A Chinese court has maintained an original ruling in favour of a transgender man who sued his former employer for allegedly discriminating against him. It said that employers should not treat workers differently based on their gender identity and expression.

Known as “Mr. C,” the plaintiff was born as a woman but identifies as a man. He was dismissed after working for just over a week at a health centre named Ciming Checkup in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

transgender unfair dismissal guizhou
Mr. C (centre) in front of the intermediate court. Photo: Common Language.

The plaintiff won the case against his former employer in January 2017 – the first such unfair dismissal case in China. However, the court found no evidence that he was dismissed because of discrimination against transgender people.

At the time, the Guiyang Yunyan district people’s court ordered the company to pay him 843 yuan (HK$1,042) in salary as well as compensation of 1,500 yuan (HK$1,855).

Mr. C has maintained that he was not suing the company for the sake of money, and continued to seek a public apology from the firm. He said on Weibo in August that he had filed an appeal at the Guiyang Intermediate People’s Court – his second appeal of the district court’s decision.

No apology

The court ruled on the appeal in recent days and the verdict was released on Sunday, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia. In total, the company must pay Mr. C around RMB 4,000 (HK$4,949), but will not have to issue a public apology to him.

According to an excerpt of the verdict posted online by LGBT NGO Common Language, which has been following the case, the court said: “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 also said that systemic obstacles and discrimination that prevent equal employment for all should be abolished, and that employers practising gender-based discrimination should bear legal responsibility.

transgender unfair dismissal guizhou
An excerpt of the ruling uploaded by Common Language. Photo: Screenshot.

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

The NGO said it was the first time that a court in China has made this recommendation.

The court’s statement that gender identity and expression should be respected “lay a strong foundation for diverse gender groups to defend their rights with the law in the future,” the NGO said.

Speaking to RFA on Wednesday, Mr. C said that he was unhappy that the court did not order the company to give him an apology, but was satisfied that the court recommended that companies should respect individuals’ chosen gender identity.

He said he hoped the authorities will draft laws to protect the rights of transgender people.

“I have not received an apology up until now, which actually means that – in law – there is still very little protection in this area,” he said.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.