Until two years ago, Luke “Sasha” Fleischman was a shy teen, a loner with odd hobbies and a bright mind, but far from a civil rights activist.
But between Fleischman’s freshman and senior year something changed: Fleischman decided to identify as agender or “nonbinary” gender, neither male nor female. Sasha asked to be referred to by the pronouns “they,” “them,” and “their.”
Family members say that very personal decision helped the teen blossom. But police believe it also led another teenager to light Fleischman’s skirt on fire as the student slept on a local bus, causing severe injuries that could take months to heal.
Since the incident, public support for the injured 18-year-old has been overwhelming, with more than $20,000 raised to help with medical expenses and civil rights leaders expressing outrage about the case. And understanding seems to be growing about the issues of gender identity that Fleischman hoped to call attention to.
On Friday, about half the 100 students at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, where Fleischman attended, wore skirts for Skirts for Sasha Day and carried signs reading, “Get well, Sasha, we miss you.”