Wives in Nothing but Name

August 20, 2012
Editor: Sun Xi

Luo Hongling's parents are grief-stricken over their daughter's death [wzkx.whwd.com]

Luo Hongling's parents are grief-stricken over their daughter's death [wzkx.whwd.com]

Luo Hongling in a group photo [7y7.com]

Luo Hongling in a group photo [7y7.com]

On June 16, 2012, Luo Hongling, a teacher who taught Korean at a foreign language school in Chengdu, jumped from the 13th floor of an apartment building and died on the spot.

While any suicide is shocking, her death has drawn particular attention because only one day before she committed suicide, her husband had admitted that he was gay.

The Day Before

After her death, Luo's friends and family discovered her account on the Jinjiang Online Forum, a website for online novelists to share their work. Luo had been a member of an online community for wives of gay men. From the moment she suspected her husband was gay, up to two days before she committed suicide, Luo posted about her misfortunes on the online forum.

On June 13, 2012, her last post on the forum read: "Sisters, you are right, my husband is gay, and he has been using me from the very beginning!"

A little earlier, her husband, Cheng Jiansheng, had sent her a text message after his identity as a gay man had been disclosed, saying 'I feel so ashamed of myself', and another message later, saying, 'I am an asshole, please do not be broken-hearted about this, I am not worth it.'

That evening, Luo told her mom that she wanted to get a divorce. Around eight that evening, Cheng made a public apology to Luo through his microblog: "Miss Luo, I am sorry. I am gay and I cheated on you, and the reason I married you is because I wanted to conceal the fact that I am gay."

On June 15, 2012, at three in the afternoon, Luo posted her last microblog message: "This world is so tiring! Just let it finish, everything is gone!"

Two hours later, Luo's parents, who live in Chongqing Municipality in central China, received a call from Cheng and were told that their daughter had committed suicide by jumping off an apartment building.

25 Days before the Suicide

Luo's tragic end is a culmination of a sad story which began 25 days earlier when she found some intimate messages in her husband's phone. While her husband was taking a shower, she happened to find another intimate message from a man named Bao from Shanghai.

Luo checked through the phone and discovered more incriminating evidence, including dating software for gay men and other content.

She realized suddenly that her fears had been proven right and despite the fact that her husband had told her he was bisexual, he was in fact only interested in men.

"During the five months of my marriage, we only made love about five times. We slept separately during Spring Festival when we went home to Chengdu. He was using QQ, WeChat, Momo (all are communication software similar to MSN) to hook up with all kinds of men. If that is not a sham marriage, then what is?" Luo angrily posted on her microblog.

"Did you feel guilty when you used my money to buy gifts for other men? Did you feel ashamed when you used the iPhone I bought you to flirt with them?" she posted, and to Cheng: "You had so many opportunities to tell me. Why did you have to drag me into this quagmire?"

Months before Luo's suicide, she complained online that her husband never called her or texted her during the day. He always went straight to the gym from his office and worked during the weekends to try and avoid her.

A few people responded to her complaints, suggesting that he might be hiding something regarding his sexual orientation. Some even suggested she might be in a sham marriage.

She replied by saying that everything had seemed fine before they got married, and that he had been introduced to her by a female friend of hers. She said the sexual orientation issue could be ruled out. But more and more people began to raise questions.

Luo felt helpless about these questions and said that her intention had been to ask them what a marriage should be like and how she and her husband could get along better with each other.

On June 22, 2012, when the grievous news of her death broke on the forum, her posts were unearthed. Following lawyers' suggestions, Luo's posts and Cheng's online public apology were notarized for the court.

"I Thought Married Life Would Be Sweeter"

According to Luo's friends and family, she had been outstanding and talented since she was young. They said she was "very competent and independent". Her tutor said, "She was like the sunshine and very beautiful."

In the summer of 2011, Luo and Cheng were introduced by one of her classmates and began to date, after which Cheng told her he was bisexual. Five or six months later, they got married.

By then, Cheng had switched jobs three times. Luo sympathized with Cheng, who came from a troubled family background. His parents divorced early, Cheng's father refused to pay child support and his mother abused him. Luo was determined to be good to him.

