An individual who was Mexico’s initial publicly identified non-binary magistrate and a well-known advocate for the LGBTQ+ community was discovered deceased in their residence in the central state of Aguascalientes.
Jesús Ociel Baena, who used they/them pronouns, was celebrated across Latin America for their work to advance the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
The cause of death is under investigation, according to Rosa Icela Rodríguez, Mexico’s security minister.
During the president’s routine morning press conference, she stated that the cause is still undetermined, whether it was a deliberate killing or an unintentional incident.
However, activists advocating for human rights have brought attention to the fact that Mexican officials have a track record of disregarding murders as acts of emotion and have requested a thorough inquiry into whether Baena’s death was linked to their gender identity.
According to Alejandro Brito, the director of Letra S, an LGBTQ+ rights organization, Baena’s online presence made them vulnerable and he called on authorities to consider this in their investigation.
According to Brito, the individual in question faced frequent and disturbing hate messages, including violent threats and death threats. These factors cannot be disregarded in the investigation, as the person was bravely challenging the barriers faced by the nonbinary community.
Baena was one of the most prominent members of the LGBTQ+ community in a nation where queer individuals frequently face violent persecution. They had previously been threatened with death.
In October 2022, Baena became the first person to be sworn in as a magistrate on the Aguascalientes state electoral tribunal while standing in front of the rainbow LGBTQ+ flag. This momentous occasion was captured in a photo shared by Baena on their Twitter/X account with the caption “Making history”.
According to a statement from the Aguascalientes state prosecutor’s office, Baena’s remains were discovered alongside the remains of another individual, who has been identified by local media as Baena’s partner.
The initial results suggested that there was no involvement of a third party at the location and that the fatalities may have been related to a personal issue, according to the statement.
The office stated that the authorities are conducting a forensic examination to ascertain the reason for the individual’s passing.
Baena frequently shared images and videos of themselves wearing skirts and heels, while carrying a rainbow fan, at court offices. They also used their social media platforms, which had hundreds of thousands of followers, to promote their advocacy work.
“I identify as non-binary and am not interested in being gendered as either a woman or a man. This is my personal identity and belongs to me alone,” Baena tweeted on Twitter/X in June. “Please accept and respect it.”
Shortly before their passing, Baena received a certificate from the electoral court acknowledging them with gender-neutral pronouns as a “maestre.” This was a significant development in Spanish, a language that traditionally distinguishes between male and female genders.
According to Brito, there has been progress in Mexico’s efforts to decrease violence against the LGBTQ+ community in recent years. However, his organization noticed a significant increase in these violent incidents in 2019, with a documented 117 deaths of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the country. These incidents often involved gruesome methods such as stabbings and public killings.
Brito expressed concern that the passing of Baena could lead to more acts of violence targeting queer communities.
According to Brito, if this was a bias-motivated crime, the perpetrator likely intended to send a message. This message is meant to intimidate and warn others that they could face similar consequences if they publicly reveal their identities.
To honor Baena, activists in the LGBTQ+ community have organized vigils and protests on Monday evening in Aguascalientes, Mexico City, Monterrey, and other notable cities.
Arturo Zaldívar, the previous head of Mexico’s highest court, expressed great sorrow over Baena’s passing.
He stated on social media that we have lost a powerful advocate for fairness and the rights of LGBTI+ individuals.