CNN Anchor’s Coming Out Rattles China’s Closet

Following CNN anchor Anderson Cooper’s public acknowledgement of his homosexuality, some young gay Chinese are planning their own coming out. A Weibo user, Sun Yelin-Xiao Hei, called for massive collective action: “If all homosexuals in China come out on 2012.12.12, what would life be like?”. However, the pressures they face make this unlikely. From The New York Times’ Rendezvous blog:

Mr. Cooper is fairly well-known among China’s more Westernized, educated elite, with Sina’s microblog site, the country’s biggest, recording over 38,000 posts mentioning him. Comments since his coming out have been overwhelmingly positive, if occasionally a little nonplussed.

In China, very few homosexuals are “out,” or “chugui” (this translates as “come out closet.”) Familial and cultural pressures to be heterosexual, marry and produce an heir are simply too great.

With the obstacle of heir production blocking the closet door, many gay men in China feel they have to marry women without revealing their true sexual orientation. According to Zhang Beichuan, a leading researcher on the issue, there are “over 10 million women married to homosexual men, perhaps 16 million”. From NYT’s Rendezvous:

One particular area of concern, Mr. Zhang said, is the large number of Chinese women unwittingly married to gay men. (Due to traditional patriarchal attitudes that value a son’s offspring more than a daughter’s, it is somewhat easier for a woman to dodge marriage and reproduction. A gay woman may be less likely to marry against her will.)

“Tongqi”—gay men’s wives—have formed an organization to provide emotional and legal support. But their website has been shut down due to disputes over money, and many “tongqi” still remain helpless due to lack of information on the issue. 

Read more about gay rights and homowives issues in China via CDT.

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