A horrific attack on a gender noncomforming teen is bringing attention to people who identify themselves as “agender.”
When 18 year old Luke “Sasha” Fleischman was lit on fire on an Oakland city bus in early November, it was due in large part to the admitted “homophobia” of his attacker, 16 year old Richard Thomas.
Sasha is a gender noncomformist and was wearing a skirt at the time, which sent their attacker into a rage and sent Fleischman to the hospital where they stayed for weeks getting treated for second and third degree burns. Thomas has since been arrested and charged as an adult with a hate crime, assault and mayhem.
The attack was met by an outpouring of support from other students at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, CA. Fellow students, both male and female, wore skirts a few weeks later as a show of solidarity for Fleischman, who identifies as “agender” or “genderqueer.”
The “agender” movement is very closely aligned with the new push towards using Preferred Gender Pronouns (PGPs) in LGBT-oriented safe spaces, as well as more progressive college campuses.
Though the movement seems new and difficult to grasp, some who have been aware of it for years are pleased with the positive response and the move towards understanding the issues that the attack has raised.
“I’ve been doing this work for years, and there has been added public awareness, but it’s still a new issue for most people,” says San Francisco LGBT Community Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe. “Most people don’t know someone who is gender neutral, or don’t know someone who is transgender.”
Sasha has since returned to school, and is being driven back and forth by their mother for now.