California | Gender Identity | News | Oakland | Sasha Fleischman

Oakland High School Student's Legs Scorched After Man Sets Skirt on Fire


A disturbing incident targeted an Oakland High School student who identifies as agender and often wears a skirt.

A man has been arrested and charged on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem after lighting 16-year-old Sasha Fleischman's skirt on fire on a city transit bus.

Fleishman suffered second and third degree burns and is in stable condition Tuesday at the St. Francis Memorial Hospital burn unit in San Francisco. The injuries will apparently require massive skin grafting and a long period of rehabilitation.

The Oakland Tribune reports:

Fleischman was apparently asleep on the bus, heading home to East Oakland, when the suspect set fire to a skirt the victim was wearing, his mother said. The victim, a senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, does not identify as male or female but rather as nonbinary gender, an umbrella term covering any gender identity that does not fit within the gender binary.

"My son considers himself agender," Debbie Fleischman said. "He likes to wear a skirt. It's his statement. That's how he feels comfortable dressing."

She said her son has been riding the bus home from school, oftentimes wearing a skirt, for the past year and has not had any problems or threats.

Police investigators are still sorting out a motive, but Debbie Fleischman said she is torn about whether the fire was a prank or a hate crime. "It's something I'm worried about," she said.

Fleischman is a gender identity activist:

[Fleischman's mother] said her son told her and his father, Karl Fleischman, about two years ago that he did not want to identify as a man or a woman. He also became politically involved in the issue of nonbinary gender, gathering 27,000 signatures on the Internet in hopes of catching President Obama's attention to the subject.

Friends and supporters of Sasha have set up a recovery fundraising page. You can find out more and donate here if you wish.

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  1. I'm sorry, but toilet papering someone's tree on Halloween is a PRANK. Setting fire to someone is NOT.

    Posted by: shaun | Nov 6, 2013 11:40:50 AM

  2. While this mother's support for her son is fantastic, I believe she made a serious error in allowing him to wear a shirt on the bus, to East Oakland. What was she thinking? We still live in a world where there is a lot of discrimination and hatred, so some caution and common sense should be deployed.

    Posted by: busytimmy | Nov 6, 2013 11:49:18 AM

  3. The solution to a culture of ignorance and prejudice is not to hide from it, but defy it. A great parent does not encourage their child to hide, but supports them with strong visibility.

    The parents who should be ashamed are the parents of the sociopath who clearly doesn't understand that there are zero justified reasons for, you know, SETTING SOMEONE ON FIRE.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Nov 6, 2013 11:51:19 AM

  4. It's why you should never fall asleep on public transportation.

    Still, hope those kids get sent to juvie for that.

    Posted by: Sam | Nov 6, 2013 12:04:28 PM

  5. Little Kiwi - You've never been to East Oakland, Have you? I regret he was unwise enough to travel on AC transit in a skirt, sorry, defying the harsh reality that is East Oakland is just plain, well, stupid. I live in East Oakland, and parts of it are VERY dangerous.

    Better to dress for the occasion in this instance.

    Posted by: Jonna the Woodswoman | Nov 6, 2013 12:04:43 PM

  6. We've got some of the sickest people in the world living in San Francisco. We keep screaming at Muni (bus system) to add more cameras and luckily the system and local security cameras were able to catch the criminal who did this but the City too should be held responsible. Bus drivers do NOTHING even tho they see the criminal acts take place - they just keep driving like it isn't their problem. People get stabbed, hit, mauled, molested and harassed and Muni does little to nothing. My heart goes out to this poor kid because he's going to be physically scared by the burning but it could have been much worse. My advice: don't ride Muni when you come to SF.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Nov 6, 2013 12:18:25 PM

  7. Poor kid :(
    That being said, I'm confused about the details in this reporting. The ages and identities of the victim and the perpetrator conflict with what is in the Oakland Tribune.

    Posted by: Lucas H | Nov 6, 2013 12:24:53 PM

  8. If you follow this case I can tell you the outcome: the criminal will claim it was "just a prank - I didn't mean to hurt anyone" and the judge will agree. The guy will get a fine and community service while the victim has to lived with the physical and mental scars for the rest of his life. You and I both KNOW this was no prank. It was a hate crime because a guy was wearing a skirt. The criminal should go to prison for a good forty years for attempted murder and nothing less. But we all know that will never happen.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Nov 6, 2013 12:25:27 PM

  9. Misogyny and Haterosexual hegemony must end!!!

    Posted by: Kissyfur | Nov 6, 2013 12:33:07 PM


    I agree that Oakland is dangerous! That's not really the issue. We know that the city has been overrun with Mexican migrants for years and they bring with them not only crime, but archaic beliefs in the gender binary. I'd bet you 10 pesos that the perp turns out to be mex.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Nov 6, 2013 12:35:41 PM

  11. I'm sure the guy who set the fire was a good, loving Christian, brimming over with the milk of Levitical human kindness.

