A renowned Chinese expert on the LGBT community has revealed that millions of straight women in China are trapped in false marriages with homosexual men.
In an interview with China Daily, retired Qingdao University professor and researcher Zhang Beichuan said, “At least 14 million straight women in China are currently, or have been, trapped in false marriages with men who are gay.”
The pressure Chinese adults face from their families to marry has caused the phenomenal growth in number of the “tongqi,” or wives of homosexual men, according to Zhang.
“A lack of sex education in Chinese schools has contributed to the tragedy of tongqi and the hostile social attitudes towards gays,” Zhang said.
The social stigma against homosexuality in the country has forced many gay men to keep their sexuality hidden. Some gay men enter relationships with women, who they use as buffers from social pressure.
Zhang’s research revealed that a staggering 80% of the 20 million gay men in China are currently or have been married to a woman. While the number is alarming, the plight of women who enter these marriages has been kept in the shadows for decades. In the past two years, however, more of these wives have come out to vent their marital misery.
One example is 41-year-old Fei Yan (pseudonym), whose unfortunate marriage to a gay man caused her to endure decades of marital woes.
“Before he confessed to me, I had no idea what happened between us,” Fei said.
With the couple having decent jobs and two kids, their family looked like a typical middle-class family:
“However, when we’re alone, he’s not willing to get close to me or touch me. I thought I had done something wrong. That has been a huge blow to me in the past decade,” Fei said.
Since many women choose to become full-time housewives after marriage in China, most are financially dependent on their husbands. In such cases, the wife would usually choose to keep silent after discovering her husband is gay in order to keep up family stability.
“I did not want my children to grow up without a father. But I did not want them to grow up in a dysfunctional family either,” Fei said.
While some women do find the courage to file for divorce, they also face social embarrassment in the traditionally conservative nation.
“The law in China does little to assist those women who are at a disadvantage when they try to plead for compensation during divorce proceedings,” Zhang explained.
Zhang suggested that a shift in social understanding and tolerance is needed to overcome the nationwide dilemma of the tongqi.
“Same-sex relationships should be tolerated and respected by more people. And the stereotype about same-sex marriage may also be diminished, thus the tongqi tragedy could be terminated,” Zhang said.