Jesús Ociel Baena Saucedo, Mexico’s first openly non-binary magistrate and a LGBTQ+ activist, was found dead at their home in the central state of Aguascalientes. The news, reported hours ago, has shocked the LGBTQ+ community, sparking vigils, protests, and demands for a thorough investigation in Baena’s death.
Jesús Ociel Baena made history in October 2022 when they became the first openly non-binary person to assume a judicial position in Mexico.
This milestone was a moment for LGBTQ+ individuals in a country where discrimination and violence against queer communities persist at huge rates.
Jesús Ociel Baena’s appointment was celebrated not only locally but throughout Latin America. Baena, aged 38, was in the legal sphere but also a advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.
Their visibility on social media platforms made them a target for hate messages and threats of violence. Alejandro Brito, the director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Letra S, highlighted the challenges Baena faced, stating that they were “breaking through the invisible barriers that closed in the nonbinary community.”
The details surrounding Baena’s death are currently under investigation by local authorities. Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez stated that it is unclear whether it was a homicide or some kind of accident.
Findings from the state attorney-general’s office revealed that a sharp object was found at the scene, indicating that the incident could be a personal matter.
Jesús Ociel Baena’s partner was also found dead in the same residence. Baena’s advocating for gender identity rights was evident in their public presence.
They used they/them pronouns and received a gender-neutral passport in June, symbolizing progress in recognizing gender identities.
However, Baena’s visibility also made them a target for hate, with reports of numerous threats and messages of violence.
LGBTQ+ rights group Letra S has urged authorities to investigate the deaths without prejudice, considering the context of Baena’s activism.
The LGBTQ+ community, already facing violence and discrimination, fears that Baena’s death could further escalate acts of violence against queer individuals.
Brito expressed concern that if the incident was a crime motivated by prejudice, it could send a message of intimidation to others making their identities public.
The National Observatory of Hate Crimes Against LGBTI+ Persons in Mexico recorded 305 violent hate crimes against sexual minorities in 2019-2022, including murder and disappearances.
Thousands gathered in Mexico City for a vigil on Monday evening, demanding justice for Jesús Ociel Baena and honoring their legacy.
Chants of “We won’t stay silent” shouted through the crowd as candles were lit in memory of the activist. LGBTQ+ advocates addressed the need for a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Baena’s death.
They successfully advocated for the recognition of the gender-neutral noun “maestre” for magistrate, challenging traditional language norms that split the language between two genders, male and female.
Just weeks before their death, Baena received a certificate from the electoral court recognizing them with gender-neutral pronouns, marking milestone in their pursuit of equality.
While Mexico’s progress in reducing anti-LGBTQ+ violence, Brito’s group, Letra S, documented a uptick in such violence in 2019.
Concerns now linger that Baena’s death could contribute to further acts of violence against queer communities. LGBTQ+ activists are planning vigils across major cities in Mexico.
The former chief justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldivar, expressed deep regret over Baena’s death, acknowledging the loss of a strong voice for equality and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. Hate crimes, particularly those against LGBTQ+ individuals, often aim to intimidate and instill fear.
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