A transgender woman in Russia has won a landmark decision for transgender rights and recognition after being fired from her job, but is now living in fear after her personal information was made public by Russian media, according to Meduza. The victory in favor of the woman also calls into question antiquated Russian laws that bar women from jobs deemed too dangerous.
“It turns out you can’t work where you want, simply because you are a woman,” she told Meduza.
The subject of this story has requested anonymity out of concerns for her safety, and Out is respecting her request by utilizing the name Anastasia Vasilyeva instead.
Vasilyeva won her historic lawsuit in April 2019, but final resolution of the case was put on hold while her former employer appealed. The court finally rejected that appeal last Tuesday, paving the way for Vasilyeva to be awarded over 1.85 million rubles (approximately $26,500) in compensation, although she says it’s not about the money.
The problems started in 2014 as she was transitioning. Vasilyeva worked in a plant manufacturing engraving plates for use in making gum packaging among others. She saw the changes happening to her body, realized others were noticing, and knew she couldn’t hide it forever.
“I felt uncomfortable — everyone saw that something was happening with me, but no one could ask directly,” Vasilyeva said.
She eventually sent a company-wide memo explaining she was transitioning but first went to her superiors to seek their support. While this initial meeting went well, the tone of management changed almost immediately after she had left the room.
“They offered me money, they sent the production manager, and the director asked if I was going to leave the city or the country,” Vasilyeva recalled. “I told them that I want to continue to work [at the company], and wasn’t preparing to go anywhere.”
They finally fired her citing archaic Russian laws that prohibit women from 456 occupations involving “heavy work and work with harmful or hazardous working conditions.”
Her case made its way through the courts, meeting with rejection after rejection. She finally won the case last year, and Tuesday's decision closes the last chapter in the process. However, the victory is tempered by the unwelcome exposure and threats to which she and her family have been subjected.
The Russian newspaper Izvestia discovered her actual name and address, and Mash printed personal photos and other information from her Facebook page. As a result, people came to her house where she lives with her daughter and wife of 20 years.
“They laid siege near [my] house, knocking on the neighbors [doors],” she recalled.
As a result, Vasilyeva has found a new job and lives under a new name. Despite the chilly reception she has received from some, though, Vasilyeva recognizes the significance of her victory, not just for herself but also the LGBTQ+ struggle for recognition and acceptance.
“The court’s decision is important for me, first and foremost in the context of women’s rights, without the prefix ‘transgender,’” she explained. “It seems to me that it’s important for anyone to have the possibility to work wherever they want.”