Two Spirits: A Documented Challenge to the Postmodern Gender System

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Cameron Diaz in the new movie "The Other Woman"

DVD review

Two Spirits is a documentary honoring Navajo Indian Fred Martinez who was brutally murdered at just 16 years old. He was killed outside of Cortez, Colorado in 2001. Fred is considered “one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history,”  according to the documentary.

Scene form the film "Two Spirits."

Scene form the film “Two Spirits.”

The nádleehí people (transgendere people) were once revered by the Navajo and other Native American tribes in both culture and spirituality for having traits of two genders. Two-spirited people were seen as individuals who have heightened knowledge of the world around them. Nádleehí people in the Navajo culture account for one of four or more genders. The English term for embodying female and male characteristics has been reinvented as the term “two-spirit” which serves as an umbrella term for nádleehí and other queer people. 

While nádleehí people do not follow contemporary gender norms of masculinity and femininity, instead they mix traits considered male and female with great fluidity. Whereas embracing a label of genderqueerness can attempt to eradicate notions of gender completely, the term two spirit is an embrace of traits which are considered male or female in a celebration of both masculinity and femininity in one body. The documentary showcases the little-known concept of two-spirited people while showing audience members that there have been and always will be more to the gender system than just two genders. 

The film documents Fred’s life through interviews with his friends and family in the retelling of the way that he lived and the way that he died. Fred’s mother spoke about the celebrated nature of his gender, noting the honor, contradicting the shame that many would expect from a mother of a child whose gender does not fit into the contemporary gender system. 

For more information visit www.twospirits.org.

DVD review

Two Spirits is a documentary honoring Navajo Indian Fred Martinez who was brutally murdered at just 16 years old. He was killed outside of Cortez, Colorado in 2001. Fred is considered “one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history,”  according to the documentary.