Lifestyle & Belief

Gay men and lesbians in China marrying to stay in closet


Gay couples kiss during a ceremonial "wedding" to raise awareness of homosexual marriage in Wuhan, China on March 8, 2011. Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder in China until 2001. Today, gays face social pressure to remain in the closet despite gradual steps towards greater acceptance.



Gay men are marrying lesbian women in China to help overcome that country’s strict stigma against homosexuality while meeting the pressures of marrying and having children, The Atlantic reports.

Called xinghun, or cooperative marriage, the practice is gaining popularity with a leading website designed for the matchmaking boasting more than 162,000 members and nearly 20,000 marriages. offers users the chance to upload photos and vital information such as occupation and income. 

One gay man interviewed by The Atlantic said xinghun is better than marrying a straight woman and ruining her life.

“It’s very irresponsible,” Benjamin Zhang told the magazine. “You know you can’t have a normal sexual relationship with the woman. You’re hurting her.”

According to estimates, there are 20 million gay or bisexual men in China, 80 percent of whom are married to straight women.

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While some couples live together, others lead separate lives.

One gay man who married a lesbian woman told the Economist that he keeps his “wife’s” clothes in his apartment to satisfy unannounced visitors, even though they live apart. They visit their parents weekly, but are thinking of getting a doctor’s certificate that says they’re infertile to avoid having children.

Gay marriage and LGBT rights are nearly non-existent in China, where the Communist Party doesn’t acknowledge homosexuals.

Homosexuality in China was a crime until 1997 and declared a mental disorder until 2001, ABC News said.

Yet, there are some parents in China trying to turn the tide for their children.

Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays sent a letter to Chinese lawmakers earlier this year with 200 signatures petitioning for change.

“Some of our children have been with their same-sex partners for almost 10 years; they care for and love each other deeply, but they are unable to legally authorize medical treatment for their partners when they are ill and in need of an operation,” the letter says, according to ABC.

“As the parents of homosexuals, we are often worried, because they cannot legally marry, and this impacts to various degrees their ability to adopt; authorize necessary medical treatment; inherit their partner’s assets, or even buy an apartment.”

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