Christine Ehlers, Transphobia on trial

Christine Ehlers, who was fired as a sales assistant after her employers, Multinational steel retailer, Bohler Uddeholm Africa, found out she was going through a series of sex change procedures, is now taking them to the South African Labour Court. Constitutionally Speaking has an excellent commentary on the case which highlights the attempt to justify transphobia on the basis it makes people feel uncomfortable – that it is bad for the company’s image.

Christine is a transgendered person because she was born into the body of a man but realized that she was really a woman and is now altering her body to bring her body in line with her own deeply held view of her sexual status. She claims in court papers that she was fired as a sales representative for the company “on the grounds of her sexual status”. In the papers, she quotes from the findings of a disciplinary inquiry which justified her firing as follows:

“It was also determined in discussion with management that the position is distinctly for a male employee and the applicant (Ehlers) [has] already got distinct female features that create a difficult situation…. In the end, the employer has to protect its business and may demand a certain standard of acceptability from its representatives in relation to its customers. I find myself in a difficult situation in that the employee argues that she can still function in the exact same manner as she would have as a man. The employer argues, on the contrary, that it is an international concern that has to protect its image in the market in the metal industry, which is predominantly male-orientated……….Continue reading here

Update

On the 13th August, the South African Labour court ruled that Christine be reinstated and compensated

Radio Today Outspoken Congratulates Christine Elhers and her legal team, headed by Mr AC Schmidt for the landmark, precedent setting, decision by the Labour Court in South Africa, today Friday the 13th August 2010, to have her re-instated and compensated for her discriminatory, illegal dismissal by Bodler Uddeholm Africa, on the grounds that she is a Transwoman undergoing GRS “making customers feel uncomfortable” is too “temperamental due to hormones” (what a joke) and “they need a man to sell machinery parts”
The egalitarian Constitution of South Africa in “Living Implementation”