This week, Mexico’s first openly nonbinary judge and fierce advocate of LGBTQ rights across the country, Jesús Ociel Baena and their partner, Dorian Herrera, were found dead in their home.
Baena was 38 years old.
In a report by them., Mexican officials told CNN that the cause of death was unknown but authorities in the region have sent conflicting messages about the manner of death, in new reporting by the Associated Press.
Jesús Ociel Baena made history last year when on October 1, 2022, they were appointed to serve as a magistrate on a state court in Aguascalientes, making Baena the first nonbinary person to achieve that position not only in Mexico, but across all of Latin America.
Soy persona no binaria, no me interesa verme mujer ni tampoco hombre, esa es una identidad, es mía y para mí, para nadie más. No le debo nada a la cisheteronorma. ¡Es mi perro y yo lo baño! Soporten pic.twitter.com/L7J8T8psME
— OCIEL BAENA (@ocielbaena) June 22, 2023
In an interview with Imagen Noticias, Baena beamed as they told the co-hosts of the new program “De Pisa y Corre” that their election was a step toward, “dignifying the LGBTQ community that for many years has been forced to stay closeted and made invisible.”
Baena’s achievements also appeared in a GLAAD-nominated piece from CNN en Español. The CNN feature was filmed just after their appointment as magistrate, Baena recounting their political work and efforts as an activist and nonbinary person before assuming office, and shared their vision of LGBTQ rights in Mexico, including advocating more gender-inclusive language.
Baena was also the first person to receive a Mexican passport with a nonbinary gender marker, paving the way for those after them to do the same. In a Spanish-language interview with Univision, they acknowledged it was a great step forward for the LGBTQ community — but that the struggle was ongoing for non-binary people to be accurately represented by the government.
In the days since Baena and Herrera’s gruesome deaths, thousands in Mexico and across the world have staged vigils and marches, calling for the Mexican government to do more to curb anti-LGBTQ hate speech and violence, including the sorts of death threats that Baena themselves received while in office.
Those honoring Baena’s memory also called for justice and a thorough investigation into the cause of Baena’s death – criticizing police and state officials for often dismissing anti-LGBTQ hate crimes as “crimes of passion.”
GLAAD joins the mourning Mexico communities in their pain for losing such an impactful and inspiring leader. Baena’s bravery to live boldly, taking their fullness into public office along with their storied work on behalf of LGBTQ people and visibility in Mexico will endure, as will their memory.