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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

Judge Ociel Baena: Hero/Heroine

from the April 3, 2024 Bulletin

Edwing “Canuto Roldán is a nonbinary poet, Secretary of the World Poetry Slam Organization, organizer of LGBTQ+ cultural events in Arrecife Arte Trans, and on the editorial board at Anémona magazine, a publication made for and by trans and nonbinary kids, youth and families. They are also a collaborator at Fondo de Cultura Económica and an activist in the Movimiento Socialista del Poder Popular. 

In November 2023, Jesús Ociel Baena-Saucedo, Mexico's first openly nonbinary magistrate, was killed. Tell us about them.


Jesús Ociel Baena-Saucedo was a groundbreaker. Well known as an LGBTQ+ activist, in October 2022 they (Baena used the pronouns they, she, and he) became the first nonbinary judge in Latin America, appointed in the state of Aguascalientes to the Electoral Tribunal, which specializes in matters related to elections.


Only 13 months later, tragically for our movement, they were found dead at home. Worse, the authorities quickly called it a “romance” crime without enough investigation to determine if it was a hate crime, though it had been documented that they’d been threatened several times. The murders of LGBTQ+ people are still not adequately recognized as hate crimes, often downplayed as “domestic violence.” After that announcement, 15,000 people took to the streets to demand a better official response. Ociel Baena may well have suffered discrimination in death! 

Aguascalientes magistrate and LGBTQ+ activist Ociel Baena. (Ociel Baena/X)



Were they trans? That very question raises some thorny issues, including within the LGBTQ+ movement. Some said Baena was trans; others asked, “Are you sure he’s not a gay man?” Our movement is conflicted about how people identify themselves. Some claim that “nonbinary” is the same as trans. And some trans people say that “nonbinary” is the Trojan horse of gay men. But we should respect Baena’s own statement of their identity without unnecessary speculation. They were nonbinary! And they fought constantly for more rights for all nonconforming gender people.

What gains did they make for LGBTQ+?


I’ll take one big example: the state’s recognition of more than two gender identities.

In Mexico our ID card is not our driver’s license, as in the US. It is our voting card, issued by the National Electoral Institute, the INE. When we used to get our mandatory identification card, we had to choose male or female. Thanks to Baena and his being a judge in the Electoral Tribunal, which is related to the INE, we can now choose not to have those gender designations on our INE card; this recognizes the trans and nonbinary voting population.


But the INE card is not an official designation of gender. Ociel Baena got the first official nonbinary passport and, importantly, became the first to have their birth certificate re-issued with a box added for “nonbinary.” Today, we are allowed to modify our birth certificates. If you are trans, you can change your gender from the one assigned at birth.

Baena became the first Mexican to receive a nonbinary passport. (Marcelo Ebrard/X)

In the US, since gays and lesbians have become widely accepted, conservatives have targeted trans people. What is it like for trans people in Mexico? 


Second to Brazil, Mexico has the most trans femicides in Latin America — murders of people simply because they are trans women. In 2024, 21 trans women have already been murdered. These are just the ones correctly categorized; many are simply counted as homicides. 


The Right is definitely targeting trans people. The Frente Nacional para la Familia is an organized anti-trans political formation in Mexico City. It promotes the traditional nuclear family with everyone in traditional gender roles; it actively demonizes trans people and

organizes against trans rights. Congresspeople Lily Tellez and América Rangel, from the conservative PAN party, support this ultra-right group. The group stokes hatred through fake news, saying things like the trans movement wants to “mutilate kids.” 


Because the job market discriminates against trans women, many are forced to turn to sex work, which too often ends in murder. Worse yet, feminists don’t fully support them; some don’t recognize sex work as work because, they claim, sex workers allow men to dominate. This view reflects the classism within the feminist movement.

Pedro Lollet/vogue.com/Mexico City Pride Parade 2022

"Your hate and ignorance are not my responsibility."

The women’s movement and the LGBTQ+ movement don’t hold just one point of view and haven’t always been mutually supportive in the past. A strand of feminism denies that trans women exist and claims that trans women are trying to take away women’s rights. As for trans men, they have it much easier than trans women — but some lesbian women say that trans men are fakes! 


On the plus side, the Supreme Court recognizes the right to identify yourself as trans, including people under the age of 18 but over 12. It recently also recognized femicide and trans femicides as specific kinds of crimes that should be identified as such. In Mexico City, we have clinics that know how to care for transitioning and trans people; of course, more are needed outside of the urban center.

AMLO has been criticized for not giving adequate attention to gender issues. Do you agree? 


When AMLO became president in 2018, we had a lot of hope, but we’ve been disappointed. Morena hasn’t paid attention to the feminist and LGBTQ+ movements; we’ve had no communication or public discussion of the issues.


But we also have our own problems. Today, three important movements don’t yet understand each other: feminism, LGBTQ+, and socialism. From my point of view, many feminists and LGBTQ+ activists are missing a class perspective. And some in the movement engage in “pink washing.” They’re in it for the partying, the parade, the show — not to demand rights. Too many politicians and corporations pay lip service to LGBTQ+ for votes and dollars but don’t provide more access to health, social services, and justice.

Will Ociel Baena be remembered for their leadership role in advancing LGBTQ+ rights?

Giving last good-bys to magistrate Ociel Baena

They inspired others to be open and public about who they are; they never said or did things to “fit in.” They demanded respect — and they gave respect, or they would never have been appointed a judge. Ociel Baena celebrated their nonbinary identity. But it wasn’t just about identity. It was about social justice. That’s the lesson we must learn from their example.