Last Monday, gender-nonconforming 18-year-old Sasha Fleischman was riding the bus home to Oakland from Berkeley when fellow rider Richard Thomas lit Sasha on fire. Thomas, 16, allegedly assaulted Sasha in this way because Sasha, a biological boy who identifies as “agender,” was wearing a skirt. Sasha, still in the hospital, suffered second and third degree burns and will face a long recovery; Thomas was charged as an adult with aggravated mayhem and felony assault, both of which have hate crime enhancements.
Since the incident, there has been an outpouring of support for Sasha. The community quickly raised over $20,000 (donations can be made here), and students at Sasha’s school wore skirts last Friday on Skirts for Sasha day. Tonight there will be a Stroll for Sasha organized “to send the message that love is more powerful then hate and violence, and to celebrate our vast diversity” and “to join together in celebration of a million different ways to be who we truly are.” Local readers who would like to attend: meet at Oakland High School at the corner of Park and Macarthur at 5:30pm; spaghetti dinner at St. Paul Lutheran Church afterward. All are welcome.
There has been so much love and support for Sasha, and so much broadening of awareness around gender, in and outside of Sasha’s community. Naturally a part of the support that we see is outrage. Outrage that one person would do this to another, outrage that it happened in the progressive Bay Area, outrage that a person–a teenager–should be punished simply for being themselves. We are fortunate that we have this outrage within and among us, fortunate that an event like this does not go unnoticed by all but the victim, fortunate that the awareness of gender diversity has grown so much in recent years that there even IS this outrage around us. Often, such awareness grows by leaps and bounds only after a shocking or tragic event. And so we sit–and donate, and act up, and stroll–and we try to hold this thing in balance, this thing which holds us in a place of both love and outrage, this thing which both changes the world and also which seems like too high a price for any one person to pay.