Last week, Jesús Ociel Baena, the first openly nonbinary person to assume a judicial position in Mexico, and their partner were found dead in their home in Aguascalientes. Not long after they were discovered, Mexican officials were quick to jump to the conlusion that Baena’s partner had killed them in a so-called “crime of passion” before killing himself, per The New York Times.
The state’s declaration that this was not a hate crime — reportedly before they completed a full investigation — infuriated many members of the queer community, especially since Baena had received multiple death threats in the recent past. In Mexico City, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand more information on Baena’s killing, which has hit a nerve in a country with a track record of not thoroughly investigating murders and violence against queer and trans people. In fact, Mexico remains the second most dangerous country for LGBTQ people in Latin America after Brazil, per the Times.
Many queer people and allies in Mexico were rightfully fed up by the lack of transparency surrounding Baena’s investigation. On X, they voiced their collective grief and frustration with a culture where homophobic and transphobic attitudes — and actions — go unchecked.
“On Sunday, a lot of us sang songs that had to do with freedom in Alex Anwandter’s show,” wrote one Mexican user on X, referring to a queer Chilean singer who was touring in Mexico City last weekend. “And the next day we shouted for the murder of the magistrate Jesús Ociel Baena. We’ll never be silenced!”
“Hate speech kills. ‘Jokes’ and insults against LGBTQ people kill. LGBTQ-phobia and hate speech are not freedom of expression and should never be tolerated,” wrote another Mexican user.
Many posted videos of the protests on Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s main thoroughfare.
“Even though same-sex marriage is legal, the safety of people who go against binary genders are still vulnerable,” pointed out one Mexican journalist.
“They murdered a magistrate (Jesús Ociel Baena) in Mexico and people are angry because they used a gender neutral term. There’s people making jokes about their murder. There’s people who still think that hate speech is valid.”
Finally, another user noted that the murder of Baena illustrates the importance of continuing to incorporate gender-neutral language in Spanish, like “Latinx” and “Latine.”
“People who casually lash out against non-binary language, like those who decry the use of Latinx, are all implicated in the murder of José Ociel Baena Saucedo,” wrote artist and writer Myriam Gurba.
Baena’s death is a painful reminder that we need to continue to listen to queer Hispanic voices and take violence against the queer community in Latin America seriously.