Her name was Ashley Hallstrom. She was 26 years old. And her name has been added to a long and heartbreaking list: not the list of trans homicides that have flooded the LGBTQ news circuit this year, but that of trans suicides.
On Wednesday morning, Hallstrom changed her Facebook profile picture and left her suicide note in the form of a Facebook post. Then she stepped out into traffic and – despite the best efforts of the driver who ultimately hit her – ended her life.
In her suicide note, Hallstrom detailed her personal journey and the self-hatred she felt for being trans. She reported years of having been told that “people like [her] are freaks and abominations,” which took a tremendous toll on her mental health. She talked about the need to be more to people than “just another number of a tragic statistic [or] just another face of someone they never met.” And she asked, as so many other trans people have in their suicide notes, that we work to make society safer for trans people.
Trans people are at a disproportionately high risk for suicide compared to the rest of the population. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted in 2008, 41% of trans people have attempted suicide at least once. These rates are much lower for cisgender individuals: 4.6% among the general United States population and 10-20% of cis LGB adults. Suicide risk for trans people is impacted by a huge range of factors, including parental acceptance, workplace discrimination, and access to health care, as well as membership in other marginalized groups.
Statistics like these are important, but only if we can look at them and feel the gravity of every single person who attempted to take their own life, and the greater weight of those who succeeded. In response to Hallstrom’s suicide, trans activist Connie Anast-Inman wrote on Facebook, “Our trans brothers and sisters are KILLING THEMSELVES! ENOUGH!”
And she’s right. Our trans siblings are dying, both at the hands of others and by their own hands, driven by a society that marginalizes and ostracizes them. We have to do better by them.
I have to stress that no matter what the situation, there is always an option other than suicide. If you are considering suicide, please seek out assistance in whatever way makes you most comfortable. The non-profit Trans Lifeline is a trans-staffed hotline for trans people in crisis. Their phone number is (877) 565-8860.