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Guest Blogger

Must-See TV: The Movie "Two Spirits"

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 16, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: brit hume, Carlos Gonzales, indian, Native American, pbs, religion, two spirits

Editors' note: Pam Daniels is a writer and activist with 23 years experience in broadcast news and media including the staff of a former Governor.

pam-daniels.pngThe movie Two Spirits will premier on PBS this coming June.

Two Spirits as described on the Cinema Guild website is the story of Fred Martinez who "was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine essence, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. He was one of the youngest hate crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at sixteen by a young man who bragged to friends that he had "bug-smashed a fag." Two Spirits explores the life and death of a boy who was also a girl and the essentially spiritual nature of gender and sexuality.

This movie is a must-see for every LGBT person, all gender congruent heterosexuals who support us and anyone else we can convince to watch it.

I first found out about Two Spirits from a recent post to our GRAANJ (Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey) news group, via my dear friend Babs Siperstein. Babs posted a press release about the broadcast premier of Two Spirits from another dear friend Cathy Renna, a contributor here on Bilerico who is also Managing Partner of Renna Communications.

My heart grew heavy reading about Fred Martinez at the above link because here we are, it's 2011 and still, LGBT people face the threat of violence, even death. Today in 2011 all the forces arrayed against enforcement of LGBT birthrights still exist. Even today in 2011, transgender and LGB people face the threat of physical assault despite national and some state laws on the books to prosecute offenders.

I have personal knowledge of what happened here in New Jersey nearly a year and a half ago. My good friends Neen and Mitze, a committed lesbian couple for more than eight years, feel forced to sell their home and move because of a neighbor who assaulted Neen and used anti-lesbian and gay slurs during the attack. This assailant recently got off scott-free because municipal and county authorities never investigated.

I stood with more than a hundred others in Princeton University's Chapel to read aloud the names of and the circumstances surrounding the death of all transgender people murdered during the previous twelve months. One of those was the name of a New Jersey trans woman, a kind and productive member of our citizenry who was brutally murdered only weeks before our annual Transgender Day Of Remembrance service at Princeton University.

I am an Eagle Scout, an accomplishment I'm very proud of. I was honored to be elected to the Order of the Arrow first as a teen in North Jersey, then again as an adult leader in Southeast Arizona where I lived for eight years. All members of the "OA" learn about the customs and traditions of local tribes, in my case the Oratam of North Jersey and the Apache of Southeast Arizona.

I was very pleased when University of Arizona Associate Professor and member of the Yaqui tribe Carlos Gonzales delivered his Native American invocation before President Obama spoke in Tucson Wednesday night. I had been reading about Fred Martinez earlier that afternoon and this excerpt struck me:

Although two-spirit people were celebrated in many tribes, as Europeans began to arrive on this continent Native views that the range of human sexuality is not a sin but a gift were met with genocide, the forced imposition of Christianity, and other kinds of subjugation that have resulted in many tribal communities losing touch with their two-spirit traditions. Native activists working to renew their cultural heritage adopted the English term "two-spirit" as a useful shorthand to describe the entire spectrum of gender and sexual expression that is better and more completely described in their own languages.

After the speech various right-wing Christians sought to deliberately perpetuate the myth that all people on earth must convert. I was particularly stunned while reading on Media Matters about the comments Britt Hume made on Fox News describing Professor Gonzales invocation as "most peculiar."

Mr. Hume needs to take some time to think just how "peculiar" Native Americans found the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion to be hundreds of years ago. Mr. Hume and others need to remember that our Constitution and Bill of Rights protect all religious and spiritual expression from interference by anyone else or government. Thankfully Professor Gonzales referred to "Two Spirited" people in his invocation.

At the root of all discrimination against LGBT people are the totally false beliefs proffered by people like Hume and the others quoted in the above link and their insistence on forcing everyone to believe as they do along with their willingness to violate our Constitution and Bill of Rights by incessantly using public law and policy to deny LGBT people our birthrights.

To win full enforcement of all our birthrights our LGBT community must do a much, much better job of education and outreach. We must be persistent and polite while each one of us takes our argument for full enforcement of our birthrights "in person" to everyone we know and meet.

The PBS premier of Two Spirits offers our LGBT community an excellent opportunity. PBS is certainly not known for dominating television ratings. We know that LGBT people make up anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of the population of this planet and therefore the United States. Let's at least strive to make Two Spirits break existing PBS ratings records but if we can, even better, let's make the ratings for this movie rival commercial broadcast and cable show ratings. Achieving a goal like this will not only help us educate gender congruent heterosexuals but it would also send a powerful message to those who continue to deny us our birthrights.

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This looks like a very interesting film, but I have to ask two things:

1. Um, who wrote this post? Sounds like it's probably someone I know or should. I can't seem to find the author's name anywhere.

2. GRAANJ has a news group? Where?

Pam Daniels Pam Daniels | January 16, 2011 3:32 PM

Hi Rebecca, Send me an email and I'll forward it to Babs to get you included. Pam

Pam Daniels Pam Daniels | January 16, 2011 3:38 PM

Duh, Rebecca we;re on Yahoo. Ciao, Pam

What's the name of the group, Pam? GRAANJ doesn't seem to be coming up on my searches.

