Shadow Sex – Boy, Girl & Beyond

emNews & Articles 8 Comments

In November, 18-year-old Sasha Fleischman was set on fire by a teenager after falling asleep during the bus ride home. The assault resulted in third-degree burns and several surgeries. Sasha’s “crime”? Presenting as a boy while dressing in traditionally feminine clothing.

Born Luke Fleischman, the American teen wore a skirt for the first time to school sophomore year. Soon after, Fleischman started questioning the binary definitions of gender, and has since identified as agender, preferring to use the pronouns “they” and “them.”

Fleischman’s story made national headlines and led to a broader conversation about gender-identity issues. Now the teen, who expressed hope that their 16-year-old attacker would not be prosecuted as an adult, was also featured in a photo project by LA-based photographer Chloe Aftel.

Hoping to raise awareness of this diverse, often-overlooked community, San Francisco magazine published Aftel’s photos in an attempt to shed light on what it means to be a gender-fluid teen in the wake of Fleischman’s attack.


Comprised mostly of young people, the San Franciscans in the series use umbrella terms like “genderqueer” and “nonbinary,” Rachele Kanigel explained in San Francisco magazine’s story accompanying the photo series. “This growing community encompasses people who see themselves as agender (neither male nor female), bi-gender (both genders) and gender-fluid (shifting from male to female).”

But the agender community shares more than just an affinity for plural pronouns. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the most extensive study of its kind, 78% of gender non-conforming people face harassment at school, 90% suffer mistreatment at work and 53% experience being verbally disrespected in a public place.

“Transgender and gender non-conforming people face injustice at every turn: in childhood homes, in school systems that promise to shelter and educate, in harsh and exclusionary workplaces, at the grocery store, the hotel front desk, in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, before judges and at the hands of landlords, police officers, health care workers and other service providers,” the report says.


Micah, who identifies as neutrois (or genderless), was also profiled in the photo series. “I’m not a femme boy or a butch girl — I am too butch to be femme, too femme to be butch,” Micah explained in a blog post. “It’s not embracing both sides, or one side; it’s embracing neither. It’s not an absence of gender, and it’s not not-caring about my gender. Quite the contrary — I care very strongly about my gender, my gender expression, and my gender perception. I have a gender, and it’s a neutral gender.”

By documenting these expressions of gender in her intimate photo project, Aftel explores what it feels and looks like to push the boundaries of binary. Her photos, often taken in meaningful, personal settings, are a rejection of the idea that genderqueer people are gender-confused.

“They have a real strength of character and complete clarity about who they are,” Aftel told Vocativ. “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. It’s about what works for you.”


“I classify myself as nonbinary,” Finley Terhune, a 24-year-old graduate student, told San Francisco magazine. “To me that means not male and not female, but not having no gender either.” Terhune, who prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “en,” “ens,” and “enself,” “wasn’t as open at first, but gradually, that became more and more uncomfortable.”

The idea was that while coming out is difficult, it ultimately raises awareness of a complicated and relatively unknown identity shared by many of the series’ subjects.

“I think a lot of people like to see gender as this scale of blue and pink,” Emma, a 20-year-old college student, told the magazine. “I never really identified with either side of that, or even in between blue and pink. It’s so much more complicated — my identity varies so much on any given day. Sometimes I tell people I’m gold or something.”




Comments 8

  1. “Clothes don’t make the man”
    (or woman)
    ❦A unique perspective. Not really about sexuality but more so about personal choices.
    A brave soul who may help open the door for others who are forced into a box not of their chosen.
    Excellent article, Thanks milkboys!

  2. I’m going to offer a different perspective on this situation:

    Psychologically, there’s a reason for “rejection” of these “new genders” by the older people and it’s confusion. Most of us older people are being thrown into these new terms for either gender or sex and leaves us confused to what separate rooms we must offer for these new concepts.

    Which room do you urinate in with others — MALE or FEMALE or WHAT?
    Which room do you change your clothes in with others — MALE or FEMALE or WHAT?

    You give us all these new terms to use to separate you into …. but which is it? What fits YOU?

    gender non-conforming

    and more accurate,

    I’m NOT saying that there isn’t any different “gender” …. I’m just offering a different perspective on this because of confusion:

    An older person looks at you and sees:
    NO breasts
    What appears to be a PENIS bulge

    So, what is he to expect of you and society?

    Before you put everyone down who is older or in some sort of “power” over you (including your parents), consider what they must be thinking also.

  3. penboy maybe dont expect anything. thats part of the issue old ppl are always trying to label and box things

    1. @me:
      “thats part of the issue old ppl are always trying to label and box things”

      Except for the first two, all the rest are labels of your generation, not mine. So your statement shows pure ignorance — you just want to put down older people and make your generation “superior” —- which will never be — look what’s happening all over the world during your generation.

      1. “… you just want to put down older people and make your generation “superior” – which it never will be – look what’s happening all over the world during your generation”
        annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd: here come the insecurity issues…

        1. @siddartha999 [only 3?]:
          “annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd: here come the insecurity issues…”

          There are way too many reasons your generation is not superior — it would take a book to just to list, let alone explain.

          And, insecurity issues? Just look at what’s happening in the middle east and the fact that a very simple peace has not been worked out since WWII (yes, “we’ve” failed the first 20 years, but you’ve failed the last 40 years). We’ve now entered into WWIII (which you [most of you] will not acknowledge, but in fact, it’s happening. The “spark” (or “slow” burning ember, your choice) happened with the live buring of the Jordanian pilot, their response and now, the beheading of 21 “christians”.

  4. Humans do not have any ability to change sexual ability as some animals do. Some animals do have the ability to change to egg layers, as their environment requires, from sperm ejectors. such animals nust also get injecting from mates who have yet to change. Some are self injectors. Most animals cannot do such things. That seems to include we humans. This is about sex. Sex is about reproducing. There is still is not a guarantee.
    — Some animals eat out their food supply, or, what it is they eat. Some times the food supply, as such each animal reacts to as their food, pecukiar to them, is gone,. Such is gone for climate or whatever other changes in their area or environment. These animals die out from starving.
    -Other animals reacting to other things as food take over.
    — Some animals die out. The giant dinosaurs eat out their food supplies. Or, their food supplies die out. Or, some enough of both. The dinosaurs do die out. They starve to death. No comet is of any require.
    — Gender is a human invent. Gender is of human inventing. What gender is the male who marries his sister to specifically bear children ? Go ask some Hawaiians and some Pacific islanders. You, as a soldier, hunter, or slave interfere not. The sister and brother of old Egypt can bed and get but you dare not as you build those pyramids. What gender can we say of any ?
    — If it comes to fucking, who gives a fuck ? Lie to survive. Fuck as those in power do.

  5. Definitely a Hate crime,before we can condemn Russia for it’s homophobia and anti queer laws we must stamp it out here in the West,people should be able to dress how they wish,and enjoy their particular sexuality without fear..p.s.,, Gender fluidity has always existed since antiquity, and today there is a lot of hypocrisy, as hetero men watch trans and femboy porn in secret,and having sexual hookups with either gay young men or trans women, while publicly holding bigoted views..

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