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Transgender man fired one week into new job for wearing men’s clothes at work

Transgender man fired one week into new job for wearing men’s clothes at work

A transgender man in China was fired from his new job with no notice or compensation because he wore men’s clothes to work.

Chen, 28, was hired as a health specialist by Chinese company Ciming Checkup, in Guiyang, capital city of Guizhou province, in April 2015. 

Seven days later, he was told to leave the company because his manly appearance was deemed ‘not up to the company’s high requirements.’

Chen, who has been wearing men’s clothes since high school, commented that the company’s attitude towards him was ‘over the top.’

‘If it was due to my ability and attitude at work, I would have accepted the dismissal,’ said Chen. ‘But some staff called me gay and said that I ruined the image of the company, which was hard to take.’

Ciming Checkup’s head of human resources, Ms. He, confirmed that Chen had been fired because his image was ‘incompatible’ with the company’s requirements, but she did not elaborate on what exactly they entail:

‘Chen looked like a man, but introduced himself as transgender, which shocked us a little.’

She added that the other staff were unsettled by Chen’s appearance.

Another department head, Mr. Jin, told China News Service that Chen’s position requires ‘quite a high requirement on the image’ as there will be ‘frequent contact with senior leaders from other companies.’

‘Chen’s image was not up to those requirements,’ Jin said.

Upon dismissal, Chen was not given any compensation for his one week of employment.

At that time, he did not seek any legal action as he was unaware of his legal rights:

‘In the past I was not savvy with legality, and so when that incident happened, I simply blamed it on fate.

‘However in January 2016 I attended a legal panel, and it was only then when I realised that my former employer had in fact violated the Labor Law.’

At the conference, which was arranged by Wider Pro Bono Legal Service Center in Shenzhen, Chen had also met Huang Sha who decided to take on his case and become his legal representative.

‘Of course a company can fire its employees during the probation period if they cannot fulfil the job requirements, but the company should pay compensation in accordance with the Labor Law. If Chen was fired out of prejudice, it would be against the Contract Law,’ said Huang Sha.

The Paper reports that Chen had gone to Guiyang’s local arbitration commission on March 7 seeking for his unpaid salary as well as compensation for financial losses resulted from his wrongful dismissal.

He received a letter from the commission on March 14 which responded that they will look into the case.

Chen with his letter from the commission which says that they will look into his case of wrongful dismissal.
Chen with his letter from the commission which says that they will look into his case of wrongful dismissal.

Li Yinhe, who is China’s first female sexologist, says that Chen’s case may be the country’s first transgender workplace discrimination case.

She predicts that a win might bring about a big positive impact for all Chinese gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the country.

‘Everyone should be equal when it comes to employment,’ said Li.

A report by Chinese non-profit organization Aibai Culture and Education Center reveals that gay and transgender men and women face widespread discrimination from their employers and colleagues, and many have also experienced verbal abuse at work.

‘I am a transgender man, not a woman. So pease do not use female pronouns on me,’ Chen affirmed when speaking to The Paper.

At a charity event in 2014, Chen had also echoed American author and gender theorist Kate Bornstein’s point on the problematic way of viewing gender as binary:

‘I know I’m not a man, and slowly I also understand that I’m probably not a woman too.

‘The problem is that we are currently living in world that requires us to be either male or female.’

Chen gave a talk about the transgender community at a charity event in 2014.
Chen gave a talk about the transgender community at a charity event in 2014.

Compared to the past, there are now more talk, understanding and social acceptance of gay and transgender people in China.

Take for example popular Chinese talk show host, Jin Xing, who is a proud transgender woman well loved throughout the country,

However, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in China still struggles with social stigmas and pressures due to the nation’s very traditional take on family and marriage, as well as its conservative stance on gay visibility in the media.

Chen’s story has since attracted a lot of attention online, with Chinese netizens leaving some 15,000 comments on web portal, Netease.

In the discussion, a netizen questioned: ‘If he was not up to standard, why recruit him in the first place?’

Ciming Checkup’s department head Jin answered that the company’s decision to hire Chen was expedited because he had a recommendation.

This is not Chen’s first experience with gender discrimination in employment. He revealed that prior to this case, he had changed many jobs because of the complaints about his ‘un-womanly’ way of dressing:

‘They are always asking me to dress as girlish as possible, as though my work performance depends on it.’

Since his dismissal last April, he has yet been able to find new employment.

‘It seems like being an entrepreneur might be the only way I can avoid such difficulties,” Chen lamented.

Liu Xiaonan, an associate professor with China University of Political Science and Law, remarked that the case shows that there exists a lack of understanding about gender equality in the country:

’In China, laws about gender equality are confined to the world of men and women, while laws concerning sexual and gender rights are thin on the ground.’

Chen’s lawyer Huang Sha said that he hopes the Chinese authorities will come to understand that gay and transgender people deserve to be protected equally as their heterosexual peers at work.

H/t: Shanghai Daily