Mar 16, 2012 By Susie Gordon ,

At the Lai Lai dancehall in Shanghai's Hongkou district, older gay men gather to socialise and practice ballroom dancing. Most – if not all – are married to women, and their secret gatherings make a poignant sight. Moving gracefully around the dance floor in their partners' arms, the men are an embodiment of a phenomenon that has recently come to public discussion.

A Marriage of Convenience: Why China’s Gays are Marrying Straight

At the start of February 2012, China Daily published an article in which a renowned academic claimed that as many as 16 million women on the Chinese mainland are married to gay men. Professor Zhang Beichuan is an expert on HIV and AIDS research at Qingdao University, and claims that 90% of homosexual men in China get married to women. To anyone familiar with Chinese society, these figures will come as no surprise. While homosexuality does not carry the same moral dilemma as in the monotheistic West, age-old traditions still hold sway over relationships.

A Social, Not Moral Sin

Xiao Yao, aged 29 from Xi'an, divorced her gay husband in 2008 and set up a blog called "Homeland of Gay's Wives". With thousands of readers, it has become a manual for women who feel jilted by the deception of their gay husbands. Activists for gay rights fear that Xiao and others in her position will foment ill-feeling towards gay men trapped in loveless marriages with straight women, while the blame lies with societal pressure.

The ancient tenets of Confucianism still play heavily on modern Chinese society – something that journalist Martin Weber noted in a Huffington Post article on 30th January. He cites the "social straitjacket" of Confucian ideals, claiming that adherence to the father/child and husband/wife model is the true enemy of gay people. In China, homosexuality is not a moral sin, but a social one. The decision to remove oneself from the accepted family structure is hugely shameful, subverting the natural order and causing loss of face.

A Marriage of Convenience: Why China’s Gays are Marrying Straight

While Professor Zhang's research focused on gay men, it stands to reason that there are countless lesbians who are likewise married to men. In 2010, the AFP estimated that of the 30 million gay people in China, one third are female. Following Zhang's figures, this would mean that there are around nine million gay women married to men, hypothetically speaking. One way of getting around the issue of marriage and children is to find a partner of the opposite sex who is also gay. On the face of it, the couple gets to preserve the all-important family structure while continuing their homosexual lifestyle either in secret or in a city far from their parents. Shanghai's "fake marriage market" came to worldwide attention on the internet earlier this year, with several websites reporting the phenomenon. For some gay people, it is the perfect set up, but others wish that they didn't have to go to such lengths to be accepted. Mark, 28, told me: "I'm coming up to the age when most guys are married. I know guys who have found lesbian women to marry so they can have a family to appease their parents, but I'm just not interested in that sort of dishonesty."

Mark moved to Shanghai from Jiangxi several years ago to escape disapproval from his parents regarding his sexuality. This is the case for countless gay people, who gravitate to Tier 1 cities where they can live more freely. However, the pull of family is often too strong. Expatriate Maria started a relationship with a Chinese girl last year, and things were going well until her girlfriend went back to her hometown to celebrate Spring Festival. On her return to Shanghai, she broke ties with Maria, explaining that her parents were forcing her to marry a man, and she was afraid of defying them. "To have a relationship end like that is pretty hurtful," Maria said, "but I understand that traditions run deep in China. It's easy to claim that I would act differently if I were in that situation, but when families only have one child, the pressure is on for them to marry and procreate. It's just sad that gay people have to live a lie."

Changing parents' attitudes

It isn't only the younger generation who yearn to do away with prejudice. A well-known and much-loved figure in China's gay community is Wu Youjian – also known as Mama Wu – whose son Zheng Yuantao came out in 1999. Instead of disowning him or forcing him into an unhappy straight marriage, Wu celebrated her son's sexuality, creating a blog (三色堇 - that has received 2.2 million hits. She speaks publicly about gay acceptance, and urges other parents of homosexual children to acknowledge the fact instead of trying to change it. Given that an estimated 30% of gay youths attempt suicide, changing parents' attitudes is an important step.

While Shanghai's Lai Lai dancehall is a great resource for the city's clandestine gay population, perhaps one day the men who go there will be able to dance with their husbands, not their secret lovers. As with many of China's social issues, change will be a slow process, but one that will be worth the fight.

Related links
The Gay Debate: Tolerance with a Voice
Mr. Gay China Pageant Cancelled Abruptly
Out and Proud: Shanghai's LGBT Scene

Follow Us On: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin


Warning:The use of any news and articles published on without written permission from constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.

Keywords: gay marriage in China marriage of convenience China homosexuals in China importance of culture in Chinese family Chinese gays marrying straight

66 Comments Add your comment



gays and chinese wow ! this is what we call development.
gayism is promoted just because we do not consider the marriage as an institue developed on mutual respect, understanding, compromises and self esteem. if the woman consider the male as the leader in family respect his authority in it, everything will be fine. men and women have obligations and rights to one another. i hope this world understand the meaning of marriage. this homosexuality, gayism and lesbians will be decreased to some extent. its completely a moral, society sin.
No hard feeling to anyone but i think its wrong, opinion varies to people, no offense to anyone.....thanks

Mar 16, 2012 17:45 Report Abuse



I am a straight male but to say that it is immoral to be gay is absurd. Until you have seen 1st hand the torment the people of this community endure, You can not have any kind of intelligent comment. My younger brother came out 30 years ago in America. I was proud of him then and I am proud of him now. But I saw the intolerance from people he endured. I hope China grows up and families accept the kids for who they are and not what the parents have in mind.

