International: Killing of Mexico’s First Nonbinary Magistrate; Israeli soldier displays LGBTQ+ flag on Gaza soil

Jesús Ociel Baena
Jesús Ociel Baena. (Photo: @ocielbaena on Instagram)

Mexico’s First Nonbinary Magistrate Found Dead

Thousands marched in Mexico’s capital Monday night demanding justice for LGBTQ+ activist and magistrate, Jesús Ociel Baena, who was found brutally murdered at their home Monday morning.

Thousands gathered in the heart of Mexico City lighting candles over photos of Baena and other victims of anti-LGBTQ+ violence. They shouted “Justice” and “We won’t stay silent” and demanded a thorough investigation into the deaths.

Baena, 38, made history as the first openly nonbinary person to assume a judicial post in Mexico, where Baena became a magistrate in the Aguascalientes state electoral court.

Baena was a political and LGBTQ+ activist who used they/them pronouns and was renowned for their work to advance the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Baena would regularly publish photos and videos of themselves in skirts, heels and toting a rainbow fan in court offices and advocating on social media platforms with hundreds of thousands of followers. Baena often dressed in skirts and high heels in public, challenging their colleagues to embrace their nonbinary identity. Baena would post photos of themselves on Twitter/X, like one on Nov. 7 with the caption “¿Frida Kahlo, eres tú?” with them dressed as the famous bisexual artist. The tweet received a quarter million views.

Confluent with being so open about their LGBTQ+ identity, Baena had received death threats. Violence against LGBTQ+ people is extremely common in Mexico, activists say. Also common is dismissal of such violence as “domestic.” Mexico ranks second behind Brazil in Latin America for the highest number of hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community.

As a consequence, activists were calling for full investigation, as authorities were already asserting that the crime was a “crime of passion” and a murder-suicide, in which Baena was killed by their partner, Dorian Herrera, 37, with a razor blade found beside the bodies.

Mexico’s security minister, Rosa Icela Rodríguez, said authorities were investigating the cause of death.

In a story filed from Mexico City, the New York Times reported, “Jesús Figueroa Ortega, the attorney general of Aguascalientes, said in an interview with a radio program on Tuesday morning that an investigation so far suggested that Mx. Baena and their partner started fighting in an upstairs bedroom, where investigators found blood stains and drips that led downstairs.”

The Times wrote, “According to Mr. Figueroa Ortega, investigators found 20 wounds on Mx. Baena’s body caused by a razor blade. A video from a camera shows the couple stepping into their house around 1 a.m. on Sunday. Nobody else was seen entering afterward.”

According to Figueroa Ortega, Baena’s partner, Herrera, may have used another razor blade to inflict a wide and fatal wound on the neck. Figueroa Ortega said, “We could say that this is the conclusion we have with the expert information up to this moment.”

Figuerora Ortega also said, “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.”

Federal Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said at a briefing that authorities were investigating the deaths and it remained unclear if “it was a homicide or an accident.” But local experts and advocates note that such a rush to judgment tends to shape a narrative in which all violent crimes against LGBTQ+ people are domestic and no other suspects are investigated.

Alejandro Brito, director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Letra S, told NPR that Baena’s visibility on social media made the magistrate a target and urged authorities to take that into consideration in their investigation.

“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 nonbinary community.”

Baena made history in October 2022 when they were sworn in as a magistrate on the Aguascalientes state electoral tribunal in front of the rainbow LGBTQ+ flag, according to a photo they shared on Twitter/X under the caption “Making history.”

“I am a non-binary person, 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,” Baena posted on Twitter/X in June during Pride Month. “Accept it.”

Mere weeks before their death, Baena was given a certificate by the electoral court recognizing them with gender neutral pronouns as a “maestre” as opposed to the male “maestro.” This was an historic moment, as the Spanish language historically splits words between two genders, male and female. 

Gay Israeli soldier proudly displays LGBTQ+ flag on Gaza soil in war against Hamas

During the current war between Israel and Hamas, a gay Israeli soldier opened a Pride flag on Gaza soil. It was, said Yoav Atzmoni, acting on a promise he had made to bring a rainbow pride flag into battle against Hamas.

Atzmoni, 31, told The New York Post Sunday that he posed for photos holding up a rainbow flag with the words “In The Name of Love” written across it while stationed in Gaza, in defiance of Gaza’s antigay laws and staunchly anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes.

Atzmoni’s photo with the flag went viral on social media with many commenting on the flag as a powerful statement compared with how LGBTQ+ people are oppressed in Gaza under Hamas’ authoritarian rule. The photos were taken in the Al-Atatra in the northern part of the Gaza Strip two weeks ago when Atzmoni was deployed to the region.

“I remember as a child how important that flag was for me,” he said.

Another photo of Aztmoni shows him standing in front of a tank with a flag of Israel, which features rainbow colors at the top and bottom.

Atzmoni was called up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces following the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack against Israel in which about 1,400 Israelis were killed and others wounded or taken hostage.

Atzmoni said that if Hamas is victorious, he fears he will lose his hard-fought rights.

“I won’t let them bring me back into the closet,” he said, stressing the flag represents the support Israel shows the LGBTQ+ community.

The Post reported that LGBTQ+ Palestinians living under Hamas rule deal with “severe persecution and ostracism,” according to a 2022 UN Watch’s report. PGN has reported on the breadth of oppression of LGBTQ+ people in Gaza and the West Bank, including honor killings.

Men are also banned from same-sex activity punishable by a prison sentence of up to 10 years, according to the Human Dignity Trust. The laws date back to the British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance in 1936 and are still on the books today in Gaza.Israel began recognizing same-sex marriages performed abroad in 2006 and allowed adopting children via surrogacy in 2020. Same-sex couples in Israel cannot get legally married in the country.

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