We have seen many LGBT startups in China in the past years, such as Blued, Lesdo, and The L. While these apps connect same-sex homosexuals, one startup set out to connect different sex homosexuals to solve their real problem. iHomo, a Beijing-based startup is now helping out LGBT community to find a beard to ward off increasing pressure from family members.
“Marriage and having children all seems to be taken for granted in China. My parents are no exception,” CEO and founder of iHomo, Xiaobai Ou told TechNode. “They began to urge me to get married. In order to appease my family, I chose xinghun (形婚, marriage of convenience or lavender marriage in English). We had a wedding ceremony in 2012, which was fairly smooth. My girlfriend was my bridesmaid and make-up artist at the wedding.”
In their first year of marriage, they needed to move to each other’s home. Later, they didn’t have to do that so frequently. “My husband is now a good friend of mine, and we go out together to eat and chat. When things come up, we help each other,” Xiaobai said.
Thinking that she is not the only one struggling with this problem, Xiaobai and her girlfriend Yi Zhi launched an app called iHomo aiming to connect the gay community with the lesbian community to find beards.
Due to China’s traditional culture, rigid concepts of family, many other factors, China’s LGBT community will take a long time to achieve the status quo seen in the U.S.
Along the way, Xiaobai believes xinghun is a necessary process, and more suitable for the majority of homosexual groups in China. According to her, the gay community’s demand for xinghun is increasingly growing.
“Coming out is very hard and we shouldn’t expect too many people to do this is in a short period of time. In fact, it could bring more harm to the LGBT community,” she added. “We believe that any form of choice must be related to the social status quo, and xinghun is a relatively moderate approach.”
The iHomo app can be downloaded on both iOS and Android. A new user can only access the app through an invitation code, which the company claims is to protect user privacy. The app works like a social network, with a focus on the xinghun connection.
In the early stages of development within two years, iHomo will first focus on accumulating users, then invite users to sign up for paid membership service on the app. Finally, the company aims to provide a paid on-line platform for xinghun, and receive a service charge for business partners and take commissions when connecting the two groups for xinghun.
“In the future, we will enhance the business value through a combination of online and offline services, including activities, matchmaking, wedding services, pregnancy, and legal advice,” Xiaobao remarked. “After the platform has reached a certain level, and the development of Chinese homosexual groups to a certain stage, we will provide more practical services; not just marriage services around homosexual groups, but also employment, rent, pension and other homosexual group’s needs.”
The company has not yet raised any funding and has bootstrapped since 2014.
Other similar companies include Chinagayles, which has over 400,000 users and claims to have matched almost 50,000 couples, and Queers, which is operated by the same company as LGBT social networks GayPark and LesPark.