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Latin America’s first nonbinary judge found dead in Mexico home

Authorities say Jesús Ociel Baena showed signs they were stabbed



Jesús Ociel Baena was Latin America's first nonbinary judge. They were found dead in their home in Mexico's Aguascalientes state on Nov. 13, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Baena's Facebook page)

Authorities in Mexico’s Aguascalientes state on Monday found Latin America’s first nonbinary judge dead in their home.

The Associated Press reported Jesús Ociel Baena’s body was discovered next to another person who media reports and an LGBTQ rights group identified as their partner. State prosecutor Jesús Figueroa Ortega told reporters during a press conference the two victims showed signs they had been stabbed.

Aguascalientes state is located in central Mexico.

The AP reported Baena in October 2022 became a magistrate on Aguascalientes’ electoral court. Baena in June was one of the first people in Mexico to receive a passport with a nonbinary gender marker.  

Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remain commonplace in Mexico. 

The AP reported Baena in the weeks before their death had received death threats. Federal Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez on Monday said it remains unclear if the murders were “a homicide or an accident.”

The New Gay Times, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Mexico, reported LGBTQ rights groups across the country have demanded “a definitive and specialized investigation” into Baena’s murder. Thousands of people on Monday who took part in a march in Mexico City demanded justice for Baena.

“We are and will be there for you, dear Ociel,” said Casa Refugio Paola Buenrostro, a shelter in Mexico City that Casa de las Muñecas Tiresas, a local transgender rights group, runs, on Monday in a post to its Facebook page. “Your fight will not be in vein.”



Mexico City hosts LGBTQ, intersex rights conference

LGBTQ+ Victory Institute co-organized 3-day event



LGBTQ+ Victory Institute President Annise Parker, second from left, with Mexican Congresswoman Salma Luévano, second from right, in Mexico City on July 20, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Editor’s note: International News Editor Michael K. Lavers was on assignment in Mexico City from July 17-23.

MEXICO CITY — More than 400 people from around the world attended an LGBTQ and intersex rights conference that took place last week in Mexico City.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights, and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues, are among those who spoke at the LGBTI Political Leaders from the Americas and the Caribbean Conference that the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute co-sponsored. Maryland state Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County), Massachusetts state Rep. Jack Lewis, Brazilian Congresswomen Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert, Mexican Congresswoman Salma Luévano, Venezuelan National Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián, former Colombian Congressman Mauricio Toro, former Peruvian Congressman Alberto de Belaunde, Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Executive Director Kenita Placide and Fundación Triángulo (Spain) President José María Núñez Blanco are among those who also participated.

Victory Institute spokesperson Pita Juárez noted to the Washington Blade the 438 people who attended the conference came from the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Afghanistan, China, Panama, Paraguay, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras. 

The following groups from across the region co-organized the conference along with the Victory Institute.

• Yaaj México

• Caribe Afirmativo (Colombia)

• Diversidad Dominicana (Dominican Republic)

• Somos CDC (Honduras)

• Promsex (Peru)

• VoteLGBT+ (Brazil)

Stern in her speech at the conference on July 20 noted the U.S. supported the conference and helped organizers cover some attendees’ transportation costs.

‘Fight for global equality is more important than ever’

The conference took place against the backdrop of the passage of anti-LGBTQ laws in several U.S. states and in countries around the world and persistent violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation throughout Latin America. 

Cubans last September approved a new family code that extended marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. (Brenda Díaz, a transgender woman with HIV who participated in an anti-government protest in the country’s Artemisa province on July 11, 2021, is serving a 14-year prison sentence.) Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda over the last year have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

“Our fight for global equality is more important than ever,” said Victory Institute President Annise Parker on July 20 when she opened the conference. “We have always known that we have had much farther to go, but we are experiencing a backlash across the globe.” 

“In the United States a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced and passed last year,” she noted. “LGBTQ+ lawmakers like (Oklahoma state Rep.) Mauree Turner and (Montana state Rep.) Zooey Zephyr were censured and expelled from their offices in the United States, but hate has no borders.”

Parker in her speech said “efforts to discriminate against trans people are increasing” in the U.K. and “we’ve seen an uptick in identity-based harassment” in Latin America. Parker also noted Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality that contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

“This is a moment of alarm; it is also a rallying cry,” said Parker. “The best way to push back is to put LGBTQI+ people into those halls and offices to stand up and speak for us. They’re our anecdotes to hate.”

Parker in her speech also noted LGBTQ and intersex rights advances in the Americas over the last year. They include the election of Hilton and Dudabert, who are both trans, to the Brazilian Congress last October, the five LGBTQ people and a nonbinary person who won their respective races for the Colombian House of Representatives in May 2022 and the Mexican Senate’s vote to ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

“We can make progress,” said Parker.

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Marriage equality now legal throughout Mexico

Country’s Supreme Court in 2015 ruled legal bans ‘discriminatory’



(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Same-sex couples can now legally marry across Mexico after lawmakers in Tamaulipas state on Wednesday approved a marriage equality bill.

Mexico City in 2010 became the first jurisdiction in the country to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. The Mexican Supreme Court in 2015 ruled state laws that ban same-sex marriage are “discriminatory.”

Lawmakers in Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, on Wednesday by a 23-12 margin voted to amend the state’s Civil Code to allow same-sex couples to marry. Legislators in Guerrero state in southern Mexico on Tuesday approved a marriage equality bill.

Mexico is the latest Latin American country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Voters in Cuba last month approved a new family code that includes marriage equality. 

