Maurice Willoughby also known Reese Him Daddie on social media took his life on Wednesday August 21, 2019. The Philadelphia native gained much unwanted popularity from a viral video of him defending his sexual preference and love of transgender girlfriend Faith.
As the news of his death broke, the hashtag #RIPReese began to trend on Twitter with unwavering support from the LGBT community and allies. Amongst the hashtag, tweets, and retweets of love and support, the original video of Willoughby’s bullying resurfaced as well.
Link to bullying video (contains adult language)
Though there is no clear date when the video was posted, officials suspect the incident occurred earlier this year. In the video young men crowd around Willoughby, all with their phones out, while repeatedly shouting “That’s not thurl!” – slang for, “That’s not cool” or “acceptable”, for a black man to be sexually attracted to a transgender woman. “So what!” was Willoughby’s response to their daunting questions and insults.
Many believed the surfacing of the video caused Willoughby to slip into depression. His then-girlfriend Faith spoke about his depression and drug use, mourning his death on her Instagram.
In July on Willoughby’s Facebook page, in a post he wrote “Y’all can say whatever about faith I really don’t care if she not passable I don’t care if she wasn’t born a woman she is a woman to me & I love her flaws that’s what makes her faith if you heard her story it’s motivating….. I’m happy you should be happy for me.”
Since the announcement of Willoughby’s death, prominent voices in the LGBT community such as actress Laverne Cox took to Instagram to express her sympathy.
Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also took to Twitter to address the matter.
The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, an organization that advocates for black transgender peoples, shared a statement to their Facebook stating “Our deepest condolences to Faith and also to Reese’s family. This is a time to mourn for a lost life and support Faith during this difficult time in her life. She is a survivor of abuse and as stated on her Instagram page, a woman who lost her lover. Black women are always mourning and caring for the world while trying to keep ourselves alive. Our love and support to Faith.”
In a city known for its unique diversity, Philadelphia was ranked 6thin LGBT-friendly communities, offering inclusive and non-discrimination laws, according to a 2015 report. However, since then, the city has seen an increase in violence towards its LGBT community members. A 2016 report addressed an increase in racism in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood section. On June 9, Philadelphia’s first openly gay deputy sheriff Dante Austin was found dead at his desk due to an apparent suicide. Philadelphia, to embody the motto of “City of Brotherly Love” is to include all inhabitants of the close-knit city.
Willoughby’s story is one that is not rare or unheard of. This incident is one of many that occurs throughout urban neighborhoods and beyond – the stress and fear many young people have about living their identity and living their truth only aides more trauma to their lives. No one should be shamed for who they choose to love.
If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-2355, or The Trevor Project for LGBT youth at 1(866) 488-7386 or text START to 678678.