Woman divorces husband who slept with her brother: the plight of gay men's wives in China

Traditionally, most women married to gay men in China remained silent about it. But today, more are reaching out to support groups or discussing their experiences online.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 11:43am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 3:07pm

It baffled a 32-year-old Jiangsu woman when her handsome husband continually refused to make love to her. After all, they had only been married for three years.

Nor could the woman, surnamed Ge, understand why he sometimes preferred sleeping in the same room as her younger brother.

The frustrated and suspicious wife then started to do a little digging.

Her investigation ended in a heartbreaking discovery: the husband had fallen head over heels in love with Ge’s younger brother, reported a Jiangsu based news website on Tuesday.

Besides passionate love letters addressed to his brother-in-law, Ge also unearthed a sizeable gay porn collection owned by her husband.

A heart-broken Ge decided to seek a divorce. She also demanded a compensation fee from her gay husband, claiming he had lied and misled her into a false marriage.

Ge is among at least 10 million tongqi, or straight women married to gay men, in China, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

A large percentage of gay men in China choose to marry and have children to fulfil the "filial" duty of having an heir. This is stipulated by tradition and generally expected by parents.

But it puts the wives, who are usually kept in the dark, in a difficult situation.

Luo Hongling, a 31-year-old university teacher in Sichuan province leapt to her death last year after learning her husband was gay, reported Chinese media.

It was a shocking news to her students and friends, who said she was well-liked and a good teacher.

Luo apparently snapped after receiving a text message from her gay husband which read: “I prefer masturbating about one night stands with men.”

Luo’s parents tried unsuccessfully to sue the husband for deliberately hurting their daughter after Luo's death.

While most tongqi's in China preferred to stay silent in the past, more are reaching out to support groups or speaking out online about their gay husbands.

A tongqi group  named "Tongqi in Action" created in 2011 on China’s popular social network site Douban has attracted more than 1,500 members. Many tongqi shared their stories there.

“I discovered three days ago,” wrote one wife, who said she had found out by checking the online chatting history of her husband. “Now he has apologised and said he still wants us to have a baby.”

The post received hundreds of comments. Most of them advised her to get a divorce.

But for those who want a divorce, it's a bumpy ride ahead. Divorced women in China face serious challenges and discrimination in a country where most men prefer women with no marital history or children.

In light of the dilemma, a Beijing court recently submitted a report calling for new legislation. This would allow people who discover their spouses are gay to file for an annulment, so they would regain “single” status in official papers, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Many netizens wrote sympathetically for Ge and other tongqis on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service:

"There's nothing wrong with being gay, but deceiving someone who wants to spend her life with you is wrong," said one blogger. 

"I am married to my partner, and we are accepted by our parents," said another blogger. "There won't be tragedies like this one if people are more tolerant."