In places where homosexuality is not state-supported, people find alternative ways and loopholes to be their authentic selves. China's LGBT community is no different.
The term "beard" is used to describe a woman who, knowing or unknowingly, is used to cover her partner's homosexuality. While there are many women who are unknowingly in a marriage with a gay partner, Tongqi ("beard") or "homowife" is becoming a common and (somewhat) open occurrence in Chinese society.
It's believed there are millions of gay men in China married to women. Currently, there are around 14 million Tongqi wives. To compare, a 2010 Economist report showed that 15 to 20% of gay men in American had married heterosexual women. However, over ten years later, with cultural shifts and same-sex marriages, those numbers have changed significantly.
But the same cannot be said in China. While these wives, knowingly or unknowingly enter a Tongi marriage, their needs are greatly overlooked. Many studies show that Tongqi wives suffer from severe mental, physical, and emotional health. Many refuse to take a victim role and use their position to advocate for social change, they are still affected.
There are cultural expectations of continuing the family bloodline and staying married in China. The pressure to be in these relationships cause emotional and mental health issues. Many Tongqi women experience intimate partner violence and depressive symptoms as they have little satisfaction in their marriage. One study found that 62% of women reported feeling depressed due to abstaining from sexual intercourse with their husbands, while 9.9% said they suffered from sexual abuse.
While many women choose to leave and divorce their husbands, others choose to stay in the marriage for various reasons, such as economic purposes or family pressure. Many Tonqi women turn to religion, online support groups, or have extramarital sex partners to cope with their unhappiness in their marriages.
For those who remain in their marriages, it's an ongoing struggle to deal with feelings of depression and anxiety. While support groups and religion can provide support, there are other methods as well to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. While many of these wives cannot change their circumstances, red light therapy works by syncing the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, balancing serotonin levels in the brain, stabilizing sleep patterns, and increasing alertness.
To achieve the above, red light therapy penetrates through the skin, stimulating cellular energy and syncing all body parts from the bottom up, affecting everything from hormones to sleep. With these results, Tongi wives can feel better about themselves and make choices that can improve their current and future lives.