Students Don Skirts to Support Agender Peer Who Was Set Aflame

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com November 08 2013 2:24 PM ET

An 18-year-old high school senior whose skirt was lit on fire when the teenager fell asleep on a public bus in Oakland, Calif., is in stable condition after suffering third-degree burns from the attack Monday, according to the Oakland Tribune

Sasha Fleischman identifies as agender — neither male nor female, but a nonbinary gender — the teen's mother told the Tribune, and has been wearing skirts to school for quite some time without incident. But when Fleischman fell asleep on an Oakland transit bus Monday night, Fleischman's skirt was set on fire; a 16-year-old student from another high school has been arrested in connection with the attack. Fleischman will have to undergo substantial skin grafts and will have a lengthy recovery time, Fleischman's mother told the Tribune

And now friends and allies are rallying in support of Sasha Fleischman. Supporters launched a crowdfunding page to help the Fleischman family pay for Sasha's medical bills, which are estimated to be at least $10,000. The Fundly page was launched by Fleischman's cousin Tuesday and as of Friday had raised more than $21,000, when Fleischman's family ended the campaign.

Students at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, where Fleischman is a senior, planned to wear skirts to school Friday to show solidarity with the victim, reports KTVU. The Bay Area station reports that Fleischman is a top academic student who is a semifinalist for a national merit scholar award. 

The suspected assailant, 16-year-old Richard Thomas, is a junior at Oakland High School, and was arrested Monday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem. KTVU reports that Thomas may face hate-crime charges if it's determined that Fleischman's nonbinary gender identity was the motivation for the attack.