    Posted by: jomicur | Nov 6, 2013 12:36:17 PM

  12. I first thought "agender" was a typo, but it's used more than once. Neither Merriam Webster or Google can define it for me. Can any one point me to a definition?

    Posted by: Anthony | Nov 6, 2013 12:37:45 PM

  13. Yeah... like I really believe that the Real LittleKiwi would spout out racism against any race. So to the Troll Kiwi who thinks 'Oakland' is run over with Mexicans; You've NEVER been to Oakland now, have you???

    Pffft. Racist NOM TROLL trying to execute some of those Internal NOM document strategies to sow dissent in the LGBT community using race as a divider.

    The whole world read your 'Campaign Strategy', NOM. You aint foolin' no one.

    Posted by: Jenny 0 | Nov 6, 2013 12:41:27 PM

  14. Ignore the cowardly troll who once again is posting anti-Mexican nonsense in my name. I have no idea what this troll's obsession with all-things-Mexican is but hopefully he'll have his internet privileges revoked by whichever parent whose basement he lives in.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Nov 6, 2013 12:42:10 PM

  15. Obviously, no one should be set on fire for any reason. There will be jail time for this and rightfully so.

    That having been said, I don't understand what this person thinks he is. He is neither male nor female. So what does that make him/her/it? A pure being of light? An inanimate object? A genderless organism like an amoeba?

    In the gender identity movement, there is definitely a streak of mental illness at work. And it manifests itself in the idea that you can declare yourself something and that declaration makes it so. If this person declared him/her/itself to be Napoleon Bonaparte, we refer him/her/it for mental health counseling.

    Posted by: Debs | Nov 6, 2013 12:43:21 PM

  16. The above posting by the FAKE Little Kiwi is FAKE.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Nov 6, 2013 12:44:06 PM

  17. @Anthony - "Agender" means with without gender, in the same way that apolitical means without politics, or atheism means a system without deity.

    Posted by: Gregory In Seattle | Nov 6, 2013 12:45:50 PM

  18. Sorry, KIWI:

    I meant the above FAKE posting ABOVE the ABOVE posting.

    I wonder he's always using Mexican-Americans as scape goats? It must be Rick's creation: David Hagatha Hearne. Rick hates Blacks more, David Hagatha Hearne hates Latinos more.

    That's one sick b.tch.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Nov 6, 2013 12:50:48 PM

  19. It must be sad to be a grown-adult gay man whose only outlet to vent the misery from having a lousy non-life is to come on here and spew hatred towards mexicans, blacks, transpeople and anyone else, really. oh well, not my life. Off to the art gallery!

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Nov 6, 2013 12:52:19 PM

  20. It's my belief that a lot of homophobia stems from a resistance to the gender binary being challenged. It's more often the butch female or effeminate male that receives anti-gay bigotry than the gender conforming gay person. That hate is magnified when someone actually does step outside the binary. It's a shame, but our society is built upon entrenched ideas of how each sex should behave.

    Posted by: Kevin | Nov 6, 2013 1:07:10 PM

  21. @Debs: Identifying as agender really isn't so hard to understand. More disturbing is that you equate a boy wanting to wear a skirt or identify as agender with mental illness--both completely harmless activities that should have no negative impact on any sane person--yet there is no mention in yours or some other comments about the true mental illness of transphobia that results in actual harm to another human being. That is what should be alarming here--setting someone on fire is like one zillion times more inappropriate and disturbing than a boy in a dress no matter what bus you're on.

    Posted by: Ernie | Nov 6, 2013 1:09:04 PM

  22. @Little Kiwi - You have no idea what you're talking about. Yes, we do have a lot of Mexicans here, as does all of California.

    I'd hardly jump to the conclusion it HAD to be a Mexican, but you're free to do so and make a fool of yourself.

    The kid who was burned? His mother teaches at the elementary school nearby. I think it was a case of poor judgment, Oakland is not the kind of town to wear skirts on Public transit.

    Posted by: Jon | Nov 6, 2013 1:36:44 PM

  23. Gender is a social construct. It only exists because we think it exists. This young person chooses to express their feeling that they exist outside of that construct. Not hard to understand and not at all crazy. Just because it's news to you doesn't make it wrong, evil or insane.

    Gender non-conformity, identity and expression are at the root of all anti-gay hatred. This is what the people who go nuts about the T in LGBT don't get, for some reason. Any fight about gender is one we're all fighting.

    The very idea that some people should be afraid to be themselves is nonsense. The stupid people should never win. Sadly, the consequence of being yourself is that the stupid people may attack you, but the possibility of that is no reason to live your life as a lie.

    Posted by: oncemorewithfeeling | Nov 6, 2013 1:44:48 PM

  24. Wow, in this thread we have blaming the victim AND his mother. What an exciting development.

    Trollroad commenters never fail to disappoint.

    Posted by: crispy | Nov 6, 2013 1:46:51 PM

  25. Oh, Jon, no.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Nov 6, 2013 1:47:18 PM

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