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3 Feb 2012

Millions of women married to gay men in China: Experts

A number of support groups such as the Tongqi Association (同妻联合会) and Pink Space Sexuality Research Centre in Beijing now exist to support women who are married to gay men and are struggling to cope.

According to the state run China Daily quoting a prominent gay rights campaigner, as many as 12 to 16 million women in China may be married to homosexual men.

Zhang Bei-chuan, a medical professor at Qingdao University and an expert on AIDS and HIV, says about 80% of an estimated 16 million gay men in China have either married or are of marrying age. The number of women with gay husbands works out to be about 12 million, he said, given that same-sex marriage is not legal in the country and men face social pressure to marry and have children regardless of their sexual orientation.

Chinese women married to gay men are often known as "tongqi" (同妻) meaning "wives of comrades," referencing the Mandarin term tongzhi often used to refer to gay men in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.

The term has been in use as early as 2009 by renowned sexologist and sociologist Li Yinhe who wrote in a blog post that as many as 80% of 20 million male homosexuals may be married to women.

In a report about the same issue in 2010, the Economist reported that in comparison only an estimated 15-20% of gay men in America marry heterosexual women. It further quoted Liu Dalin, a pioneering sexologist now retired from the University of Shanghai, who put the share in China at 90% and if so, the number of tongqi in China may be as high as 25 million.

A number of support groups such as the Tongqi Association (同妻联合会) and Pink Space Sexuality Research Centre in Beijing now exist to support women married to gay men. Women married to gay men often feel cheated and humiliated as they are usually the last to know the truth about their husbands' sexuality while others may suffer years of domestic violence at the hands of their frustrated husbands.

While a small fraction eventually opt for divorce, most stay on unhappily in their desolate unions to financial dependence, familial or social pressure, or if they have children.

As early as 1993, Professor Li has tried to advocate for same-sex marriage in China. She argues that legalising same-sex marriage would help to significantly reduce the number of tongqi and hollow marriages in China.


Reader's Comments

1. 2012-02-03 21:27  
Sad situation. People need to be honest with themselves and follow their hearts. A lot of misery will happen when people give in to society's expectation.
2. 2012-02-03 21:34  
I know a few of these men living here in Canada, sorry situation.
Comment #3 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-03 21:36
Comment #4 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-03 23:54
Comment #5 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-03 23:54
Comment #6 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-03 21:37
7. 2012-02-03 21:34  
more self-esteem needed.
Comment #8 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-03 21:37
Comment #9 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-03 21:36
10. 2012-02-03 21:56  
A male gay friend of mine was advised to marry a woman to cure him of being gay. I know of others in religious groups in Singapore who have been given the same advice. Of course it was disastrous and the poor woman had a breakdown. Divorce followed of course and now he has been a happy gay relationship for many years.

I think marrying a woman who doesn't know you are gay or thinks she can 'cure' you, is one of the worst things you can do to another person.

I understand the social pressures, but the result is great unhappiness all around. In an overpopulated country like China, you would expect more readiness to educate on this subject, and allow gay marriage. Just as they reformed the marriage laws to outlaw polygamy, not so long ago.
11. 2012-02-04 00:21  
Marrying a woman just to fit into social norms is crazy. The act of marriage to a woman, compounds the problem further, leading to divorce, despair and a huge embarrassment. All this in addition to the problems of being a homosexual in China.

