While bobbing along the Yangtze River, my partner and I attended a lecture on China’s future. As expected, the talk centered on the One-Child Policy. Since 1979, couples in the ethnic majority have been restricted to one child, except under very specific circumstances.

While it is illegal to learn the baby’s gender before birth, there is a thriving underground ultrasound industry. Baby girls are often aborted, resulting in a skewed male to female ratio. In some provinces there are 130 boys to every 100 girls. Millions of men will be unable to find a wife and, in a nation as family-centered as China, this is a huge issue.

An Unexpected Solution

The lecturer slipped a new slide onto the projector. Right there, in all its bullet-pointed glory, was the phrase ‘gay marriage.’ My partner and I gawped at each other as the speaker expounded on this unexpected solution.

Estimates of the number of gay, Chinese men who are married to straight women vary. Professor Zhang Bei-chuan, who specializes in the study of AIDS and HIV, puts the figure at 16 million. Our lecturer claimed it was 40-50 million.

The lecturer went on to suggest that legalizing gay marriage in China would fix multiple problems. It would end loveless marriages, making both parties happier. Gay men could then form unions based on true connections. The newly divorced women would be free to select a new husband from the abundance of single straight men available. With one change to the law, three people could find… satisfaction.

Attitudes Towards Gay Marriage

China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997. In 2001, the Chinese Psychiatric Association stopped viewing it as a form of mental illness. In recent years, Professor L. Yinhe, whose specialty is sexuality, has repeatedly asked the government to address gay marriage. Each year, her requests are refused.

However, attitudes among the public are shifting and China’s gay community is growing more vocal. In February 2013, a lesbian couple in Beijing applied to be married. They were denied, but the attempt attracted media attention.

That same month, members of PFLAG China crafted an open letter to National People’s Congress delegates in favor of marriage equality. The letter suggests that existing laws encourage gay citizens to marry people of the opposite sex, an outcome with little emotional benefit to anyone.

Gay Marriage

According to Professor Li, adult gay children ‘are facing extreme pressure from their families to get married to someone from the opposite sex.’ Some deal with this by entering into cooperative marriages, where gay men marry lesbians. There are even websites and forums set up to facilitate such unions.

Not the ideal type of gay marriage!

While in China, I was struck by the government’s extremely pragmatic approach to decision-making. With a population of over 1.3 billion, such an attitude is a necessity. Deng Xiaoping, the controversial reformer who essentially governed China from 1978-1992, once said: ‘whether a cat is black or white makes no difference. As long as it catches mice, it is a good cat.’

It boils down to this: if you find an effective solution, it is a good one. China is unlikely to beat the U.S. to the gay marriage altar. But the impact of a generation of single, disenchanted straight men may be enough to propel change.

Of course, there is one glaring flaw in the ‘gay marriage will result in more available women plan.’



About the author

Juliet is the founder of Southwest Compass — a travel blog “Pointing Southwest Travelers in the Right Direction”. Follow her on Twitter @sw_compass or stay up-to-date with travel in the Southwest USA by following on Facebook. Learn more about her on her website’s author bio: About Southwest Compass