It is estimated that 10 million Chinese women are married to gay men, and that about 80 to 90 percent of homosexual Chinese men plan to marry or have married women, according to a Chinese professor who surveyed 1,500 Chinese gay men.
Qingdao University professor Zhang Beichuan, who is now retired, said that the large proportion of gay men marrying straight Chinese women have trapped many wives in unhappy unions that are hard to break because of Chinese law and social stigma.
Experts say that many marital arrangements of this kind often occur in societies where traditional customs are held in high esteem. China’s Confucian tradition and one-child policy rule puts many pressures on men to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation, particularly when pressured by parents.
"Having no progeny is considered in the traditional Chinese culture the worst kind of unfilial conduct," said Zhang, according to Reuters. "And under China's one-child policy, the only son is under even greater pressure from his parents who want a grandson."
Tianlei, a homosexual 28-year-old company manager in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan talked to Reuters about the constant pressure he received from his parents under a nickname. He told the news outlet that after he had told his parents that he was gay, they have continued to relentlessly pressure him to act straight and to marry.
"My parents push me to deceive a girl into marrying me," Tianlei told Reuters. "They just want a grandson to save face in front of others and don't care how she would suffer... I would rather die than do it."
Many women married or have been married to gays have begun speaking out.
Fang Fang, a 46-year-old woman living in eastern China, told Reuters that she had been deceived into marrying a gay man which led her into a life of misery.
After spending her wedding night alone, it took 26 years for Fang Fang to finally realize that her husband was gay and that she was just “a movie prop used to complete his straight-man disguise." Fang Fang, who did not give her real name said that her gay husband had took advantage of her “naivety and weak personality” and purposely set a string of traps to lure her in.
Fang Fang’s husband had been born in the late 1950s, and like many Chinese gays of his generation, found his homosexuality to be humiliating and wanted to be “normal” by marrying a woman and having a child carry on his family name.
While divorce in China is rapidly rising, it is still viewed as shameful, particularly for women, and Chinese law does not really address the issue that many women married to gay men face, like difficulty proving that their husbands are involved in homosexual relationships.
"Homosexuality is never seriously discussed in China's legislatures -- the government just wants to avoid talking about it," said a lawyer surnamed Liu who had previously divorced her gay husband.
Even when a woman manages to break her unhappy union, the social stigma of having been married to a gay man will still create problems.
Xiao Yao, a woman now divorced from her gay ex-husband, founded a website called "Tongqijiayuan" (Gay wives' family) after finding out in 2007 that her newly married husband was gay, said that when she began dating after her divorce, many men were immediately concerned that she was an HIV carrier.
She said her site was to help women who are in unhappy marriages with gays by offering information and providing an environment where members can seek help from each other, psychologists and law professionals.
"I respect gays as any another human beings and understand their pains," she told Reuters. "But I also want them to see how much pain their wives suffer, so that gay men won't rashly marry a woman anymore."