Any joy on getting marriage rights for same sex couples in China ?
12. 2012-02-04 00:45  
i suppose this condition is not just happened in china, also very common somewhere else...
13. 2012-02-04 05:18  
This kind of situation happens everywhere due to the pressure of the family and from the social status that some of the wives will get after the wedding e.g. money and presents. Most of them know very well that they are marrying someone for financial reason and are happy to spend whatever income they get from their gay partners. In the meantime most of the gay people who have to marry someone have to suppress their sexuality while having children and living a life that they have to live due to the pressure from the state, religious and families.
14. 2012-02-04 08:13  
This issue is not conducive to only China but Asian cultures do contribute a larger % to the overall numbers. It's all about the mindset of traditional families that a man should get married, make children for grandma, work his ass off so wife can buy LV,Prada and Gucci and still have enough money to pay the rent and take all of them on vacation.
Meanwhile he lives a sad double life and gets whatever love,sex and affection he can on the side.Life is not a dress rehearsal and it's quite sad if one must live like this.
15. 2012-02-04 08:57  
The other side of this (apart from the emotional dishonesty that others have pointed out) is that gay men, in being socially pressured to marry, are actually taking women out of the marriage pool for legitimately straight men. Much of this is related to the Chinese culture's obsession with boys, to the point where the ratio of men to women in the society has veered dangerously outside of normal biological parameters (thanks to infanticide, selective abortion, etc.). I read an article about this that suggested that, within this decade, there would be millions of young Chinese men, effectively with no hope of ever getting married, simply because of the male/female imbalance. Gay men who marry women simply make an already tenuous situation just that much worse.

And #12, you're correct, it definitely happens all over, but the obsession with having a male child is MUCH more prevalent in Asian cultures. But you're right about the societal and familial pressure to marry... I believe gay people worldwide deal with that.
16. 2012-02-04 09:22  
Great input chadmn
17. 2012-02-04 09:33  
Legalizing gay marriage in China might help population control as well.
18. 2012-02-04 12:18  
Bobochan88 and Chadm252 you nailed it!
This being said this article does not -in substance- add anything more
than was written in the The Economist excellent article of Mar 18th 2010 which I read at the time.
This a perverse situation the Chinese govt can only blame itself for; meanwhile, thousands of men and women suffer 1) to save face 2)
for a rotten bit of comfort...having none at the end of the day.
A great shame.
Comment #19 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-04 12:19
20. 2012-02-04 12:46  
Aren't we lucky living in Australia.
21. 2012-02-04 15:48  
This is only one side of the coin. The other side is straight men married to lesbians. I am sure the statistic will be equally if not more mind boggling, that is if the statistics can be easily obtained because women can fake orgasms and their behaviors can be less revealing.

Aside from these two sides, there may be another side.

Women happy with their gay husbands and vise versa. Some women would rather share their sexy beautiful "gay" hubbies with their same sex than having to compete with other women. Also, depending on the needs of the wife, sometimes she can be contented with her children and her good life. Sex has many solutions.

Let us hear the married gays of different nationalities speak for themselves. The opinions of gays, who never have had experiences with women or are totally repelled by the idea, consist only one point of view. Some of these opinions may even be rationalizations for not getting married and for not facing up to the pressures of the family, society, professions, and peers. Nevertheless, all views are all well and good.

But let's hear out everyone else, especially those directly involved in the issue.


Comment edited on 2012-02-04 15:51:18
22. 2012-02-04 18:27  
I'd like to share 2 articles here.

1st, the Royal College of Psychiatrists' views on Homosexuality expressed in an article on its Official Website, "Psychiatry and LGB People" ( http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/rollofhonour/specialinterestgroups/gaylesbian/submissiontothecofe/psychiatryandlgbpeople.aspx ). Earlier, experts including psychologists had opined that sexual orientation could be caused by social factors in addition to biological ones. But this recent RCP article narrows the cause to primarily Biological. It says, and I quote, "It would appear that sexual orientation is BIOLOGICAL IN NATURE, DETERMINED BY genetic factors (Mustanski et al, 2005) and/or the early uterine environment (Blanchard et al. 2006). Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice, though sexual behaviour clearly is." If this MEDICAL view becomes mainstream, the society, lawmakers and non-health professionals such as policemen, teachers and HR managers should be able to accept us more for what we are. If sexual orientation is indeed something that's BIOLOGICAL, it's an Act of God. No-one can be blamed. I hope that this medical view will be adopted for all Biology textbooks used in schools & universities. If the future generations grow up being taught the FACT in school that sexual orientation is BIOLOGICAL IN NATURE, the society's attitude towards the LGBT community should improve over time.

Another interesting presentation (http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/0945%20King%20Sidlaw%20Thurs.pdf) by a medical professor at University College London gives an illuminating insight into the historical development of changes in the psychiatric profession's views on homosexuality. The presenter calls the homophobic groups/nations "way behind".

