Mexico’s first openly non-binary judge and a prominent LGBTQ+ activist have been found dead in their home in the central state of Aguascalientes.
Jesús Ociel Baena, who uses “they/them” pronouns, has been praised across Latin America for his work advancing the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
MexicoSecurity Minister Rosa Isela Rodriguez said authorities were investigating the cause of death.
“We don’t know yet… whether this was a homicide or some kind of accident,” she told the president’s regular morning news conference.
But human rights activists point out that Mexican authorities have historically treated murders as crimes of passion and are demanding a full investigation into whether Baena’s death was related to her gender identity.
Alejandro Brito, director of LGBTQ+ rights group Letra S, said Baena’s popularity on social media made them a target and urged authorities to take that background into account in investigations.
“They received a lot of hate messages and even threats of violence and death, and you can’t ignore that in these investigations,” Brito said. “They, the magistrates, are breaking through the invisible barriers that block society.” Binary community.
Baena is one of the most high-profile LGBTQ+ figures in a country where the queer community is often the target of violence and has received death threats.
Baena made history in October 2022 when they were sworn in in front of a rainbow LGBTQ+ flag for the Aguascalientes state elections, according to a photo they shared on Twitter/X titled “Making History” Court judge.
The Aguascalientes state prosecutor’s office said in a statement that Baena’s body was found with that of another person, who local media identified as Baena’s partner.
The statement said preliminary findings showed there was no evidence of a third party at the scene and that the death may have been a “personal matter.”
Authorities are conducting forensic analysis to determine the cause of death, the office said.
Baena often posts photos and videos of herself in a courtroom wearing a skirt, high heels and holding a rainbow fan, and promotes them on social media platforms with hundreds of thousands of followers.
“I’m a non-binary person and I’m not interested in being seen as female or male. It’s an identity. It’s mine, for me, no one else,” Baena release Published on Twitter/X in June. “Take it.”
Just weeks before their deaths, Baena issue certificate Electoral court uses gender-neutral pronouns to admit they are ‘Grandmaster”, an important step for Spanish, which historically divided the language into two genders: male and female.
While Brito said Mexico has made significant progress in reducing levels of anti-LGBTQ+ violence in recent decades, his organization saw a significant rise in such violence in 2019, documenting at least 117 lesbian, gay and , bisexual and trans people were killed. It was a horrific killing, including brutal stabbings and public massacres.
Brito said he fears Baena’s death could spark further violence against the queer community.
“If it’s a bias crime, there’s always a message in these types of crimes,” Brito said. “The message is a threat, which is: ‘If you reveal your identity, this is Something that could happen to you.'” People. ‘”
In honor of Baena, LGBTQ+ activists plan to hold vigils and demonstrations in Aguascalientes on Monday night, as well as in Mexico City, Monterrey and other major cities.
Arturo Zaldivar, the former chief justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court, said he was deeply saddened by Baena’s death.
“We have lost our strong voice for LGBTI+ equality and rights,” he said in a social media post.