Mar 16, 2012 17:58 Report Abuse


Mr Burns

If you don't want to offend people don't call it "Gayism," you utter cretin.

And saying everything will be fine "if the woman consider the male as the leader" is boiling up a whole other kettle of stupid. The main point of this article is that millenia-old Confucian traditions are overly constricting for the practicalities of 21st century life. Your comment only reinforces this, but now its not just gay men who are restricted, but women too: "there wouldn't be as many gay people if women were more subservient." Good luck with that.

Claiming that a "negative" outcome that has arisen from overly restrictive social rules will be solved by MORE restriction is just moronic. One can only hope that more people like the Mama Wu blogger mentioned come out of the woodwork and speak up. And that China listens...

Mar 16, 2012 18:07 Report Abuse



Hi Xerxes

If you want to base your entire social, political, personal and philosophical outlooks on a work of fiction, why not Lord of the Rings? The Quran is about owning goats and beating women. Lord of the Rings wins hands down.

I wrote a very long retort just now, but it kind of got off topic. Aside from saying that I support “gayism” 100%, and that women are better than you, the main points are these:

You are not a man. You are a slave. Enjoy your life in the shadow of Islam. You will never experience independent thought, and you will never be able to please a woman.

Mar 17, 2012 04:21 Report Abuse



Hi Rain. I see you live in a world of lies yourself, just as you feel strongly about homosexuals, what I can see is that ur knowledge of the world is very less,especially Islam. There is nowhere in Islam or Quran is it told own goats and beat women, infact it is advised to respect women and treat them with kindness. Those who do not are not better than animals who left to wander the earth. Moreover where in the world do u not see family abuse happening ?? even in America and elsewhere this thing is prevalent and women are abused for so many things. Don't just generalize it on the Muslims. Let it be a point for you to consider, don't post rubbish without knowing the facts straight.

Mar 17, 2012 06:33 Report Abuse



"Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them." Quran 4:34

Mar 17, 2012 07:05 Report Abuse



It has already been interpreted as the last resort after all the steps.The steps are to be taken gradually and in a particular order. If the wife is of ill-conduct then 1) she is to be verbally advised and
admonished. If that doesn't work, then 2) suspend sexual contact by say
refusing to share the same bed and only, as a last resort, very light form
of physical correction is to be undertaken. And by light form of punishment is not to disfigure her face, or beat her to submission or death. Any sort of punishment shouldn't leave a scar on her body. There is a strict law against abuse but certain states fail to adhere to it. The Prophet Muhammad ( Peace Be Upon Him) said that the best among are people are those who are best to their wives. So from these as logic prevails it is understood that those who are wife-beaters would never be of respect to their wives, they would only be feared. Once again I say do not jump to conclusion without knowing the full extent of the meaning.

Mar 18, 2012 08:53 Report Abuse



I'm glad you provided that "interpretation". Who knew "...and beat her" was actually such a sensitive and moderate statement.

You utter moron.

Mar 18, 2012 18:29 Report Abuse



Well as usual ur lack respect is what's prevalent here, and ur foul tongue. Too bad you can't write anything without trying to be civil. Sorry for ur bad upbringing.

Mar 19, 2012 02:16 Report Abuse



Excuse me if I sound uncivil, but I have nothing good to say about either misogyny or homophobia. Sugar-coat the Quran all you like - It's still a work of fiction and it is still used to justify hatred.

Mar 19, 2012 06:07 Report Abuse



You will be reminded of it again in another point of time if the Quran is a work of fiction as u proclaim it. That day you will regret you decisions in life.
Good luck screwing your life to the end or until some common sense is put int o your worthless brain.

Mar 19, 2012 08:11 Report Abuse



Well Toi if u havent read about it, I was responding to Rain's comments.Go back up and read it. Moreover people have choice in the matter what they want to be, no one is forced into being "gay". Gayism has nothing to do with women being obedient or disobedient, so get that fact into your head. As for your country or whatever as u say gays r gonna be killed, yah it's like that in many other parts of the world. The world is not homophobic, it's just sticking to the laws of nature. Think about it neither of the homosexuals can procreate unless ofcourse they get some donors outside their preferred orientation to either donate or bear the burden and you call this marriage ,bah ! don't let gayism ruin ur judgement, humans aren't animals who just do whatever they want and whenever they want. We have a higher level of intuition and understanding, make use of it before your pea brain gets depleted.

Mar 30, 2012 03:22 Report Abuse



Well, in Europe it was like that before. Be gay and keep the social considerations in mind. So have the sexual life you want and have a family.

