Chinese "gay wives" face legal limbo, cultural bias

Thu Mar 8, 2012 2:12am EST
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BEIJING (Reuters) - In the eight years since Tianlei told his parents he was gay, they've put relentless pressure on him to act straight and marry.

"My parents push me to deceive a girl into marrying me," said Tianlei, a 28-year-old company manager in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, using a nickname.

"They just want a grandson to save face in front of others and don't care how she would suffer... I would rather die than do it."

But in China, a great many men give in to the pressure.

An estimated 10 million Chinese women are married to gay men, according to retired Qingdao University professor Zhang Beichuan, often trapping wives in unhappy unions they can't easily leave due to Chinese law and social stigma.

Zhang estimates that 80 to 90 percent of gay men in China intend to marry or have married, citing a survey of more than 1,500 Chinese gay men.

Such marital arrangements occur in many societies, especially where traditional customs prevail, but China's Confucian tradition coupled with its one-child policy have increased pressure on gays to conform to heterosexual norms.

"Having no progeny is considered in the traditional Chinese culture the worst kind of unfilial conduct," said Zhang. "And under China's one-child policy, the only son is under even greater pressure from his parents who want a grandson."

For Fang Fang, a 46-year-old woman living in eastern China, her unwitting marriage to a gay man led to a lifetime of misery.   Continued...