Chinese court to hear first transgender job discrimination case

Man surnamed Liu was born a woman and is suing for compensation and apology

China’s president Xi Jinping has initiated a moral crusade that has seen TV items involving LGBT content taken off the air. Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

China’s president Xi Jinping has initiated a moral crusade that has seen TV items involving LGBT content taken off the air. Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

 

A labour arbitration board in southern China will hear what is being described as the country’s first transgender job discrimination case after a man who was born a woman alleges he was fired for wearing men’s clothes.

In an interview with a local newspaper, the 28-year-old salesman identified only by the surname Liu said he had not given his gender when applying for the sales job at the Guiyang branch of Ciming Checkup healthcare company in the southern province of Guizhou. He is suing for compensation of one week’s wages and an apology after being fired.

“Also they knew about my special gender situation,” he told the Guizhou Metropolitan. He was told he was being sacked because his expression of gender “did not conform to traditional notions”.

Mr Liu said he had worn men’s clothes since high school, and that he was doing this for all people facing job discrimination.

“I am not doing this only for myself, but also for all those who might face employment discrimination, such as those who are pregnant or disabled,” Mr Liu told the Global Times.

Mr Liu (29), who was born physically female but identifies himself as male, was dismissed one week after he was hired by Ciming last year. He filed a case with the local arbitration commission on March 7th.

The Guiyang branch of the healthcare company Ciming Checkup has agreed to pay the transgender plaintiff about 1,600 yuan (€217) in salary and compensation, according to his lawyer.

Quoting the head of Ciming’s human resources department, the Xinhua News Agency reported in March that the company fired Mr Liu because they thought he was gay and his sartorial choices were “incompatible” with the company’s image.

A ruling is expected this month in the case.

There is a growing awareness of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual issues in China but LGBT people there continue to face significant discrimination.

Homosexuality was taken off an official list of mental illnesses in 2001, after it was decriminalised in 1997, but a recent moral crusade orchestrated by President Xi Jinping has seen TV items involving LGBT content taken off the air.

In the latest example, a local court in Changsha, in central China’s Hunan province, will hear the country’s first lawsuit on same-sex marriage rights on Wednesday.

The couple are suing the local government for refusing to register their marriage despite a lack of any stipulation that they must be of the opposite gender.

“The arbitration is expected to encourage more people – including but not limited to members of the LGBT community, who face discrimination during their employment to stand up and defend themselves,” said Xu Bin, director of a Beijing-based NGO, Common Language, that advocates equal rights for LGBT people.