After they got married, Luo set Cheng up with a bank card which was automatically debited with the income she received from her part-time job, at least 3,000 yuan (US$472) a month. She never asked about where the money went.

However, Cheng quickly became a different person. "I thought a married couple would have dinners together after work. But he always prefers working out at the gym and coming home after ten at night. I thought married life would be sweeter than before. But we seem to be spending less and less time together," Luo wrote in an online post and also confided in her friends.

Luo used to suggest to her husband that perhaps what they had was a 'form marriage', which is a form of marriage in which lesbians and gay men get married to hide the fact that they are homosexual, and that they should get divorced. However, Cheng repeatedly said that he was not gay, but bisexual, and that he had married her for love.

Less than a year later, Luo committed suicide. Even before her death, she said: "If it is possible, I really wish that China would legalize gay marriage. This way, many tragedies would be avoided."

Silent Suffering

According to statistics released by relevant charity organizations, there are 30 to 50 million homosexual people of both sexes in China, and approximately 90 percent of homosexual men choose to get married due to social pressure. Their wives typically are unaware of their husband's true sexual orientation before getting married.

Aside from a sexless marriage and the risks of being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, these wives also suffer from a marriage that is just a hollow display, with none of the qualities or happiness of a real marriage.

Renowned sexologist and sociologist Li Yinhe commented: "The 'homowife' phenomenon is unique to China, seldom witnessed in other countries. In other countries, LGBT people remain single or live together or marry each other. Very few would enter into a heterosexual marriage. This phenomenon has arisen because Chinese culture places such a great emphasis on marriage and reproduction, as to make them compulsory."

In 2005, the phenomenon first came into the spotlight when CCTV's News Probe featured it. During the program, one of these wives, Xiao Wen, said: "During what should have been the best years of my life, I was married to a gay man."

Zhang Beichuan, an expert in homosexuality and a counselor at the China Sexology Association, said: "There are probably over 10 million straight women married to gay men in China right now. They have either become a tool for carrying on the family line, or become the protective umbrella to conceal their husbands' identity. The most fundamental reason is still society's intolerance towards gay men and other LGBT people."

As to the relationship between the husbands and wives of these unconventional marriages, a public worker once said: "They stand opposite to each other but face the same side of society."

But what of the men? Some would argue that they, too, are victims. However, some women have spoken out and said, "Sure, these gay men are also the victims of society and also trapped in a loveless marriage, but their deception must be condemned."

Zhang agreed: "A vulnerable group should not hurt another more vulnerable group using their own suffering as an excuse."

However, in his opinion, these marriages of convenience are also decreasing as the younger generation of China's LGBT groups are learning to stand up for their own rights and also respect the rights of women.

"In big cities, gay men who are well-educated and financially independent have begun to say no to marriage. It shows that they not only respect their own sexual orientation, but are also taking it seriously," he said.

A few organizations have been established by social workers and former wives to provide psychological consultation and legal aid to these women. The victimized wives of gay men are now actively seeking help and speaking out via the Internet.

A website called Tongqi Jiayuan, which roughly translates as 'wives of gay husbands', provides a platform for victims to share their experiences, along with legal information and AIDS prevention awareness.

"I hope I can help those in the same situation I was in, and give others a deeper understanding of the issue," said Xiao Yao, the website's founder and ex-wife of a gay man, who asked that her pseudonym be used. She has also opened a hotline to provide psychological counseling to survivors of sham marriage and women who finally discover the truth.

"First they need to calm down and talk to their husband," said Xiao Yao. "It's really a complicated problem and each wife has her own unique experience."

Professor Zhang tells women who have the means to support themselves to abandon their sham marriages and seek one with love. "But many feel they can't leave their husbands if they and their children are financially dependent."

Luo Hongling may be beyond society's help now, but she has highlighted the urgent need to eliminate social discrimination and the pressure on gay men to get married. Wives who do end up in these sorts of marriages also need to have their rights and interests strongly protected by the law. We have all seen the tragic consequences otherwise.

Follow-up: Chengdu Court Dismisses Lawsuit against Gay Husband

(Source: news.ifeng.com/Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)

Please understand that womenofchina.cn,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: website@womenofchina.cn. The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by womenofchina.cn.