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Gay Chinese teacher sues kindergarten for unfair dismissal

Inkstone logo Inkstone 7/10/2018
a person holding a colorful kite © SCMP/Nora Tam

A gay kindergarten teacher in China has taken legal action against his former employer over what he said was unfair dismissal based on sexual orientation.

There are no anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual minorities in China, but the country's LGBT community has increasingly resorted to legal means to pursue equal rights.

The case has been accepted by a labor dispute arbitration committee in Qingdao, a port city in the eastern province of Shandong.

"I have to stand up for myself," the teacher, who asked to be identified by the pseudonym Ming Jue, told Inkstone. "And I don't want children to grow up in a place where the sexual minorities are discriminated against."

Outed

Ming, a 31-year-old who has almost a decade of teaching experience, joined the kindergarten in Qingdao September last year. But he was abruptly fired in August after his sexual orientation became publicly known.

Ming took part in a LGBT event in late July. One week later, he re-posted a news report about the event and his participation on WeChat, the dominant social media app in China.

A parent of a former student saw Ming's post on the app and alerted his employer to it. And then the kindergarten's owner told him that publicizing his homosexuality was "against the kindergarten's philosophy."

"I am passionate about teaching," Ming said. "And the kindergarten had absolutely no doubt about my teaching abilities."

Ming has declined to name the school.

Ming filed for arbitration after consulting a lawyer. Before going to court, labor dispute cases in China have to be accepted by an arbitration committee. The hearing will take place in November.

After he was fired, Ming said the kindergarten told him about some hurtful remarks made by parents of his former students.

"A parent said they had to bring the child to a hospital to do a blood test, suspecting I carried various viruses. The parent worried the kid could be infected with AIDS through casual contact," Ming recalled.

Legal precedents

In China, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997 and removed from a list of mental illness four years later.

There is growing acceptance of homosexuality in big cities and among the younger generation. But activists say workplace discrimination against sexual minorities is still prevalent.

Ming was not the first person in China's LGBT community to pursue a legal case for unfair dismissal.

In 2014, a gay designer in the southern megacity of Shenzhen was fired after his employer saw a viral video in which he was accused by another man of not paying up for sex. But the designer lost his case.

In 2016, China's LGBT community celebrated the case of "Mr C," a transgender man won a lawsuit against his firm after being unfairly sacked.

Mr C's employers said he had been dismissed on the grounds of "dressing like a man and presenting a different image from the company's requirements." The court ruled that the dismissal had no legal basis and ordered the firm to pay compensation.

Ming said he was optimistic about his case.

"I believe there are many, many more kindergartens accepting of me, and many teachers and parents are supportive," he said. "If no such kindergartens exists, I can start one."

This story originally appeared on Inkstone, a daily multimedia digest of China-focused news and features. Like what you see? Sign up for our newsletter, download our app, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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