Against the bland, beige backdrop of Mexico’s electoral courtrooms, Jesús Ociel Baena was radiant. The non-binary magistrate paired a shirt and tie with colorful skirts, high heels and bright red lipstick. In the heat of Aguascalientes state, Baena, who used they/their pronouns, would theatrically brandish a rainbow fan to cool down.
Baena was a source of pride for Mexico’s LGBTQ+ community, advocating for their rights in various settings such as the courtroom, classroom, and social media. Their recent passing has deeply affected the struggling community.
Karim García expressed that as a transgender man, Ociel symbolized visibility and resilience for him. Ociel’s impact gave Karim the bravery to proudly share his identity with the world.
During a protest in support of the judge on Monday evening, García raised a hand-drawn picture of Baena and waved a rainbow fan. The message on the drawing read, “We demand justice!”
Authorities announced that the body of Baena was discovered in his residence, along with an individual identified by the media as Baena’s significant other.
During demonstrations on Monday evening, LGBTQ+ individuals in Mexico expressed their disapproval of the government’s initial statement stating that Baena’s death was due to a “personal matter”. The LGBTQ+ community believes that the death was a result of the ongoing hate, discrimination, and violence they often experience.
Tens of thousands of people paraded on Reforma Avenue in Mexico City, shouting slogans such as “Justice” and “Crime of passion? A national deception!” They proudly displayed rainbow, trans, and non-binary flags and enthusiastically waved rainbow hand fans.
Other cities, such as Monterrey, Puebla, and Aguascalientes, also held similar demonstrations to Baena’s hometown of Aguascalientes.
García expressed that the loss was difficult for the community. Having government officials who truly represent them holds great significance, as they have not had that before.
Baena served as a judge at the Aguascalientes State Electoral Institute and also taught at the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes. They challenged traditional linguistic norms by refusing to use gendered Spanish noun endings that assign gender to words.
In October 2022, Baena made history in Mexico and Latin America by being the first person to receive a non-binary magistrate title, using the term “le magistrade” instead of the traditional male term “el magistrado”. Later, in May 2023, Baena was granted Mexico’s first non-binary passport by the foreign relations ministry. Recently, Baena also received the first non-gendered professor title in electoral law, known as “maestre”.
Enrique Torre Molina, an activist and co-founder of Colmena 41, stated that Ociel’s role as a public servant was a clear indication of the progress our community has achieved.
“It was also a win for the LGBTQ+ movement, which has found ways to make friends and allies in government,” said Torre Molina, who has worked as a diversity consultant for the federal government. “But I believe the LGBTQ+ community is not finding enough support from the highest levels of government.”
The queer community in Mexico is specifically angered by what they perceive as a hasty conclusion from authorities regarding Baena’s death.
Several hours after the deaths of Baena and their partner, Jesús Figueroa Ortega, the attorney general of Aguascalientes state, reported that the victims were discovered with razor blades in their hands, leading to the assumption that the blades were the cause of their injuries.
Figueroa stated in a press conference that there were no signs of a third person inside the residence and the front door was secured. According to Figueroa, the two individuals arrived at approximately 1:00 am and upon examining the security footage, it was determined that nobody else entered the house before or after their arrival.
Additionally, he stated that the investigators discovered blood on the bed and followed bloody footprints throughout the house.
Between 2018 and 2022, the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Letra S recorded a total of 453 killings within the community, although they believe the true number may be even greater. The majority of these murders were of transgender individuals, with 13 reported in just the first five months of 2023.
According to Alejandro Brito, the director of Letra S, Baena’s presence on social media has made them a target. He called on authorities to consider this fact in their investigation.
According to Brito, the individual in question received numerous messages of hate, as well as threats of physical harm and death. These occurrences cannot be disregarded in the course of these investigations.
Baena’s advocates have also been subjected to menacing messages. One individual shared feedback they received during a live broadcast on TikTok in response to Baena’s passing.
A commentator wrote, “You will experience the same fate as the magistrate.”
Baena’s recent public appearance was in a video shared on social media. In the video, Baena wore heels, a long skirt, and bold red lipstick as they performed a skit about the state electoral board setting aside positions for members of the LGBTQ+ community, individuals with disabilities, and those over 60 years old.
“Hey LGBTQ+ crew,” Baena playfully states, using a rainbow hand fan to cool themself off. “Don’t forget to register, it’s your political and electoral right to be a member of the electoral authority.”
One person commented, “We should either gain control of the electoral authority office or pursue Ociel Baena.”
Someone else launched a petition calling for the removal of Ociel Baena’s “degenerate” video.
Baena replied, “I refuse to remove my post!”