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Calif. Teen Sets Agender Student’s Skirt Set on Fire

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Thursday November 7, 2013

A California student who self-identifies with the non-binary 'agender' orientation is recovering from severe leg burns after being set on fire by another teenager on a bus. Luke "Sasha" Fleischman recently underwent surgery on his legs at St. Francis Memorial Hospital's burn unit in San Francisco, and friends have rallied in support.

According to an article in the NBC Bay Area, Fleischman was sleeping on a moving AC transit bus in Oakland when another teen boarded the bus line 57 at 5:20 p.m. near Oakland High School and lit Fleischman's skirt on fire with a lighter. Fellow passengers helped extinguish the flames, but Fleischman suffered second- and third-degree burns.

"This is a horrific crime," said Oakland police spokesperson Johnna Watson, who told NBC that police arrested a 16-year-old Oakland High School student whose name is not being released as he is under age. The youth has been charged on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem.

Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick declined to discuss details with NBC about whether a hate crime enhancement would be charged, but Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent acknowledged that officers were looking into hate as a possible factor.

The incident caused an outswelling of support for the popular Berkeley Maybeck High School student via the Fundly website Helping Sasha Have a Speedy Recovery, which raised about $21,000 in one day to pay for several more surgeries Fleischman will need. The family said they were no longer raising money, and the site has since been shut down. The school has about 100 students and bears the motto "Open Doors, Open Minds."

"Per the family's request, we are ending the fundraiser shortly after the $20,000 mark," wrote "Joshua," who managed the Fundly site. "You guys did it. You helped heal a wounded soul and lifted up a family in need. Thank you for that. Words cannot express our gratitude. Though this fundraiser cannot undo what has happened, it can be a testament to all of us that there are still good people in the world."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.