Caijing reports that, according to research by Xing Fei at the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences, there are approximately 12 million ‘beard’ marriages – marriages designed to convince the world of a partner’s heterosexuality – in China today. The report, based on estimates of China’s gay population, calls attention to the lives of these people, known in Chinese at tongqi.
These unions are usually terrible for both parties, and despite recent breakthroughs getting a divorce can sometimes be a challenge. Researcher Xing writes, “I want to call people’s attention to this silent, yet large, segment of society and the antiquated social atmosphere that makes them crumble and tumble.”
Homosexuality and marriage has a long and complicated history in China. Historically homosexuality was conceived of as an act as opposed to an identity, and it was widely perceived as either normal or perhaps mildly un-filial. So in a way, the problem may not be that the social atmosphere is too antiquated, but rather that it is too modern, trapped in the swirling vortex of the modernist obsession with identity and the vestiges of Western Puritanism.