In China, gay men and women are apparently turning to the dating apps and websites, to seek out ‘cooperative’ marriages.
In the western we call them beards – where someone will act knowingly (or unwittingly), as a gay person’s spouse or date to keep up the appearance of heterosexuality.
But in China, this is now an actual thing, which they call it xinghun, and sadly it is gaining a lot of momentum.
Under xinghun, the couple know each other’s orientation and can live accordingly, while staying married. It is a marital arrangement, which many are carrying out in order to appease their conservative parents and conceal their sexual orientation.
In China, LGBT relationships still face serious discrimination and fierce opposition from conservatives, especially older family members.
Although China decriminalised homosexuality and removed it from the list of mental illnesses, traditional views are still hard to shake. Even well-educated Chinese who might be open-minded about LGBT issues tend to find it difficult to accept if their own children are gay.
“I was constantly asked by family members if I had a girlfriend or why I was not married. My mother would talk to me in a tearful voice, which made me feel extremely guilty. And my colleagues [females in their 40s or older] would pry into my relationship status and offer to set up blind dates for me. For many Chinese, there is no such thing as privacy.
A friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend at the time, and we were all curious. For us, they made a great couple. Then he told me that he found out [she is a] lesbian, and it just occurred to me that I could introduce this girl to my parents as my girlfriend. [That way] my parents can tell [relatives, neighbours and their friends] that I have a girlfriend”
Lin Hai, Founder of Chinagayles.com
So a demand was born. There are now several sites and apps available for the gay men and lesbians to meet online, and strike an marital arrangement. The site even give guidance prenuptial agreement, child-bearing, debts and inheritances.
But even before the idea of xinghun flourished in online, gay men in China have for decades been marrying straight women – without telling them the secret.
The wives in such marriages are called tongqi, which translated means gay wives. This tradition came to the national spotlight in 2012 after the suicide of a teacher in Chengdu city, Sichuan province, who found out that her husband was a closeted gay man.
Xinghun and tongqi are just symptoms of the problem of heavy social pressures in main-land China to marry and start a family, preferably at a marriageable age. Unlike their Western counterparts, staying single is often not an option for gays and lesbians in mainland China. And even when they come out to their parents, they will usually be besieged by inquiries, criticism or even ostracism from family, friends and neighbours. Some would rather choose xinghun to avoid this.