A recent United Nations Development Program survey found that only about 5 percent of sexual and gender minorities in China choose to come out in public, and that the workplace can become especially awkward and unpleasant after they do so.
“The findings are clear. Sexual and gender minority people in China still live in the shadows,” said the report, which drew on findings from a two-month survey of more than 30,000 people conducted in late 2015.
Many LGBT respondents complained of losing jobs through discrimination, and thus had lowered their career hopes and had less desire to acquire new skills, according to the report.
Li Yinhe, a prominent Chinese sexologist, said transgender people in particular are more likely to face workplace discrimination because of how they look and dress. “It’s harder for them to disguise themselves,” Li said.
Given the prevailing sentiments, Mr. C’s case has brought important public scrutiny to long-ignored issues, Li said.
As in Western countries, the business community, rather than the government, is leading the way in China in pushing for equal opportunity, said Steven Bielinski, who has organized social events in Beijing and Shanghai to connect employers with members of the LGBT community.
“Here in China I think the LGBT business issue has just reached a tipping point,” Bielinski said. “More and more companies are thinking about what the LGBT community means for business in terms of talent and market.”
A job fair in Shanghai on a May weekend attracted a total of 34 companies — twice as many as the year before— including Chinese car-hailing app Didi Chuxing, the career site Kanzhun.com, and multinationals such as 3M, Citigroup and the Boston Consulting Group.
It also was the first time that Chinese companies made an appearance, Bielinski said.
Despite the interest, Bielinski cautioned against being too optimistic. Organizers declined to allow Associated Press journalists to attend the fairs out of privacy concerns.
“It’s just the start,” Bielinski said.
Building on that momentum, Mr. C hopes to nudge the government toward recognizing and protecting LGBT rights.