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Two Spirits, One Community

Society & Culture  (tags: American Indians, Native Americans, Native American Rights, culture, society, ethics, family, freedoms )

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Summit aims to increase acceptance, end violence against gay Native Americans...

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kat yazzie (400)
Monday May 24, 2010, 11:10 am


Summit aims to increase acceptance, end violence against gay Native Americans
by Katie Burford Herald Staff Writer

Break the silence.
That's what organizers of a summit on Native American sexual assault say needs to happen for the cycle of abuse to end.

To lead by example, Our Sister's Keeper, the domestic violence organization hosting the event, will take on one of the most uncomfortable topics in native cultures: violence against "two spirit" individuals, as those who are gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual have been described.

"On native lands, trying to get the secret out sometimes is almost taboo," said Diane Millich, founding executive director of Our Sister's Keeper.

It's a subject with unique relevance to this area.

In 2001, Fred Martinez, a transgender youth from Cortez, was beaten to death on a dark, dirt road in a hate-motivated killing.

Martinez's story was the focus of a 2009 documentary, called "Two Spirits: Sexuality, Gender and the Murder of Fred Martinez." The film will be screened as part of the free one-day event at Sun Ute Community Center in Ignacio.

Millich said that people of "two spirits" were once venerated among native cultures.

"It was holy. It was almost like a spiritual thing. You had both the feminine and masculine in one body. Somewhere along the years it turned into a phobia," Millich said.

The term used in the film is nádleehí, someone who possesses a balance of masculine and feminine traits.

Though Martinez' death was horrific, the case is not without peers.

In 2008, a 20-year-old from Greeley who went by Angie Zapata was fatally battered with a fire extinguisher after a sexual partner learned Zapata's gender.

And, in 2002 in California, a transgender youth who was born as Eddie Araujo Jr. but went by Gwen Araujo was savagely beaten and strangled by three men after they discovered he was male.

The murder was the basis for a Lifetime television program, "A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story." Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, will speak at the summit.

Cambria Bizardi, victim advocate coordinator for Our Sister's Keeper, said Guerrero will cover how communities can reconcile their prejudices and support people like Araujo.

"Her presentation is going to be really powerful," she said.

Millich said the summit, which is open to the public and will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, is funded by a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Millich said it follows lasts year's summit, which also focused on preventing sexual assault and "exploring the scared family in Native communities."

This year's summit has the same theme but examines a different dimension.

"Native family no longer means heterosexual mom and dad," she said.

In addition to the film screening and talk by Guerrero, the summit will include a panel discussion and various breakout forums on subjects such as stopping abuse on native lands, preventing suicide after sexual assault, and raising two spirit children.

Millich said that, in 2003, there was around 6,500 reported incidents of domestic violence involving lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender people.

Six of those incidents resulted in murder, she said.

"If we all come together as community talking about this and we break the silence maybe at that point that's where we're going to break some of these statistics," she said.

Mack David (100)
Monday May 24, 2010, 11:15 am

Diane B (34)
Monday May 24, 2010, 12:25 pm
"It was holy. It was almost like a spiritual thing. You had both the feminine and masculine in one body. Somewhere along the years it turned into a phobia," Millich said.

Barbara K (60)
Monday May 24, 2010, 12:49 pm
Thanks for posting this story. It is so sad that there is a segment of this society that thinks they need to find someone to hate. Today it is Gays, tomorrow, who knows? We need to somehow stop the hatred the threatens to make lives for some a living hell. If God didn't want gay people, he wouldn't have made anyone gay.

AWAY AWHILE Cal Mendelsohn (1067)
Monday May 24, 2010, 2:45 pm
thanks Kat--

You cannot currently send a star to Kat because you have done so within the last week.

FreeSpirit Running (320)
Monday May 24, 2010, 4:02 pm
Thank you dearest Kat ~ very important article here.

People can have sexual preferences, it doesn't make them bad people. To each his/her own in my opinion. No one on Earth has the right to judge anyones preference, let alone "kill" them for it, this is so wrong.

Please spread the love, not the hate...

In peace always,

Lynn Christy (64)
Monday May 24, 2010, 4:25 pm
noted, thanks for the story Kat... hatred and judgment are wrong, no matter what the reason... it needs to stop... =(

Talldeer C (47)
Monday May 24, 2010, 4:43 pm
Wado as always Beautiful Kat..As you know this is very close to me as I live this every day of my life.."I AM TWO SPIRIT"Bless all that stand by use..We are but people with familys..We Love,feel,hurt & bleed just like you...Don't hate and hurt...Learn to accept and love...Bless you all.....Love & Hugs Cloe..

Rhonda Maness (580)
Monday May 24, 2010, 4:53 pm
Thanks Kat!

Debbie Hogan (115)
Monday May 24, 2010, 7:46 pm
Sad to see how feelings have changed so much toward Two Spirits...Respect replaced by ignorance,fear and hate....Destructive...Totally destructive...

Henry P (171)
Monday May 24, 2010, 9:06 pm
Thanks for the post Kat

Past Member (0)
Tuesday May 25, 2010, 5:31 am
Thank you!

patricia lasek (317)
Tuesday May 25, 2010, 5:42 am
Go back to the old beliefs and reject the white man's teaching about homosexuality. My nephew is homosexual and I know I would be devastated if he were a victim of a HATE crime due to his sexual orientation. Live and let live. It's not up to man to judge!

Mima M (244)
Tuesday May 25, 2010, 6:19 am
Thanks Kat.

AA S (136)
Tuesday May 25, 2010, 11:11 am another disease introduced by Europeans. To think many settlers thought Native People were primitive! I think progressive would have been a better word. Very interesting, thanks.

Debbie Hogan (115)
Tuesday May 25, 2010, 8:06 pm
Yes, the settlers and "Christians" who sought to reform and "civilize" the indigenous people of this land completely underestimated them.The true natives of this land were...and are... more enlightened by far...

Debbie G (306)
Thursday May 27, 2010, 8:04 pm
Some people just need to have something to hate...the only thing I hate is hatred itself.

sue M (184)
Saturday May 29, 2010, 2:17 am
Two of my best friends are gay. I could not care less whether they are or not but I care that they are happy and loved. They have been only what best friends are supposed to be and more but sadly they have a battle in their minds because society says it's be who they are out of fear. Personal integrity needs to be taught more. Maybe people will be much more accepting of others if they themselves had some.

John Tambeau (8)
Friday May 27, 2011, 5:47 am
I'am very disgusted to call myself white. Fred was a beautiful soul. I'm a gay person who identity's with native american cultures and peoples who have been harmed by white corporate american and the power structure. I also like to educate myself regarding native american culture as they have lots in common with gay people. the spirit essence has been cut by the social false self system. Being gay is a soul thing.

My identity is this my soul is gay, my heart is of a buddhist and my spirit is that of a native american warrior. My animal spirit is that of a bengali tiger beauty beast and the right to exist anyway I so choice.

P.S. john Tambeau
AKA Queerspirit
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