Same-sex couples can legally marry in Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthélemy, St. Martin, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Saba also have marriage equality.

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Trevor Project launches crisis services for LGBTQ youth in Mexico

Nearly 30 percent of country’s community members have considered suicide



(Screenshot from KPBS in San Diego)

Mateo seems to be an average adolescent guy, at least in outward appearances and love of football as soccer is known here. But he keeps a deeply personal part of himself, “mi verdadero yo” (my real self) away from even his closest friends and family instead only divesting himself of his protective cloak on his weekend forays into the Zona Rosa of Mexico City, a neighborhood that is center of LGBTQ life in the Mexican capital city about an hour and a half away from Tizayuca.

Mateo is gay and his family is homophobic as are many of his local friends and acquaintances in Tizayuca where he lives.

The stress and strain of being gay at times can be overwhelming he says although he can escape surreptitiously when he’s at home by binge watching LGBTQ content on Netflix and other platforms. Still Mateo says, there are those moments when he felt nothing but despair, helpless, and no one to talk to.

It was his journeys into the Zona Rosa neighborhood and his online LGBTQ friends on Instagram that saved him more than once in those bleak intervals. Still he says a way to connect with counselors is badly needed especially in places in his country that don’t have access for LGBTQ youth to a gayborhood and a support system of community.

For Mateo and countless other LGBTQ youth in the 32 states that make up Mexico not having a central safe space and people who understand changed as of Tuesday, on National Coming Out Day, the Trevor Project announced the official launch of its free, confidential, 24/7 digital crisis services for LGBTQ young people in the country.

For the first time in its 25 year history of service to LGBTQ youth, Trevor has expanded its crisis intervention services for LGBTQ youth outside of the U.S. According to official figures from the National Survey on Sexual and Gender Diversity (ENDISEG), 28.7 percent of the LGBTQ population in Mexico has thought about or attempted suicide in their lifetime, and as is the case in the U.S., suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in Mexico.

The Los Angeles Blade had an opportunity to speak with Jess Leslie, the head of International Digital Crisis Services for the Trevor Project. Leslie told the Blade that groundwork to build out the new Mexico City-based Trevor Project Mexico placed emphasis on cultural competency, recognition of the need for a integrated enterprise structure employed via SMS text messaging, WhatsApp, and online chat.

The approach to engagement with LGBTQ youth in the country Leslie said was a “whole of Mexico” team comprised of crisis counselors “coming from a cultural humble place.”

Leslie acknowledged that there are shortcomings in Internet communications access throughout Mexico as according to a 2021 study by Stanford University found that there were more than 90 million internet users, that is, approximately 71 percent of its inhabitants, yet access points were limited in the more rural states. But she pointed out that by setting up through the three primary means of communication, SMS text messaging, WhatsApp, and the online ‘Trevor chat” LGBTQ youth will have the means to communicate with counselors.

Offering a safe space and with a staff entirely of LGBTQ Mexicans led by Edurne Balmori, executive director of the Trevor Project Mexico, whose career resume noted numerous accolades and has a powerful track record in business, the 55 member in-country team which includes 35 experienced crisis counselors will be able to have positive impact Leslie noted.

She added the Trevor Project Mexico will rely on a volunteer-based model in which counselors will undergo extensive training and implement an evidence-based crisis support model.

“Emphasis is on cultural competency and understanding of the life experiences for the LGBTQ+ community and youth in Mexico,” Leslie added.

In a press release announcing the project on Tuesday, Balmori said;”Today we celebrate the activation of our services in Mexico, kicking off what we hope will be a global social movement around suicide prevention. For many LGBTQ youth in the country, expressing themselves and simply being who they are can put their physical safety and mental wellness at risk. At the Trevor Project Mexico, we will strive to end the stigma around the issue of mental health, provide LGBTQ youth with a safe and trusted space and ultimately save lives.”

“It’s incredibly inspiring to see our vision of providing life-affirming crisis services to LGBTQ young people beyond the U.S. being realized today with our launch in Mexico. This is a major milestone in our goal to end the global public health crisis of LGBTQ youth suicide,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project. “The Trevor Project is committed to building a world where every single LGBTQ young person has access to resources that affirm who they are, and we couldn’t be more optimistic about the impact we’ll have on this journey to support more LGBTQ young people around the world.”

Leslie tells the Blade, the most important thing is that LGBTQ youth are afforded the opportunity to have access to all the services that The Trevor Project has.

In the press release, Trevor noted that it is leveraging its relationships with several of its existing corporate and technology partners to enable and support this international work.

Of note, announced a renewed grant of $2 million this week, designed specifically to help scale up the Trevor Project’s life-saving work to new international geographies. This grant will make a lead funder of the organization’s international work.

In addition, the Trevor Project was able to build and customize its crisis services platform for Mexico using Twilio Flex.

In an interview last Spring with NBC News when Trevor executives first announced the expansion into Mexico, Cristian González Cabrera, who researches LGBTQ rights in Latin America for Human Rights Watch, said still “a lot to be done” and that the Trevor Project’s expansion in Mexico will be “very welcome.”

“Legal advances don’t always translate to social or lived progress for LGBTQ people in the region,” Cabrera said referring to the fact that same-sex marriage has been legalized in at least a dozen of Mexico’s 32 states. “Mexico remains a conservative country in certain aspects and regions, and LGBTQ people continue to experience all sorts of discrimination in all sectors of life, whether that’s education, health care, in the job market, etcetera.”

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