Since homosexuality is BIOLOGICAL IN NATURE, then the society would have to accept that certain people are born to drink by "shoving a straw up their noses". Some people are simply born to "drink with nose" even though the majority are born to drink with mouth.

Comment edited on 2012-02-04 18:36:28
23. 2012-02-04 18:31  
There are many aspects to love and marriage of which sex is only one part. It is presumptive of the authors to claim "...most stay on unhappily in their desolate unions...". No data were quoted on the happiness or otherwise so such claims are speculative only.

I'm sure at least some married gay men love their wives and children tremendously although I assume many would like to have gay sex, too, if they could.

Openness, tolerance and acceptance would certainly make it easier for gay men to follow their hearts.
24. 2012-02-04 21:32  
@23, "There are many aspects to love and marriage of which sex is only one part. It is presumptive of the authors to claim..."

Well, there are aspects to being gay of which sex is only one part. It is presumptive of you to claim it is just about sex. A totally gay man does not fall in love with women, he falls in love with men. Being gay involves emotional and sexual attraction to the same sex. He can never love a wife in the same way that she may love him, or he may love another man. That is certainly not a recipe for happiness, and why these wives end up having breakdowns and seeking help through the new tongqi website.

Sunthemoon - excellent post, thank you!
25. 2012-02-04 23:34  
part of the reason why most gay men in China ended up marrying straight women is social/family pressure for sure, but i guess 'their awareness and responsibility as a grown man' plays a big part as well. just because it is in CHINA. our culture (even confucianism) tells us family is the root for everything.
there's an old saying in China goes like 'when a man reaches his 30, he should be aware of his life and destiny'. usually in China, when a man is around his 30s, he would get married and have kids. for gay men around 'marriage ages' who have got married, what pushes them to do so is not only because people around them would see them weirdly if they didn't, but also their own willingness to have family and kids, as a milestone of their lifetime and a comfort for their parents as well. Literally it sounds a little bit brutal for their wives, but thousands of millions of gay men live this way of life daily, can you say that 100% of them live everyday painfully and regretfully? maybe they just have learnt how to manage themselves properly, though with some sacrifices.
26. 2012-02-06 19:27  
@25, it doesn't seem very socially responsible to trick a woman like that, which is why they are now fighting back.
27. 2012-02-06 20:32  
This was the global situation until recent years, let's hope that the speed of evolution in China extends to attitudes as well as commerce :-)
28. 2012-02-06 21:35  
Oh girl, marry me let me have kids so I wont be growing old, Alone.
29. 2012-02-06 22:12  
I totally agree with being true to oneself, and that to withhold that truth from someone so deeply intertwined in your life as your life partner is a bad choice. However, many of these men are not "in denial" about themselves, they are having their cake and eating it. They are prioritizing the joy of their parents who want grandchildren, and the intense love between a parent and a child, over the needs of their wife. Again, this goes back to the status of women in Confucian societies. But for the man who has that choice, it's a rational but cruel option.
30. 2012-02-06 22:16  
I think many women in many countries by default always thought men are interested in them.

I hope everyone can educate all the straights women to serious aware that they should not expect so.
31. 2012-02-06 22:25  
@29, but how to have sex with a woman unless you have some bisexuality? I never could, to me it's repulsive. Yuk. No erection. Imagine a whole life like that, when you can have mutual love and making love with someone the right gender for you.

