Mexico’s first openly non-binary magistrate Jesús Ociel Baena was found dead at home on Monday, sparking a protest in the nation’s capital demanding justice for the prominent LGBTQ+ advocate.
Baena, 38, who used they/them pronouns, was found at their property in the central state of Aguascalientes. A second body discovered at the home was identified by local media and LGBTQ+ rights groups as Dorian Herrera, Baena’s romantic partner.
At a news conference, state prosecutor Jesús Figueroa Ortega said that Baena and the other body had injuries seemingly caused by a knife or other sharp object. “There are no signs or indications to be able to determine that a third person other than the dead was at the site of the crime,” Figuerora Ortega said.
The prosecutor’s office said preliminary investigations found that there were no traces of blood outside of the crime scene, nor was there any damage to the homes’ entrances. One of the “lifeless bodies found was holding a cutting instrument,” the office added.
The suggestion that suicide may be among the possible causes of death was met with anger by some LGBTQ+ groups in Mexico—where authorities have previously been accused of failing to adequately respond to violence against their community members. Federal Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said that the deaths are now being investigated by authorities, though it was not yet clear if “it was a homicide or an accident.”
Baena was sworn in as a magistrate on the Aguascalientes state electoral tribunal in October 2022, becoming the first non-binary person in Latin America to hold a judicial position. In May this year, Baena was also one of the first people in Mexico to be issued with a passport officially recognizing them as non-binary.
Alejandro Brito, director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Letra S, told the Associated Press that, as a prominent campaigner, Baena was highly visible on social media and was subjected to numerous threats.
“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,” Brito said. “They, the magistrate, was breaking through the invisible barriers that closed in the non-binary community.”
On Monday evening, thousands of people gathered in Mexico City where they lit candles and shouted “justice” and “we won’t stay silent.” The protesters also brought pictures of Baena and LGBTQ+ people subjected to violence simply for being who they are.
“I am a non-binary person,” Baena posted on X in June. “I am not interested in being seen as either a woman or a man. This is an identity. It is mine, for me, and nobody else. Accept it.”