Sasha Fleischman fell asleep on a school bus this November and woke up in flames. The 18-year-old San Francisco native, who identifies as agender, meaning neither male nor female, was wearing a man’s shirt and a skirt when another high school student took a lighter to the highly flammable fabric. The cruel prank left Fleischman with third-degree burns, which required multiple surgeries, and catapulted agenders to the center of a national civil rights debate.

Chloe Aftel shot Fleischman for San Francisco Magazine just weeks after the high school senior was released from the hospital, an experience the photographer found so gratifying that she began an entire series on agenders.

“I found it fascinating that there is this whole group of people galvanizing the debate about what gender is, and to a certain extent, what love is and what self-expression is,” she tells Vocativ. “It’s about what works for you.”

The series, called Agender, is a collection of intimate portraits of so-called genderqueer youth and adults. The aim, Aftel explains, is a visual attempt to answer questions like, “What does it mean to have a body that is in between?” and “What does that look like and feel like day-to-day?”

What she found is a diverse, fearless community of people who exist on the frontier of social norms. “They have a real strength of character and complete clarity about who they are,” Aftel says, dismissing the oft-used term “gender confusion,” which is the prevailing characterization of genderqueers.

Fleischman was still nursing wounds when Aftel arrived for the shoot. Despite the bandages and gauze on Fleischman’s shins, they (the preferred pronoun for agenders) were also wearing a skirt, as they had been every day since the incident happened. “There was no chip on their shoulder,” Aftel remembers. “They were like, ‘This happened, and now I’m going to do my college applications and move on.’”

Both Fleischman and Aftel remain hopeful that agenders will eventually find acceptance. As we spoke, Aftel grew excited as a man with blue hair and a beard wearing a dress passed by, something that was highly unusual just a few decades ago. “The idea of fluidity with regards to gender just seems so exciting to me,” she says, “and honestly, much more based in reality.”

SEND US A FACT!

Thank you for
submitting your fact.

Be sure to follow and subscribe

Queer Index Factbot #QUEERINDEX
  • Embed this item

    According to Facebook data, the ratio of self-identified gay men to lesbians in Memphis, Tennessee, is 1 to 2.3.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    In San Antonio, more than 52% of Facebook users who self-identify as gay men also list themselves as single.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Chicago has the highest print circulation of LGBTQ papers (in total, almost 1.55 million).

    Gaydata circulation and readership stats

  • Embed this item

    According to Facebook data, the ratio of self-identified gay men to lesbians in San Francisco is 1 to 0.66.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Lakeland, Florida; Oxnard, California; and Provo, Utah, have the fewest LGBT bars or clubs (6, 5 and 5, respectively).

    Analysis of Yelp and Gaycities listings

  • Embed this item

    Looking for a nice girl? Memphis, Tennessee, has the highest percentage of lesbians who are single (40%).

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Of the 50 states, California has the highest number of same-sex couples; Nebraska has the lowest.

    Open data analysis: US Census' stats

  • Embed this item

    Salt Lake City has the lowest percentage of lesbians who are single (25.5%) of the top 100 most populous cities in the U.S.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Atlanta has the highest number of GayborhoodApp-certified businesses (685)--almost 3.5 times more than Chicago, the next city.

    Analysis of GayborhoodApp listings

  • Embed this item

    Boston reports the highest number of sexual-orientation hate crimes (63) per year of the top 100 U.S. cities.

    Open data analysis: SPLC stats

  • Embed this item

    NYC is the best city for random pickups: On average, there are 440 rent boys and 2,200 posts looking for hookups on Craigslist per day.

    Analysis of Craigslist & Rentboy posts

  • Embed this item

    According to Facebook, NYC has the largest lesbian population (74,000). Los Angeles is second (44,000) and Chicago third (22,000).

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    According to Facebook data, the ratio of self-identified gay men to lesbians in Baltimore is 1 to 2.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Los Angeles has the most bathhouses (8), closely followed by San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio, which all have 6.

    Analysis of Gaycities listings

  • Embed this item

    Nashville, Tennessee, has three LGBT-only sports leagues.

    Analysis of Rainbow Flags and Outsports

  • Embed this item

    On average, the ratio of self-identified gay men to lesbians on Facebook is 1.3 to 1 in the top 100 most populous cities in the U.S. 

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Gay nightlife is as good as it gets in NYC. The Big Apple has 403 gay clubs in addition to the 2,150 gay bars.

    Analysis of Yelp listings

  • Embed this item

    In Memphis, Tennessee, more than 52% of Facebook users who self-identify as gay men also list themselves as single.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Los Angeles averages the most gay bars (2,424), according to Yelp and Gaycities. NYC and San Francisco are runners-up with 2,150 each.

