An online service has been launched in China to help LGBT people hide their sexuality.
Titled iHomo, the service sets gay and lesbian up with someone of the opposite sex to be their spouse. This way, they are able to hide their true selves from judgmental families.
It was set up by Ou Xiaobai, a gay woman living in Beijing who said she felt increasing pressure from her family to find a husband. They were unaware that she was actually happy with her girlfriend. This only got worse when her father died, she told the BBC, as her mother was worried that Ou “didn’t seem to have settled down with anyone” and would come to live with her for months at a time.
In order to alleviate the tension she felt, Ou decided to arrange a marriage of convenience. She found a gay man whose family was unaware of his sexuality despite him having a boyfriend for several years. Like Ou, he had been pushed to find a wife so the two married each other. Once they appeared to be settled, their families backed off and they were able to live with their actual partners without worry.
The experience gave Ou the idea to set up iHomo, although she understood that not everyone would be as fortunate as she was. She said that “for many, a marriage of convenience could be the beginning of a nightmare” especially if the person’s family live in the same city as they do because “a surprise visit could easily reveal the truth of their marriages”.
Despite these potential difficulties, Ou believes her new service is “a pragmatic way to ease the conflict so that homosexuals can live the life they want”.
Same sex marriage is still illegal in China, with homosexuality only being decriminalised in 1997. Even after that, it was legally regarded as a mental disorder for four more years. Earlier this year, a gay couple in the Hunan province argued for legalisation and recognition of gay marriage in court but were unsuccessful. The judge who heard their case said such a change would go against “the spirit of the laws of the People’s Republic of China”.
Photo by Danielle Madeley via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.