Will Xavier Walters
August 10, 1981 - December 28, 2016Civil rights activist and founder of FreeWillUSA, died by an apparent suicide December 28, 2016 following a five-and-a-half year legal battle to secure and protect the right to equal protection of the law for himself and for the LGBTQ community, of which he was a vital and beloved member. Initially a reluctant activist, Will did not seek the role that found him. Thanks to a random convergence of exaggerated egos, prized peccadillos and a lingering legacy of latent antigay discrimination, Will's life took a thunderous change one fateful day in the summer of 2011. Saturday, July 16 of that year, Will went to San Diego's annual LGBT Pride festival wearing the same custom-tailored, leather gladiator outfit that he had worn the previous year without incident. With his chiseled physique, famously high cheekbones and winsome smile, Will was the epitome of a young, gay, and handsome leather-clad male, to this day an iconoclastic representation of gay culture, history and mythos. Will once analogized that his leather gladiator kilt was to a gay pride parade as a grass skirt might be to a Polynesian-culture fair. But the joy and light of Pride 2011 soon turned to darkness. The callous hand of authority bore down hard on Will's soul when a badge-bearing stranger told him he was nude. But Will knew he wasn't naked. Had not just minutes earlier a family with children asked him if they could have their "picture taken with the gladiator man?" Even though his wrongful arrest and public humiliation destroyed Will's self-esteem, he fought on for the rights of others more vulnerable than he in the LGBTQ community. If his relatively modest, tasteful kilt and undergarment were too revealing for Pride, then so too must be the far more revealing swimsuits worn by women at the beach. On that much, he and just about everyone agreed. Will stood strong for more than five years. He lost once in federal court, but won twice at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In fact, senior appeals court Judge Harry Pregerson summarized Will's case in no uncertain terms. Said Pregerson, "Why don't we just say that was a bad call by a police officer?" Will went to Ferguson, Missouri to lead a youth march in support of Michael Brown. He established a nonprofit to educate people about the U.S. Constitution. He made significant financial donations to well known San Diego charities that serve people with HIV/AIDS, as well as those that serve the poor. Will was a serial volunteer at organizations that serve underprivileged children, the hungry, disabled and the elderly. Before coming to San Diego, Will lived in New York and Los Angeles, where he worked in merchandising, marketing and tech for such companies as Virgin, Fox Sports and Myspace. Will Xavier Walters was born in Austin, Texas. He is survived by his mother, Darlene Walters Yanez, brother, Adan Yanez and his husband Bill Hutchings, grandmother, Patricia Walters, great uncle, John Hughes, aunt, Diann and uncle, Larry Kazemka, father, Javier Yanez and father's wife, Thelma Saenz Yanez, as well as several cousins and cherished friends. Will was preceded in death by his beloved uncle, Bill Walters.
Services for Will Xavier Walters
- January 7, 2017
A memorial service will be held Saturday, Jan. 7 at 10 a.m. with a reception to follow at Metropolitan Community Church of San Diego, 2633 Denver Street, San Diego, Calif. 92110. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to MCC Church of San Diego, Momma's Kitchen, The Trevor Project or The Imperial Court de San Diego.
- Funeral: 10 a.m.