“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. 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.”
Haunted by these final words, my husband and I ventured out on a cool, drizzly night to stand under a pavilion in Smithfield, Utah with mostly strangers to light a candle for someone I'd never met. I'm glad we did, so that I could put a face to the desperate act.
Amongst those gathered were others, who like me didn't know her. Some from the trans* community in Salt Lake came to join us and express how her loss will affect them and others who are also transgender, but not just those who are trans, any and all of us.
Friends and those who worked with Ashley at Convergys spoke of her humor, kindness, shy smile, tiny wave, and compassion. One young woman said, she met her because she heard crying in a bathroom stall, "not unusual at work," she quipped. But she quietly knocked of the door and asked if she could help. Ashley was the first transgender woman she'd ever met. They talked, they hugged, they became friends. We never know what people are dealing with or hiding behind their smile. Few really knew how much bravery to took Ashley to face each day.
Others said that she was smart and always looked for ways to help others at work. One older woman who worked with Ashley expressed how Ashley would go out of her way to help her with the technology that she needed to work on each day. The woman expressed that we should think of Ashley as more than a label, that we should take her last words to reach out in kindness to others. I was glad to hear that Ashley will be remembered and missed, and that she will leave a big hole in the hearts of her friends, family, and co-workers.
My plea is for education. Get out of your comfort zone. Reach out to someone who is different than you are. Learn more about the LGBTQIA community. Yes, even though I've been learning about these complex issues for years now, I had to look up what those letters mean. Talk to people. Make a friend. Get online and read stories from an LGBTQ person's perspective. Learn about suicide prevention. Be ready to have your heart ripped out of your chest and expect a paradigm shift that will leave you forever changed.
At the candlelight vigil another expressed that Ashley's wish to change society is a desire to change us. "Society is me. Society is you." Don't look outside and expect others to change, do something. And as Mahatma Ghandi said.