Qingdao University professor Zhang Beichuan, who is an expert on gay and lesbian issues in China, told The Guardian he believes about 80% of gay men and lesbians in China marry — people of the opposite sex. Often they have unsuspecting straight spouses or they "partner" with another gay person for a marriage of arrangement to please their parents. Xing Fei, an expert from the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences, goes so far as to estimate that approximately 12 million gay men in the country are married to straight women.
The Guardian's Shanghai-based reporter Tania Branigan talked to Beichuan and Fei and met with numerous gay people who are in seemingly straight relationships, like Tom Wang, a 40-year-old software engineer who met his (lesbian) wife online, married a year later, and is now living together in a facade of a marriage "erected to satisfy their parents and protect their careers."
According to Branigan, "homosexuality was illegal in China until 1997, and remains a sensitive issue, the country does not have the deep-rooted, vicious homophobia of many other places." In fact, she says, the country not only tolerated same-sex love among men, it "celebrated" it, though "such relationships supplemented marriage rather than replaced it. According to the tenets of traditional society, the worst kind of unfilial behaviour is failing to continue the family line. Even now, the pressure to marry and have children is intense."
Read Branigan's interviews with lesbians and gay men in China visit the Guardian.co.uk.