But I guess you are right about it being the low priority given to women in some societies. But they are fighting back in China.
32. 2012-02-07 00:26  
@29 I don't see this related to women status in society. Because some gay women get married for the same reason as well, and their straight husbands suffer the same.
33. 2012-02-07 05:36  
I think its good to acknowledge the fact such marriages are fake and reduce overpopulation
34. 2012-02-07 09:24  
let's face the fact that marrying a woman is not a solution for us to become straight ,,,am i right? and using the word "Cure" is not the right term for that because it is not a disease that needs to cure,,,,,,,,,,,
35. 2012-02-07 15:17  
Agree with @32. This is about the society, not woman and man - people just have this 'man & woman' is the god's arrangement. I had a dozen of gay woman friends marrying to straight man from China, Hong Kong and Singapore - ALL suffered!! Most of them have a secret partner and end up? Additional one person sufferred. The 'funniest' part, 2 friends' parents still think that it works FINE because they still have a husband and kids, and the secret partner is just a fling (for 5 years?!). sigh... what a sad life.
Comment edited on 2012-02-07 15:18:25
36. 2012-02-07 20:05  
I empathize with the men and women in this situation; but it's important to learn to emerge as an individual and live life as you want! As openly gay people, we realise a great strength in being ourselves that allows us to avoid this kind of madness.. I guess in the end it's their life, if they want to marry and live that kind of a life, it's their choice in doing it. We can just lead by example and show that it's possible to live a wholesome life on your own terms. :)
37. 2012-02-08 18:13  
Quite true ultraboy. Someone I know has an ex that was pressured to marry a girl after she found out her boyfriend was gay and convinced the family to force him to marry her. Not all girls are so dumb, but those families better hope that gayness isn't biological — otherwise families can blame themselves for creating all those cute sexy gay boys and girls that will grow up to be more proud of their sexuality than were their gay parents. Honestly, how many people suspect their cousins are gay too?
38. 2012-02-09 14:03  
I can't imagine the pain they inflicted upon their wives and their children. A relationship that isn't based on love - shame on them. It is not just "a little brutal": it's plainly cruel and irresponsible. If you wanna say some of the marriages may be happy, who are you kidding? Can you ever be happy being together with someone who you don't love? The entire relationship is nothing but a deception. Sure, being pressured to marry sucks. Sure, being judged to be alone sucks. But none of these would ever be as bad as marrying someone to conceal your sexuality. It's a selfish and cowardly act. In fact, most importantly, they are ruining someone's dreams, hopes, and a big part of their lives.

If, as 30's year old grownups, they are unable to stand up for peer and societal pressures for such an important incident of their life, then maybe it's not just the government at fault, but inherently they are majorly lacking in education, morality and a sense of responsibility.
Comment edited on 2012-02-09 14:23:50
39. 2012-02-09 21:26  

All the gay men who must get married to save face hookup with all the gay women who must also get married to save face. Neither need to live with lies and the problem is solved!
40. 2012-02-09 22:10  
@39, then they are both living lies.

Ok, they are not tricking eachother, but the whole thing is a sham and destined for misery. How sad to ruin 2 lives just because of fear of what others may think.
41. 2012-02-10 17:03  
This article really strikes a deep chourd with me. In my current situation, I am pretty much firm on where I stand on this issue. I think i will eventually marry for all the right reasons, chiefly about the confucisn teachings of how a man needs to prioritize conceiving a family when he reaches his 30s. I am 29 this year and really dont see myself having a permanant gay daddy for a life partner. Hey, it isn't selfish of me, just knowing that I've fufiled my parental duties and fatherly instincts would be the greatest thing in the world for me. As for being unfaithful or dishonest to my future / potential spouse or child/ren it's gotta work itself out somehow.
as Comment # 25 put it rather aptly and hit the nail on the head, that is how I will embrace it- as a challenge of a lifetime.
Comment #42 was deleted by its author on 2012-02-10 18:37
43. 2012-02-10 18:36  
@41, your comment is that of a user, whether in a gay or straight relationship.
44. 2012-02-10 19:14  
I am not surprised by these stats. Just think about the % of people in western countries not making their coming out to their friends and family. So now add a repressive society to the mix...
Sad but true reality of life.
45. 2012-02-11 04:32  
The article states there are 16 million gay men in China. Really? I mean, really? 1.3 billion total population with 55% male = 715 million males. Even at only 3% gay would be over 20 million. More like it is closer to 5%-6%, so the actual gay numbers would be at least double. There are LOTS of young gay, single child males in Singapore right now for late high school & University education and who are escaping or delaying the cultural pressures of eventually getting married back home. Most I have talked with want to eventually move to Australia, Europe, or North America... Thank God they have a place to go...
46. 2012-02-25 10:27  
What i konw is very sad to be gay in china because the presure of the society is very very hard for the gay person and for the family if the people find out sombody is gay i wish some changes for our comunity in China i hear very sad sotories abou gay people there.

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