The Oakland/Berkeley community are reaching out to show support for  Luke “Sasha” Fleischman, the “agendered” 18-year old who was set on fire , allegedly by another teen, while sleeping on an Oakland bus earlier this week. Fleischman’s father, Karl, is a kindergarten teacher at Sequoia Elementary School in Oakland, and parents and teachers there are going around the neighborhood and tying rainbow colored ribbons (LGBT colored ribbons, right?) at bus stops on the route of the 57, the bus Fleischman was riding when the attack happened.

Fleischman, who attends Maybeck High School in Berkeley, is also a member of the community at St. Paul Lutheran Church, just blocks from where the incident happened. Community members there are brainstorming ways to show their suppport for Fleischman and for gender diversity.

An online fund-raising drive to help with medical bills, raised $21,000 in hours before the family asked for donations to cease. More than 748 people have viewed links to the donor drive, more than 300 have left comments, and  541 people contributed.

While the comments on CBS News, which ran an early story, are generally negative, expressing views like “Neither male or female, but a non gender, so what is it really???” and “He’s gay and we all know it. That would be simple enough to understand. The skirt and the activist stuff is all fluff to give his young mind time to “find himself”  I wonder if we will ever find a genetic link to this mental disorder;”  comments on the donation site are, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly supportive, and  include “You’re a brave individual, stay strong and encouraged by your drive for the future and support. You are an inspiration and example to us all” and “Sasha, stay strong and know you have a community who will keep hoping, loving, working, and fighting for and with you.”


About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local ( a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

4 Responses

  1. Oakie

    Those disturbing comments on the CBS News are truly disgusting. The coarsening of the public discourse is lamentable, especially in this instance where there is a real human being suffering such real pain and agony.

    I have no personal experience hearing these voices in real life. Are they around and just speak this way when they are anonymous online? Or do I just not come into contact with them because we are insulated from them? I’m just not sure, but it makes me paranoid wondering….

  2. livegreen

    Very disappointing article with little depth. Then to spend time addressing the comment section of another news outlet? The writer spends more time about blogs than actual info about the incident, the victim or the community.

    Oakland Local, please try to get a better stock of journalists rather than bloggers.

  3. K Fitch

    To the person wondering about the prevalence of the nasty comments: I have been following this story and reading comments on a variety of news sites. This blog has pretty well captured the balance of remarks I’ve seen. My sense is that whether you ever actually hear people saying any of the negative stuff depends a lot on where you live and what your neighbors/associates are like; also, I have to keep reminding myself that comments on the Internet can come from *anywhere*. The Bay Area is one of the most liberal-minded, open, inquiring places in the country (except for certain neighborhoods/cultural groups), and there is still a lot of ignorance and unfamiliarity with gender issues in other states and regions. So in that sense, I guess we are kind of “insulated”.

  4. Susan Mernit

    livegreen, given that the mainstream media has covered this case extensively, we didn’t see the need to just replicate their coverage, but we did want to highlight the strong community support and outreach, which no one had yet covered. Also, when people say “get better reporters,” I always wonder if they realize that we are neither a corporate entity nor part of a school and that the best way to help us fund writers is to support us–by advertising, donating, telling your friends, whatever works for you. We’re doing our end of year fund drive soon and I hope you will give what you can.


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