    Analysis of Yelp and Gaycities listings

  • Embed this item

    Los Angeles (No. 1 overall) and San Francisco (No. 3) both have 171 lesbian clubs each. NYC (No. 2) trails with 135.

    Analysis of Yelp listings

  • Embed this item

    The sportiest city is NYC, with 30 different LGBT-only leagues. Los Angeles ranks second with 19, Chicago and D.C. third with 17 apiece.

    Analysis of Rainbow Flags and Outsports

  • Embed this item

    In Columbus, Ohio, only 20% of Facebook users who self-identify as gay men also list themselves as single.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Los Angeles has 2,424 gay bars but only 168 lesbian-specific watering holes (not counting ladies' nights at gay bars).

    Analysis of Yelp and Gaycities listings

  • Embed this item

    For the top 100 cities in the U.S. by population, on average there are 10 w4w posts on Craigslist each day, compared with 183 m4m posts.

    Analysis of Craigslist w4w forums

  • Embed this item

    Washington, D.C., has the most anti-LGBT groups (3), while NYC has the most hate groups in general (18).

    Open data analysis: SPLC stats

  • Embed this item

    According to Craigslist, NYC has the most w4w posts, with an average of 55 per day. Atlanta and Los Angeles spar for second with 46 each.

    Analysis of Craigslist w4w forums

  • Embed this item

    NYC has the largest gay population (64,000), according to Facebook. Los Angeles ranks second (42,000) and Chicago is third (20,000).

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    San Jose, California, has almost 25 w4w posts a day, according to Craigslist. That's the same as Portland, Oregon.

    Analysis of Craigslist w4w forums

Sasha Fleischman fell asleep on a school bus this November and woke up in flames. The 18-year-old San Francisco native, who identifies as agender, meaning neither male nor female, was wearing a man’s shirt and a skirt when another high school student took a lighter to the highly flammable fabric. The cruel prank left Fleischman with third-degree burns, which required multiple surgeries, and catapulted agenders to the center of a national civil rights debate.

Chloe Aftel shot Fleischman for San Francisco Magazine just weeks after the high school senior was released from the hospital, an experience the photographer found so gratifying that she began an entire series on agenders.

“I found it fascinating that there is this whole group of people galvanizing the debate about what gender is, and to a certain extent, what love is and what self-expression is,” she tells Vocativ. “It’s about what works for you.”

The series, called Agender, is a collection of intimate portraits of so-called genderqueer youth and adults. The aim, Aftel explains, is a visual attempt to answer questions like, “What does it mean to have a body that is in between?” and “What does that look like and feel like day-to-day?”

What she found is a diverse, fearless community of people who exist on the frontier of social norms. “They have a real strength of character and complete clarity about who they are,” Aftel says, dismissing the oft-used term “gender confusion,” which is the prevailing characterization of genderqueers.

Fleischman was still nursing wounds when Aftel arrived for the shoot. Despite the bandages and gauze on Fleischman’s shins, they (the preferred pronoun for agenders) were also wearing a skirt, as they had been every day since the incident happened. “There was no chip on their shoulder,” Aftel remembers. “They were like, ‘This happened, and now I’m going to do my college applications and move on.’”

Both Fleischman and Aftel remain hopeful that agenders will eventually find acceptance. As we spoke, Aftel grew excited as a man with blue hair and a beard wearing a dress passed by, something that was highly unusual just a few decades ago. “The idea of fluidity with regards to gender just seems so exciting to me,” she says, “and honestly, much more based in reality.”

SEND US A FACT!

Thank you for
submitting your fact.

Be sure to follow and subscribe

Queer Index Factbot #QUEERINDEX
  • Embed this item

    Washington, D.C., has the most anti-LGBT groups (3), while NYC has the most hate groups in general (18).

    Open data analysis: SPLC stats

  • Embed this item

    NYC is the best city for random pickups: On average, there are 440 rent boys and 2,200 posts looking for hookups on Craigslist per day.

    Analysis of Craigslist & Rentboy posts

  • Embed this item

    According to Facebook, NYC has the largest lesbian population (74,000). Los Angeles is second (44,000) and Chicago third (22,000).

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    In Memphis, Tennessee, more than 52% of Facebook users who self-identify as gay men also list themselves as single.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    On average, the ratio of self-identified gay men to lesbians on Facebook is 1.3 to 1 in the top 100 most populous cities in the U.S. 

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    According to Facebook data, the ratio of self-identified gay men to lesbians in San Francisco is 1 to 0.66.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    According to Facebook data, the ratio of self-identified gay men to lesbians in Memphis, Tennessee, is 1 to 2.3.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Atlanta has the highest number of GayborhoodApp-certified businesses (685)--almost 3.5 times more than Chicago, the next city.

    Analysis of GayborhoodApp listings

  • Embed this item

    Nashville, Tennessee, has three LGBT-only sports leagues.

