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Trans Woman Files Rare Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Against Employer

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A trans woman in Zhejiang province has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, saying that she was fired after undergoing gender reassignment surgery. The case is among the first of its kind in China.

The woman, identified as Xiao Ma, had her case accepted by a court in the city of Hangzhou. Ma completed her gender reassignment surgery in October of 2018 at the media company where she had worked for several years. A few months later, she did not receive her usual Spring Festival bonus, but instead an email telling her she’d been fired.

Ma’s duties had included management of costume and props and shooting logistics. In one conversation, a personnel manager had told her that he wasn’t sure whether to put her on projects with male or female clients, or whether the clients would accept it.

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When asked in an interview about the purpose of the lawsuit, Ma said, “One is an apology, another might be some spiritual comfort. But the way I see it, it’s a service to the community. Just like everyone was sending me articles online, I hope I can help more people understand the right to equal employment.”

The unnamed company said that Ma was fired for arriving late to the office. But according to Ma, many employees were late to the office in the same period and were not fired. She maintains that if the company won’t provide the timestamps of her coworkers in court, then the reason should be clear.

The case is one of the first of its kind in China. In 2016, a court in Guizhou awarded unpaid wages to a trans man who was let go after his manager told him he “looked like a lesbian,” but ultimately dismissed the claim that he was fired over his gender identity.

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a Shanghai-based writer, producer, and multimedia artist, and the Associate Editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip-hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school so he could train at the Shaolin Temple, but now just uses it to interview rappers.