteller often will say as she begins to spin her tale, meaning, without saying so, that it magically remains as potent today as the touch of the sun on your skin. Like hers, Two Spirits tells a story that is as current as each new dawn, a tale about a remarkable—some said blessed—boy with an enchanting smile and singular ways who touched a vital place in the souls of many people. It’s a story that affirms, too, that each of us possesses—in our unique ways—both the male and female halves of the divinely mysterious whole, and that in combination they offer us the vital thing in our lives that the Diné label balance.