    Analysis of Rainbow Flags and Outsports

  • Embed this item

    Of the 50 states, California has the highest number of same-sex couples; Nebraska has the lowest.

    Open data analysis: US Census' stats

  • Embed this item

    Looking for a nice girl? Memphis, Tennessee, has the highest percentage of lesbians who are single (40%).

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    In San Antonio, more than 52% of Facebook users who self-identify as gay men also list themselves as single.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Los Angeles (No. 1 overall) and San Francisco (No. 3) both have 171 lesbian clubs each. NYC (No. 2) trails with 135.

    Analysis of Yelp listings

  • Embed this item

    Los Angeles has 2,424 gay bars but only 168 lesbian-specific watering holes (not counting ladies' nights at gay bars).

    Analysis of Yelp and Gaycities listings

  • Embed this item

    For the top 100 cities in the U.S. by population, on average there are 10 w4w posts on Craigslist each day, compared with 183 m4m posts.

    Analysis of Craigslist w4w forums

  • Embed this item

    Los Angeles averages the most gay bars (2,424), according to Yelp and Gaycities. NYC and San Francisco are runners-up with 2,150 each.

    Analysis of Yelp and Gaycities listings

  • Embed this item

    Lakeland, Florida; Oxnard, California; and Provo, Utah, have the fewest LGBT bars or clubs (6, 5 and 5, respectively).

    Analysis of Yelp and Gaycities listings

  • Embed this item

    According to Craigslist, NYC has the most w4w posts, with an average of 55 per day. Atlanta and Los Angeles spar for second with 46 each.

    Analysis of Craigslist w4w forums

  • Embed this item

    In Columbus, Ohio, only 20% of Facebook users who self-identify as gay men also list themselves as single.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    NYC has the largest gay population (64,000), according to Facebook. Los Angeles ranks second (42,000) and Chicago is third (20,000).

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Chicago has the highest print circulation of LGBTQ papers (in total, almost 1.55 million).

    Gaydata circulation and readership stats

  • Embed this item

    San Jose, California, has almost 25 w4w posts a day, according to Craigslist. That's the same as Portland, Oregon.

    Analysis of Craigslist w4w forums

  • Embed this item

    Los Angeles has the most bathhouses (8), closely followed by San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio, which all have 6.

    Analysis of Gaycities listings

  • Embed this item

    According to Facebook data, the ratio of self-identified gay men to lesbians in Baltimore is 1 to 2.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Boston reports the highest number of sexual-orientation hate crimes (63) per year of the top 100 U.S. cities.

    Open data analysis: SPLC stats

  • Embed this item

    The sportiest city is NYC, with 30 different LGBT-only leagues. Los Angeles ranks second with 19, Chicago and D.C. third with 17 apiece.

    Analysis of Rainbow Flags and Outsports

  • Embed this item

    Salt Lake City has the lowest percentage of lesbians who are single (25.5%) of the top 100 most populous cities in the U.S.

    Analysis of Facebook profiles' meta data

  • Embed this item

    Gay nightlife is as good as it gets in NYC. The Big Apple has 403 gay clubs in addition to the 2,150 gay bars.

    Analysis of Yelp listings

Respond Now
  • WWWhGo armed!hyta

  • Out of curiosity, why are her subjects “…so-called genderqueer youth and adults.”? Is there some question as to their genderqueer-ness? Is there some question as to the term genderqueer? I am very into these portraits, but the wording of the article…well, it raised some questions in my mind.

  • Awesome pictures!

  • nice picsgreatg

  • Great post.Would love to see more body diversity among the photo gallery. Right now everyone is white(-passing?), and almost everyone is young and thin.Genderqueer has many races, many sizes, and at least some age diversity. Would love to see that reflected!

  • Beautiful. As a genderqueer, I thank you muchly for the visibility & positive light.

  • Show More
  • only white people are gender queer?

CRIME

Spooky Dolls on the Doorstep: A Real-Life Horror Movie Unfolds in L.A.

Emily Levy
PHOTOS

Inside Gaza's Smuggling Tunnels

Vocativ Staff
HEALTH

Ancient Ritual Leaves Babies Infected With Herpes

Luke Malone
MEDIA

Ukraine’s Streamers

Dusan Sekulovic
SEX

"Stuffers" Pack on Pounds to Satisfy Their Sexual Desires

Elizabeth Kulze
SUDAN

Inside the U.N.'s 850-Calorie "Diet" for Refugees

Mythili Sampathkumar
SOCIETY

This Gadget Texts You if There Are Date-Rape Drugs in Your Drink

Elizabeth Kulze
TURKEY

Inside Turkey’s Yoga Sex Scandal

Elcin Poyrazlar
Join the Fray
“The Tea Party Is Like a Cult”: A Q&A With One of Occupy Wall St.’s Leaders