Trans man wins landmark illegal dismissal case in China

A trans man in China has successfully won a landmark illegal dismissal case, after his employer fired him for wearing men’s clothes.

The man, known as Mr Chen, was fired only a week after starting a new job at a health centre in the town of Guizhou, south-west China.

In a legal challenge in December, the first of its kind, Chen alleged that he had been illegally dismissed by his employer, because of anti-trans discrimination.

Photo: China Photos / Getty

A judge from the Guiyang Yunyan District People’s Court found in Mr Chen’s favour, ordering his employers at the Ciming Health Check-up Centre to pay him compensation of 2, 000 Yen (£234), a month’s wages.

However, the judge declined to make the company apologise, and stopped short of ruling that Chen’s dismissal was due to discrimination against his gender identity.

This is despite a manager at the health centre seemingly confirming that the dismissal was because Chen is trans.

“Chen’s appearance really did not fit our standards”, a staff member at the health centre told a local newspaper at the time.

Hong Kong, CHINA: A gay and homosexual group lead a protest to government offices in Hong Kong 01 December 2006. The group were urging the government to end discrimination to homosexuals with regard to an organisation which promotes conversion therapy for homosexuals. Banner reads" Government leads campaign to insult gays and believes they need a cure" AFP PHOTO/MIKE CLARKE (Photo credit should read MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images)


Unsatisfied with the lack of apology, Chen vowed to continue fighting a legal battle – and how a higher court has ruled that trans workers should not be discriminated against based on their identity.

This month’s ruling, from the Guiyang Intermediate People’s Court, says that “An individual’s gender identity and gender expression falls within the protection of general personality rights, [everyone] should respect others’ rights to gender identity and expression”.

It adds: “Workers should not experience differential treatment based on their gender identity and expression.”

This is the first time that a Chinese court has expressed an opinion on the legality of discriminating against transgender employees and may set a precedent for future Supreme Court rulings.

The appeals court also increased the amount of compensation received to 4000 yuan.

The victorious trans man has always maintained that the legal proceedings were never about compensation, telling the Guardian at the time of the initial case: “I have always said this case was never about the money”.

(TR/AFP/Getty Images)

“This lawsuit was about three things: dignity, raising awareness of transgender and other sexual minorities, and pushing for anti-discrimination legislation.”

In response to the latest ruling, Mr Chen says that he is both happy and unhappy with the verdict.

“[The judge] concluded that no company should discriminate against employees on the basis of their gender identity. I am very satisfied with that”, he told Radio Free Asia.

However, he added that he was disappointed not to have obtained an apology from his former employers.

Trans people face high levels of discrimination in China, according to a study conducted last year.

The National Survey of the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Population carried out by the Beijing LGBT Center and Peking University’s Department of Sociology, found that almost 50% of respondents had considered self-harm or suicide.

A third of respondents were living in poverty earning less than 25,000 yuan ($3,770) a year.