A young woman who ended her life on U.S. Highway 89/91 in south Logan on Wednesday morning left her message to the world before she did so in a public Facebook post that has moved people locally and across the country as the news spread via social media.
“These are going to be my final words. I can’t stand to live another day, so I’m committing suicide. The reason why I’ve decided to do this is because I’m transgender. For those of you unsure of what that means, it means that even though I was born in a male body, I am and have always been female,” Ashley Hallstrom wrote.
She ended with a plea for change.
“Please share my final words. I believe my last words can help make the change that society needs to make so that one day there will be no others like me. Please help make this change because trans people are everywhere. You may never know who you’re hurting until it’s too late. Please help fix society.”
Her words were posted to other websites, like Reddit, as well. Almost immediately, messages came pouring in, begging her to reconsider. But even as concern for her increased and calls started coming into the police department, Hallstrom had already taken her fatal last step into the path of an oncoming dump truck.
Since then, her post has been shared directly from her Facebook page more than 1,000 times, and likely many more times from other places around the web, often with the hashtag #hernamewasashley.
People from all walks of life are joining Hallstrom in her plea for people to be more accepting of one another.
“No more trans people committing suicide. Every loss is a tragedy. It means that we did not reach out in love with a smile, a kind word, a touch,” a woman in Maryland wrote. “So little can mean so much. Talk to someone, reach out to your family and your friends and be on the lookout for those who are withdrawing because their pain is becoming unbearable. We can help each other.”
A local woman said she had the opportunity to serve Ashley every night for six months while working at Blimpie.
“It is heartbreaking to know that she is gone and dealt with such a difficult and unfair life. I hope that all of us can learn from this and to accept and love those who are different,” she wrote. “Rest in paradise, Ashley. There are many people who will miss you. You taught me a wonderful life lesson. My heart goes out to her friends and family.”
In South Carolina, a woman said she pulled over onto the side of the road and cried when she learned about Hallstrom’s death.
In all the comments online regarding Hallstrom’s death, many of the thoughts shared included expressions of sadness and frustration that she chose to use an innocent man, the driver of the dump truck that hit her, to aid in her suicide.
”A beautiful person”
Dawn Blakely of Logan was one of Hallstrom’s close friends. They met at Convergys where they both worked.
Blakely said Hallstrom was very shy and kept to herself when she first started working there. “It was apparent even from across the room she was suffering, just by her demeanor,” she said.
“Being lesbian myself, I knew that she felt uncomfortable, so I befriended her,” Blakely said Thursday. “We became super good friends from that moment on.”
Hallstrom had a smile that lit up the whole room, and her laughter was one of the many things Blakely cherished about her. She loved hanging out with people who made her feel comfortable, she loved music, and she loved to sing.
“She had a beautiful voice,” Blakely said. “Ashley was a beautiful person inside and out; that is a true fact,” she said. “I wish she could have seen it herself.”
In the time period leading up to her death, Blakely said her friend seemed happy. She was thrilled to finally move forward with the transition that would change the physical makeup of her body to match the woman she knew herself to be.
“Everything seemed to be good. She never one time in the conversations we shared, she never talked about — she always seemed so happy. She never seemed sad or hurt or confused,” Blakely said. “She just didn’t wear it on her sleeve, she just smiled and kept on going. That is what I found so amazing about her. That is why this whole thing is such a shock to me.”
In spite of the many words of support posted along with her suicide message, Hallstrom described a life of pain as she struggled with her identity.
“I’ve known I was female for as far back as I can remember,” she wrote. “This caused me to become severely depressed from a very young age. From a very young age, I was told that people like me are freaks and abominations, that we are sick in the head and society hates us. This made me hate who I was. I tried so hard to be just like everyone else but this isn’t something you can change.
“It wasn’t until I was 20 that I found out I wasn’t alone. I had hope that I would finally be able to live as and love who I am. I finally came out as transgender and began transitioning. For the first time in my life I could say I was genuinely happy.”
Hallstrom said despite the change, she never fully recovered from the depression, seeing hatred for trans people in society everywhere she turned — a society that didn’t want or try to understand trans people.
“I saw the pain it caused to people like me and going through this same hurt myself it has just become to much for me to take anymore. I wanted so much to help those going through what I had to because nobody should ever have to feel that they hate their life so much that they want to end it all just so they won’t have to experience another moment of this sadness.
“I’m not the first to feel this way and sadly, I know I won’t be the last,” she wrote.
Hallstrom said she didn’t wish to be just another number — she wanted her story to be shared, with hopes that it will make a difference for someone else.
“I was a real person. I still want to help people and I believe I still can.”
A GoFundMe account has been established in her name and, as of Wednesday evening, had already collected nearly $2,000 toward her funeral expenses. The account was established by RaLee Jewell, who worked with Hallstrom.
“Honestly, it is really beautiful that so many people would give so much,” she said.
Jewell acknowledged the heartache extends beyond Hallstrom’s friends and family. While she does not know the identity of the man who was driving the dump truck, there are people who want to get in touch to be sure he has the help and emotional support he needs in the aftermath, she said.
A candlelight vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Central Park, 80 W. 100 North in Smithfield.
Individuals who are feeling alone and suicidal are encouraged to seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or Trans Lifeline, a hotline run by transgender people for transgender people. That number is (877) 565-8860.