Overwhelming support has poured in for Luke “Sasha” Fleischman, an agender high school student who was set on fire Monday night on an Oakland, CA bus.
Police arrested a 16-year-old Oakland student for the immolation, and announced on Thursday that he will be charged as an adult for a hate crime.
Sasha was wearing a skirt at the time of the attack, which friends and family fear may have been the reason Sasha was targeted. The teenage attacker later admitted that he did it because he was “homophobic,” according to lead police investigator Anwawn Jones
. Sasha is currently a high school senior in Berkeley, CA.
In less than a day after the attack, supporters came forward to help Sasha, who sustained third-degree burns and will require massive skin grafting.
Update Nov. 14: Show Your Support in Oakland
Not In Our Town and Not In Our School will be joining the Rainbow Road march today at 5:30 p.m. We invite all to come forward and support a safe and inclusive community for all.
INVITATION TO A COMMUNITY HEALING
Thursday 11/14 at MacArthur and Park 5:30pm
Walk the Rainbow Road
All are invited to a March from Oakland High School to Ardley Avenue on Thursday night at 5:30pm. Wear bright colors and bring a ribbon to add to each of the bus poles if you wish. Following the March we will have a spaghetti dinner to celebrate our diverse community and learn more about all of the spectrum of human diversity.
Sasha and their family are excited about a march—now we need lots of folks to make a difference—and media to tell the story of love and support. Please join us.
Meet at the corner of Park and Macarthur and walk to Ardley Avenue. Dinner is one block away at the corner of Woodruff and Excelsior on the ground floor of St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Come to the March only or the dinner only, as you wish. Just come. :) And tell your friends and others too.
Sasha's Father Talks About Gender
As we come together in the aftermath of this hate crime, this is also an opportunity to discuss the language and expectations we have around gender. Sasha's father, Karl Fleischman, expressed these words with his colleagues and allowed us to share it with you.
Another aspect of this story that has gotten a lot of attention is the fact that Sasha was wearing a skirt, "even though" Sasha appears to be a boy. The fact is, Sasha self-identifies as "agender, " and prefers the pronouns "they" , "them" , and "their" when people refer to Sasha in the third person. (English doesn't have commonly used gender-neutral third-person singular pronouns yet.) Being agender simply means that the person doesn't feel they are "either a boy or a girl." I realize this is a concept that even adults have difficulty wrapping their heads around. (My wife and I frequently slip up in our pronoun usage, much to Sasha's chagrin!) So I can't pretend that it's an issue that all young children will grasp. But what they certainly can and should understand is that different people like different things. Different people dress or behave or look differently. And that's a GOOD thing. Sasha feels comfortable wearing a skirt. It's part of their style. They also frequently sport a necktie and vest. Sasha likes the look, and frankly, so do I. It makes me smile to see Sasha being Sasha.
As I wrote above, none of us can know the mind of the kid who lit a flame to Sasha's skirt. But I have a feeling that if he had seen Sasha's skirt as an expression of another kid's unique, beautiful self, and had smiled and thought, "I hella love Oakland," I wouldn't be writing this now.
Show your support
If you're local, please join us today as we come together in Oakland. For everyone else, we still invite your messages of encouragement and support for Sasha, family, friends, and all who are targeted for their gender identity in the comments below. Messages will be forwarded to Sasha.
A few kind words can have a powerful impact. Let Sasha know that you care with a message below.