Bizarre...I still can't get it to come up. If you could though, can you get me on the list (assuming Babs will have me ;))using this email: [email protected] which by the way is a great way to get in touch with me directly. Thanks! :)

Regan DuCasse | January 16, 2011 1:45 PM

Yeah, that crack by Bret Hume seriously pissed me OFF! And most of the anti gay speak as if NO CULTURES anywhere EVER accepted gay or transgendered people!
As if the Christian/Muslim meme is the same for everyone and it's always been that way.
To say that the marriage tradition between a man and a woman has ALWAYS been the tradition is a HUGE lie.

When indigenous people in Africa, in the Americas and Middle Asia were confronted with European colonials and missionaries, they MURDERED gay and transgendered people to get rid of them and intimidate the rest.
Something that still goes on...

In the 21st century, it's way past time the arrogant stop using fear, ignorance and violence to intimidate anyone from having their own mind and experience about gay people...and all the while trying to claim themselves as the most enlightened and intelligent about it.

Were that the truth, the result wouldn't be the suicides of children, and the horrific murders of gay teenagers like Freddie.
Goodness and beauty in the world, is followed by goodness and beauty.

Indeed, ochweyi...which is my NA tribe's word for 'both' accepts the third orientation and gendered person as the caring bridge between men and women.
And walking in beauty is a tradition of using one's talents to create beauty as a means of comforting and uplifting everyone.

There were also numerous pre-christian European cultures which accepted same sex attractions and to some extent it would seem some transgender situations though a lot of the records were destroyed so it can be harder to tell.

Pam Daniels Pam Daniels | January 16, 2011 4:24 PM

You're correct Rob. From my limited study I'm convinced that our problems began some 1600 years ago when Constantine decreed Christianity be the "state religion" of the Roman Empire. Soon after, the first religious fascists convened the "Council of Nicea" to codify a political order that deliberately excluded anyone who wasn't gender congruent heterosexual. That "divide and conquer" policy became the organizing principle of all Mediterranean and European governments. Jefferson and Franklin understood this and they deliberately set our young republic on a course that would eventually free itself from this religious fascism. We're just living out this "true creed."

Angela Brightfeather | January 16, 2011 6:25 PM

It is difficult to add to this in a positive way because of the death involved. But I will say that some of us in the Transgender community have been very aware of our history for some time, as evidenced by our group in Asheville, NC, that has been having gatherings for the last 12 years and the many, many presentations made at Trans conferences held everywhere.

We have always been of the mind that if Transgender people started learning about their gift from a more historical study of it, then they would have a much better point of reference than just the clothes, presentation or medical procedures they seem to focus on at the start of their coming out and transition journeys. I also hope that the APA and others who seem to label us, see this and decide they are only enforcing the Judseo/Christian beliefs that marginalize and discriminate against us.

I hope that this movie for TV also highlights the fact that the conscription of the Two Spirit beliefs of our First Peoples by GLB people, has wandered from the true nature of the Two Spirit. When looking at the history of the Nations, not all of them accepted the belief, but most of them did respect it and it forms the original bonds that make our community the GLBT community. Those who openly wish to separate the GLB from the T today and conscript the title of Two Spirit for themselves, are ignoring the truth and creating a revisionist history that serves no one.

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | January 17, 2011 3:17 PM

I think it is important to be aware that transgender people in some societies have been celebrated as being "gifted", rather than being demonized or be considered "dis-abled".

I think part of whatever political success I have had is because of having the perspective of living in both genders and using that experience in my dealings. I see that as a "gift" to be developed and used appropriately!

We need to celebrate "ourselves" in a positive manner, accent the positive, so to speak, to complement the message of the harm that society tolerates against us!

I feel that this movie should be mandatory viewing. Very powerful and troubling. I just posted it on my blog: http://hulshofschmidt.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/recommit-to-stopping-discrimination-on-mlk-holiday/
and hope it redirects thousands to this site. Thank you for doing the good work you are doing.


I'm very appreciative that my film TWO SPIRITS is a part of this important discussion about embracing gender difference for what it contributes to society. When more people understand the rich history of Two-Spirit traditions, the national conversation around gender and sexuality in the media, in communities of faith, and in families will become more humane. I believe this because I see it happening every day. I hear from parents who have embraced their LGBT children, Two-Spirit youth who are no longer suicidal because they have a sense of their value,and from people who are rethinking what "traditional" values actually means. The film team is working between now and June--when TWO SPIRITS is broadcast nationally on PBS--to reach out through social networks to have 6 million people see the film. This effort relies on individuals taking the initiative to connect the film and its messages with their friends, colleagues and family. There's a film Facebook page and also a place on the website at www.twospirits.org for people to sign up to receive a notice about the broadcast date. And the early preview DVD of TWO SPIRITS is available now. We're working to make sure that enough people see the film in advance of the PBS broadcast that they'll help spread the word and share the messages of the film as widely as possible. Compelling stories really do help change hearts and minds and Fred's life and death and the stories of other Two-Spirit people can make a difference.