A 20-year-old Philadelphia man who was believed to have committed suicide, in part due to cyberbullying, died of an overdose after his girlfriend broke up with him, according to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.
Maurice Willoughby died on Monday. Although initially reported that he'd taken his own life after being relentlessly taunted and cyberbullied for being in a relationship with a transgender woman, the institute states the circumstances surrounding his death aren't what they initially seemed.
In a Facebook post, the institute stated that the tragic incident wasn't an "instance of a cisgender man bullied to take his own life."
"Yesterday news broke that a cisgender man named Reese took his life after being ridiculed for loving his trans girlfriend Faith Palmer. Several outlets and media figures have framed this as an instance of a cisgender man bullied to take his own life. Reese’s suicide is not the time to discuss cis men who date trans women," the post begins.
It then goes on to state that Willoughby, who used drugs, killed himself after she'd broken up with him and that Palmer elaborated on the details surrounding his suicide on Instagram Live on Wednesday.
"Reese threatened to take his life and Faith’s. She ran away to safety, and it was then that he committed suicide. Our deepest condolences to Faith and also to Reese’s family," the post continues. "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."
The Philadelphia man went live on Facebook in prior months to defend his relationship with Palmer according to The Hollywood Unlocked. The video received more than 15,000 views and quickly garnered transphobic backlash.
In a disturbing video that has circulated social media, a group of men recording on their cell phones was seen harassing Willoughby about his relationship and sexual preference outside of a corner store in Philadelphia. According to some Twitter users, the video was recorded and uploaded months prior to Willoughby’s death but began circulating again in recent weeks.
so i remember this video going viral on here before, this basically where it all started 🥴 from the day them niggas uploaded this that man was driven into depression and started taking pills.. pic.twitter.com/owCpBiqcDJ— Ew! (@GODISMlKEY) August 20, 2019
Friends of the 20-year-old told The Advocate that he battled depression and that the cyberbullying contributed to a decline in his mental health.
“Where we are from, if you like trans woman, and you black, the streets will talk about you, fight you, even try to kill you,” an anonymous friend told The Advocate. According to the source, Willoughby was a target for harassment and was “dealing with a lot.”
Prior to the clarification surrounding his suicide, Willoughby’s girlfriend shared a post about his death on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
No matter wat ☝🏽I know everything bae @reesehimdaddie and I’m goin make sure your story is told and the right way fuck da clout chasing cause it happened just as you said nobody was goin to hear you or us for that matter until it got to level 10 you was my everything until those pills took total control and took you away ! All he wanted was for us to win as we battled all his mental demons but I got left being the only one tryin to get help cause he gave up hope as my friends and family and his grandma tried to help and keep me alive while I tried to save him before this point HE WASNT SCARED OF ANYONE SO HE FOUGHT BACK FOR US ! HE WANTED TO TELL HIS STORY THRU HIS MUSIC AND NOW I GOTTA TELL IT 😭 BAE YOU WILL NEVER DIE TO ME AND I ALWAYS KEEP MY PROMISE ! WE LOVED EACH OTHER TO DEATH WE FOUGHT PEOPLE TOGETHER ITS DEEPER THEM HIM BEING BULLIED AND I HAVE ALL THE PROOF AND AGAIN “HIS” STORY WILL BE HEARD NOT YALL MADE UP SHIT ! I STILL HAVE HIS MESSAGES AND VOICEMAILS CAUSE WE TALKED ALWAY UP UNTIL I RAN TO NEW YORK TO WAIT FOR OUR COURT DAT ON THE 20th of this month and he though in his mind no matter wat I said he thought I wasnt comin back wat was I suppose to do I know he was goin to take both of us cause he said thats how much he loved me but I knew it was the pills talkin not him I MEAN COME ON HE HAD MY GOVERNMENT TATTED ACROSS HIS FOREHEAD 😭💔 @oprah @tylerperry @redtabletalk @therealdaytime @theellenshow @debra4mizay @jadapinkettsmith
Following news of his death, #RipReese began trending on Twitter, with many people chiding transphobia in the Black community.
Marcus reese deserved better, his girlfriend deserved better. This harrassment is just exhausting.— Alex 🏳️🌈❤🧡💚💙💜 (@bozzylumpkins) August 21, 2019
🏳️🌈 PROTECT BLACK TRANS WOMEN AND THOSE WHO LOVE THEM. #RIPREESE— Nitty Scott (@NittyScottMC) August 21, 2019
It’s extremely sad that someone has killed themselves just to escape the harassment and opposition of their beautiful relationship. No one should have to go what he went through just for loving someone that society rejects. #ripreese pic.twitter.com/HVMgcdDpbT— ❄️💦FatQuxxn🍒🌈 (@KaylaaWavvyy) August 21, 2019