Wives of Homosexual Men in China - A Disadvantaged Group

It is estimated that more than 80% of the approximate 20 million homosexual males in China are married to females. (Photo: http://www.economist.com/node/15731324)

It is estimated that more than 80% of the approximate 20 million homosexual males in China are married to females. (Photo: http://www.economist.com/node/15731324)

“Homo wives (同妻)” are wives of homosexual husbands. It is estimated that more than 80% of the approximate 20 million homosexual males in China are married or will marry females. Therefore, there are more than 16,000,000 Chinese women are now homo wives or homo wives-to-be. The “homo wives” phenomenon can hardly be found in countries besides China, as some of the homosexual people would remain single, the others would cohabit with their lover or enter a homosexual marriage. Scholars in Sociology attribute the “homo wives” phenomenon to the undue emphasis of marriage and child-rearing. To make things worse, homosexuality is often regarded as a “terrible family shame” in the traditional Chinese culture, in which marriage and the associated family structure are both heterosexuality-dominant. Therefore, most of the homosexuals do not dare declare and justify their sexual orientation, and hence are usually trapped in the traditional mode of heterosexual marriage.

Since sexual transmission between male homosexuals is one of the major routes for the spread of HIV-AIDS in China, male homosexuals have become a group of general concern. Homo wives, the more disadvantaged group behind the scene, should not be overlooked. Homo wives not only have to suffer an unpleasant sexual life, some of them even become victims of isolation and domestic violence. More tragically, homo wives also have a higher risk of HIV infection. These claims were confirmed by geographical surveys and it is reported that approximately 30% of homo wives in China have experienced a certain level of domestic violence, as their homosexual husbands acted violently to relieve their psychological pressure.

It’s Not Easy to Get a Divorce

Xiaomi, once a homo wife herself, finally got a divorce. She tore up all the wedding photos and asked her ex-husband to move out. “This is indeed the worst ending for a marriage,” said Xiaomi, “A normal marriage ends with a shared memory of love, but my marriage is a complete pack of lies.”

However, most of the homo wives failed to credit divorce as the only way to settle the issue. “Marriage is complicated, and every wife has her own concerns,” said the 28-year-old homo wife Shuyun.

Some homo wives would stay in their marriages because of their love to the husband. Some of them are housekeepers who depend on their husband’s income. Another major concern for them is the potential psychological injury a divorce may generate on their children.

For Shuyun, her parents-in-law are the people she cares the for most. The conservative old couple always regards their son as “abnormal” and treats Shuyun extremely nice because she “is the last and the only hope to change their son.” Although Sueyun would regard it impossible to undermine her husband’s sexual preference, she doesn’t want her parents-in-law to be heartbroken because of the divorce.

Professor Liao from Fudan University argues that the homosexual conduct within a marriage clearly violates China’s marriage law, as it challenges the stability of the family which based on marriage. However, the Chinese marital law responds unfavorably towards the homo wives in their divorce cases. According to the law, a wife is allowed to ask the husband for compensation if the divorce is the result of the husband’s cohabitation with others. However, as “the others” only include people of the opposite sex, homo wives’ appeals are often rejected by the court.

Seminar of Homo Wives: Bringing the Issue into the Limelight

The homosexual community in China has been recognized since the late 1990s. More and more homosexual men are willing to acknowledge their sexual orientations to their family and friends, and even to the whole society. They refuse to enter a marriage with women, and hope to challenge a society dominated by heterosexuality. This constant effort has become the major catalyst for the growing understanding and recognition of homosexuality as a basic human right, as well as the gradual relieving of social prejudice. At the same time, more and more homo wives are gathering together in cyberspace, lusting for the opportunity to be better understood by the society, and to realize the end of the “homo wife phenomenon” in the near future.

Pink Spaces, a non-profit organization dedicated to promote and advocate sexual equality, organized China’s first Homo Wife Seminar in the year 2009. Nine homo wives, one married homosexual man, and one female HIV carrier attended this seminar aiming to encourage homo wives to share their experience, to support each other and to protect their rights.

Although these homo wives were distinctive in terms of age, home towns and professional backgrounds, they shared sad and miserable life experiences of being the wife of a homosexual man. Half of them had thought of or attempted suicide because of the desperate marriage, but most of them showed a fearful attitude towards the divorce. There were millions of reasons behind sustaining their marriage, including public opinion, social prejudice and the need of the family; the emotional and sexual needs of the women themselves, however, were overlooked in most of the cases.

Some homo wives finally decided to divorce their husbands on the brink of an emotional breakdown. They did pay a high price getting away from the smothering marriages; as they failed to get a single penny from the joint property with their ex-husbands. However, all of them regard it worthwhile to get a divorce, because the freedom and hope for a new life are possible now.

Face to face communication like the seminars is more illuminating than communication on the Internet. Homo wives now realize that their effort should expand further and to help more homo wives to strive for their rights, including the sexual right.

An Internet forum, an official organization, and seminars on a more significant scale are now under the agenda of the homo wife activists.


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