The wives of gay men in China and the ethics of marriage, new study published

A new study published in Cogent Social Sciences throws light on a little known group in Chinese society, the wives and ex-wives of gay men. The women’s need to speak out illustrates the challenges of community-led campaigning in the country, and the issues around homosexual-heterosexual marriage, are vitally important for policy makers and public health officials. The wives of gay men have a special name: the Tongqi.

Chinese cultural expectations, and the now-defunct single child policy, create enormous pressure on gay men to marry. These men are expected to father children in order to ensure the family name and continue the line of inheritance. Now a new study examines the lives of these women, who are generally unaware of their husband’s homosexuality before their marriage. As well as infidelity, they must often survive emotional abuse, sudden divorce as soon as they have children, and they are considered to be at a higher risk of HIV/AIDS infection. This risk can often prevent them from remarrying.

Members of the Tongqi, who communicate privately over digital social networks, have formed support and consciousness raising groups, and now advocate the legalisation of same sex marriage.

‘This paper gave me the chance to speak with Xiao Delan, of the China Wives of Gay Men Mutual Aid Studio,’ said Fung Kei Cheng, PhD, author of the paper. ‘ As a tongqi who has marched at the Pride festival, she is uniquely placed to tell the story of many such women. She’s active in gay communities, talking to gay men about how tongqi are psychologically harmed by the experience, and persuading them not to get involved in homosexual-heterosexual marriages. I strongly encourage those women who are a part of this socially disadvantaged community to voice their rights.’

The paper examines the challenges faced by a small Chinese community action charity in a country where this kind of campaigning is a new phenomenon, and sheds light on a vital area where, ultimately, both parties are victims.

Read or download the full article for free in the open access journal Cogent Social Sciences: