First out non-binary Mexican magistrate, Jesús Ociel Baena, found dead at home

Jesús Ociel Baena holding a Pride fan in their hand.

Mexico’s first out non-binary magistrate has been found dead in their home. They had been receiving death threats.

According to police, the body of Aguascalientes state magistrate Jesús Ociel Baena was found on Monday, alongside another individual – who local media identified as their partner.

Security minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez said the deaths had not yet been confirmed as either a “homicide” or “some kind of accident”.

The staunch LGBTQ+ activist and trailblazer was hailed throughout Mexico and Latin America for their unwavering dedication to equality.

Their historic appointment to the state electoral court in October last year was heralded as a breakthrough for a country that is known for its transphobia.

While the investigation into the deaths continue, activists took to the street to hold a candlelight vigil.

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Alejandro Brito, the director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Letra S, urged authorities to consider the homophobic abuse Baena, 38, received while serving as a magistrate.

“They were a person who received many hate messages, and even threats of violence and death, and you can’t ignore that in these investigations.

“They were breaking through the invisible barriers that closed in the non-binary community.”

Despite Mexico being statistically and legally accepting of LGB people, transgender and non-binary individuals are still routinely discriminated against and abused.

Many rights afforded to same-sex couples and LGB people, including housing and employment discrimination protections, aren’t extended to trans and non-binary people.

Additionally, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people remain high, with Letra S documenting at least 117 people killed in 2019.

Thousands marched in Mexico’s capital following the news of Baena’s death, demanding justice from police, whom activists have accused of routinely brushing aside the murders of LGBTQ+ people.

“If this was a crime motivated by prejudice, these kinds of crimes always have the intention of sending a message,” Brito added.

“The message is an intimidation, it’s to say: ‘This is what could happen to you if you make your identities public’.”