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Trans Man Vows To Keep Fighting After Losing China's First Transgender Labor Dispute

"I got salary back but so what?" he wrote on WeChat after the verdict. "That was not what we want! We will continue to appeal until we receive an apology!"

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China's first transgender labor dispute was dismissed Tuesday, but the plaintiff, a Chinese transgender man said he would continue to appeal for transgender rights.

Courtesy of Mr. C

Mr. C recieved the $62 in backpay he'd requested but not an apology or a recognition from the court that his former employer had done anything wrong. "I am not satisfied with just the paid-back wages. What I want is respect, and respect from the whole of society for minorities like us," he told the Associated Press in an interview after the verdict.

Mr. C, a young trans man from southwest China's Guizhou Province, says he was fired seven days after he was hired as a sales consultant by Cimi Checkup, a local medical center, last year.

Courtesy of Huang Sha

Mr. C doesn't want his full name to appear in the press because his family members “all work for the government," he told BuzzFeed News via messaging app WeChat.

The alleged reason for his firing is simple enough: Mr. C was wearing men's clothing in the office. "They say I'm lesbian and that I damage the company's images," Mr. C, on the left in the above picture, told The Paper, a progressive-leaning, though still state-controlled, Chinese news outlet.

"My litigant is a transgender man, but in mainland China, nobody really know what that means," Mr. C's lawyer, Huang Sha, told BuzzFeed News. "His ID card [which shows his gender] is female, but he dresses like a man, so the sales manager suspected that Mr. C is gay." Huang said they have recordings of more than one similar conversation between Mr. C and his former manager.

According to a survey published by Aibai Culture and Education Center, a Chinese LGBT nonprofit, a majority of the more than 2,000 respondents have encountered discrimination and unfair treatment in workplaces.

Mr. C's case is the country's first transgender labor discrimination case, according to Li Yinhe, a prestigious sociologist whose partner is also a trans man. Li also noted that the result of the case might have a significant impact on the Chinese LGBT community's ability to defend their rights in the workplace in the future.

The hearing of Mr. C's case, unprecedented in China, took place in April in a local labor arbitration court with the plaintiff asking for financial compensation and a written apology.

Courtesy of Mr. C

"I hope the court rules on a fair and equal basis in accordance with the Employment Non-Discrimination Law that's under revision. We need a respectful harmonious society," Mr. C said.

Many Chinese domestic media outlets have closely followed the proceeding of the case, with a local TV station giving Mr. C and his lawyer their support. "The most important is to have them apologize in public," read one of the most widely-circulated quotes from Mr. C on Toutiao.com, a popular social news website.

Mr. C is not fighting alone. In a WeChat group he set up to update people about the case, more than 180 journalists, community supporters, and other Chinese transgender people are giving him advice throughout breaks in the hearing and after. "Ask for a public hearing," one suggested, immediately followed by another who posted specific legal history about just what hearings can be held in public. "To work with journalists is just as important as the case work in court," said another, urging Mr. C to be responsive to interviews from reporters.

Mr. C filed the case to the local labor arbitration committee on March 7. The case was accepted on March 14, with a ruling to be delivered within 45 days.

Courtesy of Huang Sha

Only one clause found in China's current Labor Law mentions the word "sex" or anything like it: "Laborers shall not be discriminated against in employment due to their nationality, race, sex, or religious belief."

Without a specific law protecting gender equality, Mr. C didn't even know that his former employer had violated the Labor Law until he attended a legal panel on gender diversification arranged by Wider Pro Bono Legal Service Center in Shenzhen in January. It was there he met Huang Sha, who would later take on his case.

Representatives at the annual National People's Congress have suggested expediting the enactment of a new "Employment Non-Discrimination Law," which is currently being debated by the government. If enacted, the law would protect different gender identities and sexual preferences in employment in a broader and more specific sense, by forming an employment equality committee and providing laborers with higher compensation. However, Huang does not see the enactment of the law coming anytime soon, with the many obstacles including public opinion and official negligence.

"This is an invisible issue for the government," Huang said. The lawyer raised a recent example in which a Chinese reporter asked an official about gay couples' rights after the country's Anti–Domestic Violence Law came into effect; the official denied that domestic violence even exists between same-sex couples in China.

Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.

Contact Beimeng Fu at beimeng.fu@buzzfeed.com.

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