When you see the results of the "open mind in western culture", like the gay pride with freaks on the street or the kind of people and atmosphere you can see in the village in New York. At some point that is not a very good thing either.

finding a right balance between culture, acceptation, family and homosexuality is a hard task.

Just keep in mind that homosexuality has always existed and it was not such a big deal before the 30 past years, the invasion of the media, internet and so called "open mind" created a strange model witch is not perfect. We tend to see the western model as the good one...that is so stupid sometimes.

Maybe China is not so wrong

Mar 16, 2012 19:04 Report Abuse



Yeah, what could be wrong with a model where 30% of the gays attempt suicide. Clearly, that might just be the best model to go with...

Mar 29, 2012 23:58 Report Abuse



Ofcourse who cares if gays die, its hard to find gays now. So the more "we" die the more we will be see as the "species" on the brink of extinction. Get a life moron, nobody gives a shit about gays.

Mar 30, 2012 03:29 Report Abuse



Here in Chengdu, everyday I see lesbian and gay couples on the street. Society here is rather accepting of homosexuality in general, parents just don't want their children to be gay because they want to continue their family lineage and have grandchildren. This is where the one child policy comes into play. I have heard that Chengdu and Chongqing are the most open cities towards homosexuality in China. I have various lesbian friends, whose friends all accept them. One gay friend of mine's family, who is from Sichuan near Chongqing, have a sort of don't ask, don't tell policy, but accept him and don't badger him about getting a wife or girlfriend, but his boyfriend's family, who is from Dongbei, is being pushed into marriage witha woman. I find it disturbing how society and family can be unfair to gays, but also disturbing that a gay man would marry then play around with other men. It is especially not fair to the wife. I think attitudes are changing though.

Mar 17, 2012 00:12 Report Abuse



What is with the Queers? I can not understand why people can't make a comment against them. If society accepts things people do, well I think that's okay, if society shuns something, so be it. What reall gets to me is when the law is changed to make society accept and if anyone makes a criticism, well low and be tide to them!! So you marry your queer partner and you have your test tube child and no one has an aunt or uncle, so your child marries and has incest because you idiots stuffed up with you beliefs. Society will come around again!

Mar 17, 2012 01:55 Report Abuse



Jesus christ. Thanks for posting Alex. Once again you have demonstrated your great depth of insight.

In Apartheid Africa, black people were reviled. Do you think there was any basis for changing the laws? Or did reform unfairly stop people from expressing their hatred?

Anyway, have a word with your parents. I'm pretty sure its not the families of gay people who have been inbreeding.

Mar 17, 2012 04:41 Report Abuse



Rain , you just reinforced my argument

Mar 17, 2012 04:52 Report Abuse



And you are a person who thumbs-ups his own posts. Sorry about your insecurity.

Mar 17, 2012 05:02 Report Abuse



Rain what has this statement of yours got to do with my argument:
"In Apartheid Africa, black people were reviled. Do you think there was any basis for changing the laws? Or did reform unfairly stop people from expressing their hatred?"
I was saying queers can only have laws changed to be accepted, socially they won't be accepted, you know why? because they force their agenda on society and yet society is still at odds with it even after 30 years (Australia) of the law being changed from it being an offence to commit buggery with another male person regardless.
I remember when I was doing my teachers practicum (at a high school) the NSW labor party reduced the age of consent for boys to 16, the year 11 students I was teaching really couldn't understand it at all and yet this age group grew up with the ammended laws from the early eighties.
So tell me this, how come they felt this way? when you and others say it is a natural thing? (to be a queer)
I will say it again society will not accept queers regardless of what you or anyone says, so don't pull the race issue into fighting your pathetic battles.
Have a nice day

Mar 17, 2012 20:16 Report Abuse



Ouch ain't it. Thinking all gays can rule the world. If gayism ruled the world then you and the rest of the world's population wouldn't be there. Everyone knows the risks of having a test tube baby, there's a 25% chance of being mentally retarded. Moreover hemorrhoids, AIDS and Colon cancer are more commonly seen in gays. Apparently the lesbians seem to have bypassed this trouble.

Mar 19, 2012 04:04 Report Abuse



Were you a test tube baby?

Mar 19, 2012 06:10 Report Abuse


Johnny English

I think the sooner that the Chinese society accepts it's gay community the sooner their problem with men outnumbering the women disappear. The amount of gays in China that are forced to marry women is huge and so is the amount of men that have no women to marry so I say kill two birds with one stone.

Mar 17, 2012 03:44 Report Abuse


Bill H.

I think it is wrong to be gay! It is an act against nature! Dogs and cats have enought sense to know what to do with their junk but humans don't? I think there is attraction between men and men but it does not have to turn sexual! When it does we are letting our lust control us. We are creatures of emotion that fail to control that emotion in times of temptation, or we just look for the easy way out. Doing right is never easy! Just look at historical figures and the price they have paid. The way a man has intercourse with another man is disgusting! If that was intended for intercourse you would not need a lubricant! Think before you act...don't act on lust alone!

Mar 17, 2012 04:40 Report Abuse