Marlon “Marty” Fixico was born in 1957 in Oklahoma to a Seminole father and a Cheyenne mother. Marty’s early awareness of his attraction to men was impossible to separate from the sexual abuse he received from an older cousin starting when he was five years old; all of it together fed a deep secret shame. He hid himself, ironically, by becoming popular at school and getting all A’s. When he was accepted into Haskell Indian Nations University, an all-Native college in Lawrence, Kansas, Marty felt a new sense of belonging. At age nineteen, he went with his roommate to a sweat lodge, where he experienced a deep spiritual connection with eagles; Marty was told later that the eagles were his family, and would always be there if he needed help.
Marty joined a bowling league at Haskell, where he met Lynn. She was the first person Marty told he was gay, and she was incredibly supportive, almost nonchalant. They became best friends, often cuddling and sleeping in the same bed together. When they unexpectedly made love one morning, it was one of the happiest days of Marty’s life. After their first breakup a few weeks later, Marty told Lynn, “I don’t ever wanna lose you.” They got married on graduation day so their friends could attend. Marty and Lynn were married five years, four of which were “pretty good,” and had two daughters together. When they moved to Idaho to be closer to Lynn’s family, the marriage flamed out, but Marty still always considered Lynn “the love of my life.”
At his friend Kebin’s invitation, in 1983, Marty took a bus to Washington, DC and moved in with a house of other Native American gay men. Marty thought he’d only stay a couple weeks, especially when he realized Kebin had invited him in hopes of becoming boyfriends; but within 8 days of his arrival, the Bureau of Indian Affairs offered Marty a job, and he stayed. Marty and his housemates, the self-dubbed “Indian mafia,” frequented DC’s gay bars as a group: “We were hot shit and we knew it.” Meanwhile, the AIDS crisis kept mounting. Marty drank more and more, went to the “sleaziest” bars, even slept with men with lesions. He tried going back to Oklahoma, tried sobriety, tried church; but when his pastor couldn’t handle Marty being gay, he went back to drinking, and back to DC, where he “finally fell in love” with Kebin. They exchanged vows under the cherry blossom trees in 1988.
In 1989, Kebin tested positive for HIV, and in June 1994, Kebin’s mother called Marty at work and said, “Come now.” Marty held Kebin and told him it was okay to let go. An HIV educator and active member of the burgeoning two-spirit movement, Kebin was always more of an activist than Marty; after Kebin’s death, Marty picked up where Kebin had left off and became involved in two-spirit spaces. He attended two-spirit gatherings, connected with his family’s legacy as medicine people, led ceremonies, and created a two-spirit online community. He also joined AA, and in 2022 celebrated 26 years of sobriety.
In his OUTWORDS interview, Marty was kind, thoughtful, and radiated a sense of peace. On August 13, 2022, less than three months later, he passed away. We imagine that he is soaring with the eagles, and thank him for making time to share his story with us before his transition to the next realm.