Beijing (CNN)Former flight attendant Chai Cheng still has nightmares about the moment of passion that cost him everything.
In October 2019, footage was leaked online of Chai kissing a male pilot from the same airline -- China Southern, the country's largest carrier.
Both men were off duty, and the kiss -- which has since been viewed millions of times -- occurred in an elevator in a private apartment building in the southern city of Shenzhen.
As the clip spread online, Chai was quickly grounded by the company and eventually let go.
He is now suing the airline for lost wages, in a case that is seen as a test of China's stance on workplace discrimination.
Campaigners say Chai's dismissal highlights the perils faced by LGBTQ workers in China due to lack of legal protection -- and now they're calling for workplace equality laws.
On Chinese social media, Chai is often referred to as "the China Southern cabin boy." But in China's LGBTQ community, he has become a hero and an unlikely activist.
The 29-year-old said the episode has upended his life, both professionally and personally. He lost his dream job, and has struggled to start a new career or find a relationship.
"I sometimes wish I could rewind to the time before the incident," said Chai. "So I could just be an ordinary flight attendant."
CNN has sought comment from China Southern, a state-owned mega-carrier that flew more than 151 million passengers in 2019, on Chai's case and its corporate policy on LGBTQ employees, but has not received a response.