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Supporters march for 'non-gender' teen set afire on Oakland bus

Supporters of a teenager whose skirt was set on fire as he slept on an Oakland bus earlier this month marched Thursday evening in a show of solidarity with the student, who identifies as non-gender.

Luke "Sasha" Fleischman, 18, was asleep on a city bus Nov. 4 when the high-schooler's skirt was allegedly set ablaze by 16-year-old Richard Thomas, who has since been charged as an adult with a hate crime.

Fleischman, who identifies as neither male nor female, suffered major second- and third-degree burns.

The march Thursday night started at Oakland High School as friends and family walked about a mile along the bus line to where the attack occurred, according to KGO-TV. They called the march "Walk the Rainbow Road."

"It's not just for Sasha, but it's for the community and it's for people to accept all different kinds of people and that's what I hope [comes from] this Rainbow Road that people have created by hanging ribbons and things on the bus poles," said Fleischman's mother, who marched alongside her husband. "We want everybody to add their own ribbon and their own uniqueness." 

As Sasha Fleischman, the teen has been politically active on the issue of nonbinary gender.

Students and staff at Sasha's small Bay Area high school, male and female, also donned sarongs and skirts earlier this month to show support for their classmate.

In an open letter to the public posted by SF Weekly, Fleischman's father, Karl, wrote in part that "another aspect of this story that has gotten a lot of attention is the fact that Sasha was wearing a skirt, 'even though' Sasha appears to be a boy."

"The fact is that Sasha self-identifies as 'agender' and prefers the pronouns 'they,' 'them,' and 'their' when people refer to Sasha in the third person," he wrote. 

"I realize that this is a concept that even adults have difficulty wrapping their heads around. (My wife and I frequently slip up in our pronoun usage, much to Sasha's chagrin!) So I can't pretend that it's an issue that all young children will grasp," he wrote.

"But what they certainly can and should understand is that different people like different things. Different people dress or behave or look differently. And that's a good thing. Sasha feels comfortable wearing a skirt. It's part of their style. They also frequently sport a necktie and vest."

"Sasha likes the look, and frankly, so do I. It makes me smile to see Sasha being Sasha."

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Twitter: @aribloomekatz | Facebook

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

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