In Chinese culture being gay is not widely accepted. Gay people often have to pretend to be straight or ‘normal’ and this inevitably involves them being married to the opposite sex. Therefore, façade marriages between gay men and lesbian women have become popular in recent years.
Although homosexuality is not illegal in China, same-sex marriages are not approved of. Family traditions have a strong focus on social reputation and it is impossible for a gay couple to live together. Gay men and lesbian women are under enormous pressure to spare their family from suffering embarrassment. Homosexuality is not mentioned in Chinese criminal legislation but being gay was considered to be a mental disease until 1997 and certain laws have been used to make things difficult for gay people. As a result, some lesbian women and gay men form ‘fake’ relationships, get married and have children in order to satisfy their families.
To be gay and a woman remains a very difficult position to be in China according to the book ‘Queer women in urban China’. As well as the pressure to get married and have children, the ‘wife’ is also expected to take care of her husband’s parents, as well as her own since the household falls under her responsibility. Whereas marriage may be beneficial for a man’s career, the opposite can be the case for women. There is more variation in the LGBT community today than there was ten years ago but it is often male homosexuality which receives the most attention while female networks are left struggling.
To find a partner for a façade marriage, lesbians join match-making events and look for gay counterparts who are facing the same problem. It is often treated as a business deal and negotiations are very matter-of-fact with each individual openly stating what they are looking for, in terms of money, babies and marriage conditions. According to a documentary film made by Sophia Luvarà, the process can be very pragmatic and there is often no emotional attachment on either part.
Today activism is not considered to be a big problem, but things are both progressing and regressing at the same time. People in China access the internet and see that gay people get married in many other countries. Documentaries are being produced and people are taking action for gay rights in the country and so slowly things are hopefully changing for the better. It may take a bit longer for attitudes to change but let’s hope they will move in the right direction! In the meantimes, gays, lesbians, single or married and fake or not, are faced with the same problem: with love, you can put up with a lot, without love, it’s much harder!
INSIDE THE CHINESE CLOSET Trailer | Human Rights Watch 2016