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Fake-Marriage Market in China

Sham Marriage Is a Liberated Option For Gen-Y Gays in China

Weddings may be big business in the US, but they are serious business in China. There's tremendous pressure to marry and bear children, so much so that unmarried women over 27 are called sheng nu or "leftovers." Gay people aren't spared, because social protocol dictates a "don't ask, don't tell" policy that keeps nearly everyone in the closet. Previous generations suffered through loveless marriages, but Generation Y has a new plan: gay men marry gay women to please their parents and (sort of) free themselves.

It's become so popular that there's a fake-marriage market where in-the-know Chinese lesbians and gay men go to find spouses. At one underground market, held in a yoga studio (the owner supports gay rights) in Shanghai, Slate's Nicola Davison talked to fake-spouse seekers and those who've already said "I do" (fingers crossed). Read what they had to say below.

  • "In my view, a 30-year-old man should start thinking about having a family, but two men can't hold each other's hands in the street. We're not allowed to be a family."
  • "I want to get married for my parents, but I think lying to them will make me feel terrible. So I want to have a fake marriage with a lesbian girl, but just for one or two years, and then I want a divorce to show my parents that I am not a marriage type."
  • "In your job, in your social life, and for family gatherings, you need to bring a partner. It's hard to do these things alone in China. My grandfather and grandmother . . . everyone was waiting for me to get married. The wedding felt like a task I needed to accomplish, something I needed to get through step-by-step, a bit like doing homework."

It sounds like a sad state, but it is better than being completely closeted. After all, aren't they at least coming out to each other?

Image Source: Thinkstock
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Rosay77 Rosay77 5 years
It sounds like a good compromise assuming the two families live with each other.
katialoves katialoves 5 years
that is very interesting. its not really *that* sad to me. for one thing, people in china do not normally make out in the street. however couples and same sex friends hold hands and link arms often in the street. the reason that 'two men can't hold hands in the street' is that they don't want to disappoint/humiliate their parents, or cause problems for themselves at work. its not an anti-gay regime like some islamic countries have. think mad men era US. except its not a Christian nation. most chinese people don't want their own kids to be gay; they don't want to worry about it. however noone cares enough to hate on gay people like the some crazy people do in the west; they concentrate on themselves. maybe some malicious gossip for their own benefit. not because gay is dirty or some bs. I bet they don't have nearly as many 'un-gay yourself the christian way' programs as we do despite their massive population. and i bet if the parents knew their gay son did this but they still got their grandchild, it 'd be alrighty for some of them. in addition; its an ingenious idea to have an event to hook up sham marriages. one advantage is choosing a compatible mate that your trust to have a kid with, then divorcing. gay people everywhere want kids and have them in different ways, but this way seems relatively simple and safe. if i was a lesbian, i could have my own kid, then find a girlfriend at my leisure (who may have her own kid too). no bio clock or issues about who will carry the kid. ok its not perfect, but neither is any country's gay family situation right now. it might be mind-boggling the lengths people go to to keep their sexuality under wraps from their parents/bosses. however the culture is sooo old as is the patriarchal family model and filial piety. this generation is obviously changing. hopefully in 20 years things will be different. another factor: people have 'hukou' passports designating where they can live in work. you can't live anywhere you'd like or move around. so gay people probably sympathize with their parents desire to hold their heads up high around their coworkers and or neighbors who they've known for many years. reputation is important to people. last thing, due to the population, there is heavy, intense competition in the work world, and like every where but maybe even extra due to culture, prosperity is an important value and goal. not to be insensitive, but pretending to be straight is possibly less stressful than the prep highschool exams in china. personally i don't have to lie about my sexuality at work but i am definitely 'fake' at work sometimes for the sole purpose of benefitting my career, and i'm pretty sure i;m not the only one...
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