One of our martyrs, our many martyrs, FRED C. MARTINEZ was born on this date. Martinez was a 16-year-old Navajo boy who thought of himself as female. Another term for Martinez among indigenous peoples is nadleehi or “two-spirit.” His friends adored him. Had he been born a woman, one of his teacher’s said, he’d have been the most popular girl in town.
They also feared what a violent world might have in store for someone like Fred C. Martinez Jr. Martinez died on June 16, 2001 at the hands of a man who beat him to death because he was different. He was beaten to death by one Shaun Murphy who bragged about the killing. Murphy was later sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering Martinez. Martinez’s mother spoke about her son a few days after his murder: No one could say it better:
“I am his mother and now I want to make sure the truth is told about Fred by people who loved him. With more and more talk about his death, the police looking into his murder, and the details of my son’s personal life in the media, it is time to speak the truth about Fred’s life. The most important thing I can say is that I loved Fred. I loved my son exactly for who he was, for his courage in being honest and gentle and friendly. It is sad that he had to face pain in his daily life and in school.
“What I wanted for my son was for him to be accepted and loved, just like I accepted and loved him. Fred was always proud to be Navajo. Fred did not struggle with who he was, but he was hurt because of the people who had problems with my son expressing himself honestly. I hope that the police and the District Attorney will talk about this and bring justice for the death of my son. I am grateful to Fred’s friends for accepting him the way he was and remembering him for who he was. Fred’s family loved and cared deeply for all of who he was. We firmly believe that Fred’s murder was a hate crime. Because he was different his life was taken from him, and we will never know the person Fred would have become.”
An excellent documentary film was made about this called Two Spirit Directed by Lydia Nibley. Also Known As: Two Spirits: Sexuality, Gender, and the Murder of Fred Martinez a trailer can be seen and a DVD is available for sale here: http://twospirits.org