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Tongqi ()[1] is a Chinese language neologism for women who have married gay men. Liu Dalin, among the first sexologists in Mainland China, estimates that 90% of gay Chinese men marry a heterosexual woman,[2] while in the United States, only 15-20% of gay men marry.[2] Sexologist and sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河) believes there are 20 million male homosexuals in China, 80% of whom marry a woman.[3] Gay Chinese men are under social pressure to marry and produce a male heir to continue the family line, as Confucianism places a strong emphasis on this.[2]


The word combines the tong from tongzhi (slang for "gay") with qi ("wife").[2]

Life as Tongqi[edit]

Very few of the women who enter into these marriages are aware that their spouses are gay.[4] Many women have turned to social media because it allows them to maintain anonymity while expressing their feelings about being married to gay men. The majority of these women worry more about the social stigma of being divorced in Chinese society than they do about being in a loveless marriage. For the men, the shame of being stigmatized as homosexual causes them to enter these marriages in the first place.[5] In addition to the emotional toll of being married to a man who does not desire them physically, nearly 90% of these women suffer physical abuse and "sexual apathy" from their husbands.[6] Many women who are married to gay men in China are dependent on the men for financial survival. Even with a divorce, they can be left with social and financial hardships.[7] Only 31.2% of tongqi marriages end in divorce, according to a recent survey.[6] Divorce laws in China do not allow women to seek a dissolution of marriage from their husbands if they are gay.[5]


A lot of these women are speaking out against China's policy against same sex marriage beyond chat rooms. Recently, tongqi have been seen marching in Hong Kong's gay rights parade to bring visibility to their plight.[7] A new trend among Chinese gay men and lesbian women are arrangements called cooperation marriages,[7] where they marry each other publicly while living with a same sex partner in private.[4] There are services which are available to assist in the matching of gay men to lesbian women for the purposes of marriage.[8] Research has been conducted about the plight of tongqi by the Harbin Institute of Technology for the first time that encourages the acceptance of gays, to reduce the number of women subjected to these marriages.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tongqi (同妻), the wives of homosexuals". Shanghaiist. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Homosexuality in China". The Economist. 2010-03-18. 
  3. ^ "Li Yinhe on homowives". Shanghaiist. 
  4. ^ a b Burgess, Richard. "China's 'Homowives'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Li, Yinhe. "Tongqi, women in the shadow of gay husbands". Shenzen Daily. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Huiying, Zhou. "Survey: Women who marry gay men suffer abuse". China Daily. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c Huang, Zheping. "China's "homowives" are becoming unlikely champions for gay rights". Quartz. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Morris, Ruth. "Same-sex unions? Not quite. In China, a gay man and a lesbian woman get married... to each other". PRI. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 

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