A trans man in southwest China’s Guizhou Province has been fired for wearing men’s clothes at work, sparking heated discussions about gender discrimination.
Last year, Chen, 28, was fired just one week into a new job at Ciming Checkup. He was not awarded any compensation. The company, located in the provincial capital Guiyang, told Chen that his sartorial choices were “incompatible with the company’s image.”
Chen went to the local arbitration commission this week seeking a week’s salary and compensation for financial losses caused by the dismissal, Chen’s lawyer said yesterday. The commission will look into the case on Monday.
Chen has worn men’s clothes since high school. He said that the company’s attitude towards him was “over the top.”
“If it were due to my ability and attitude at work, I would have accepted the dismissal,” Chen said, “but some staff called me gay and said that I ruined the image of the company, which was hard to take.”
Chen said he worked very hard for his employers and he was vexed by the company’s lack of respect.
“Even though I was fired, I at least deserve the salary that is owed to me,” Chen added.
The head of the company’s human resources department surnamed He confirmed that Chen was dismissed because his image was “incompatible” with the company’s requirements, but she did not elaborate on those requirements.
“Chen looked like a man, but introduced himself as transgender, which shocked us a little,” He said, adding that the staff were unsettled by Chen’s appearance.
Another department head, surnamed Jin, told the China News Service that Chen’s position as health specialist meant he had “frequent contact with senior leaders from other companies,” which was why there was “quite a high requirement on the image.”
“Chen’s image was not up to those requirements,” Jin said.
Huang Sha, Chen’s lawyer, said that the company had broken the law.
“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,” Huang said. “If Chen was fired out of prejudice, it would be against the Contract Law.”
Jin responded by saying that Chen was introduced to the company via an acquaintance, so he was employed without much difficulty.
Despite becoming more socially accepted, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community (LGBT) in China still struggle with social stigma.
According to a report published by Chinese non-profit organization Aibai Culture and Education Center, the LGBT community in China face widespread discrimination from their employers and peers. The survey also found that it was not uncommon for the LGBT community to be subject to verbal abuse.