Renowned sexologist and sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河) in a recent blogpost on the lives of tongqi (同妻), heterosexual women who find themselves married to gay Chinese men (translation adapted from Yawning Bread):
I attended a forum that discussed the problem of ‘homowives‘. The so-called ’homowife‘ (tongqi 同妻) is the wife (qi 妻) of a homosexual (tongzhi 同志). It has been said that China has 20 million male homosexuals, of whom 80 per cent would marry a woman. These women are the ’homowives‘, and there are 16 million of them.
The ‘homowife’ phenomenon is a phenomenon unique to China, seldom witnessed in other countries. In other countries, homosexuals would remain single or live together or marry other homosexuals. Very few would enter into a heterosexual marriage. This difference comes about because Chinese culture places such a great emphasis on marriage and reproduction, as to make them compulsory.
During my visit to Hungary, I found out that only 10 per cent of people of marriageable age got hitched. The rest fell into three categories: single, cohabiting (living together), LAT (lovers who live apart). In such a society, gay people do not have any need at all to enter into a heterosexual marriage. People would not gossip about them and parents do not apply pressure. Unfortunately our Chinese culture is oppressive with its dictum on men and women having to get married when they reach a certain age and naming the lack of progeny as the most serious breach of filial piety – “there are three kinds of unfilial behaviour and the greatest is have no descendant”. This has compelled an entire community of male homosexuals to marry women to have children.
The condition for ‘homowives’ is extremely tragic. At the seminar, there were ‘homowives’ who burst into tears as they spoke, leading all of them to hug each other for a good cry. Most days, they wash their faces with tears. I heard what I considered the most shocking testimony that from a woman who told of how she even doubted her ability to attract men — why wouldn’t her husband even want to look at her or touch her? Am I really that unworthy as a woman? She assumed that all men would treat her like that, not knowing that this is far from the truth. She did not dream that her husband would be gay. Under the circumstances, even the most beautiful and accomplished woman would not arouse him.
Homowives have started to get organized in an effort to help themselves and help others. They have started a website and a helpline to assist fellow women who have fallen into the same predicament.
Their highest priority is to prevent women from marrying homosexuals, help those who suspect the sexual orientation of their boyfriends to analyse their situation better; and in the event that the other party is a confirmed homosexual, to dissuade the woman from entering a marriage with the man.
Secondly, they would like to extend a helping hand to those women who are already married to homosexuals and who would like a divorce. This includes helping them to make up their minds, relieving the pressure on them and reduce the financial and psychological damage that comes with divorce.
Thirdly, they would like to address the problems of homowives who do not want a divorce for a variety of reasons. This would include helping them to analyse the cost of keeping such a marriage going, how to communicate with their husbands and how to get along with their children.
They proposed a slogan: ‘Homowife ends with me’. This slogan is full of hurt and also extends concern to those who may follow in their footsteps. The slogan gives one a feeling that it is a noble cause.
I hope the majority of male homosexuals do not enter into heterosexual marriages any more and spare a thought for the feelings of the homowife.
Original Chinese text after the jump: