Gays are humans too!
HH Manvendra Singh Gohil is an Indian prince who is the son and probable heir of the Maharaja of Rajpipla, Gujarat. He is the first openly gay prince in the world. He runs a charity, the Lakshya Trust, which works with the LGBT community.
He was disowned by his family in 2006 after coming out openly as a gay. He was later invited by Oprah Winfrey to appear on her talk show. He sat across Oprah, talking about his life story and discussing issues regarding gay rights, role of his NGO, Lakshya Trust and the plight of HIV positive people in India.
“I have been interviewed five times in America, including in ‘The New York Times’, ‘The Washington Post’ and ‘Los Angeles Times’ because I am formerly from a royal family, and Westerners have respect for people like us,” Manvendra says. He further adds that ABC made a film on him and his trust, Lakshya, which works for HIV/AIDS awareness among the gays of Gujarat.
Homosexuality is pretty prevalent in royal families. How come you were the first prince who came out with it, while giving an interview to the media?
Yes, its very interesting that during my growing up years, I used to hear about various royalties being gays or lesbians. At that time, I used to wonder about these terms as they were new to me. There was also a prevalent confusion about the terms, ‘gay’ and ‘hijra’. I often used to wonder how a maharaja could be a hijra, because I had always thought that a hijra is one who cross dresses or wears female clothes. I grew up with this confusion then came to terms with my own sexuality much later, after going through the whole journey of my marriage and then breaking up through a divorce, by the age of 30 I realized that I was a gay.
This shows the hypocrisy prevalent in the royal families where nobody dares to come out and speak about his/her own sexuality or private life in open. I was the first member of a royal family to have come out with it. It is difficult to admit because you not only sacrifice your own reputation but your self-respect too in the society.
Why did you feel lack of love in your upbringing as a young prince?
Grass is always green on the other side. Any commoner would have an urge to be born in a royal family. But, it comes with a prize and lots of sacrifices. In most royal families, parents and children share a very formal relationship; when we want to meet we have to take appointments. We can’t talk much with our parents nor can we look into their eyes. We cann’t address them as mom and dad nor can they address us by our names. I grew up thinking that my nanny was my mother for she was the one who took care of me. She would wake me, bath me, feed me and take me to school. I used to fight with her when she told me that she was not my mother; that my mother was the Maharani. I wondered how that lady could be my mother when she hardly spoke with me.
Since my own mother was also raised by a nanny, she never enjoyed healthy relationship with my grandmother either. However, now, things are changing in royal families too.
Not only the society but your own mother had disowned you when she came to know about your gay status…..
It’s very interesting that after being disowned by my mother when I was being interviewed by a very well-known television channel, I told the media that since my mother never cared for me, she never owned me, then how could she disown me in the first place. Just by giving birth to a child, you don’t own him/her; for that you have to take care of the child. I have no relations with my biological mother; I have never missed her; my real mother was my nanny whom I have all the good memories of.
Why has LGBTQ not yet accepted in India? In spite of having such hijra community since long, why has the rights of marriage and family not been given to them?.
We got the legal rights from the Supreme Court of India in 2018. Those were constitutional rights that were given to every Indian citizen but LGBTQ. These were Right to Equality, Privacy, Non-Discrimination and to live with Dignity & Respect. We had to fight for these rights and finally we got them now. But the rights to marriage and adoption were not discussed in this law. Even the four rights given are still not digested well by people in India. But they need to understand that these rights are not merely LGBTQ rights but human rights. You cannot discriminate someone for being a gay or a lesbian, we all are human beings, after all.
Are LGBTQ safer in western countries?
As far as safety is concerned, India is the safest place. I have seen a lot of homophobic behavior in western countries. I was invited in Sweden in 2008 to open the Euro Pride where I saw homophobic behaviors in the eve of gay pride. Recent Orlando attack happened in Florida. Transgender have not got rights even in America, they are still struggling. Such incidents don’t happen in India.
Are you gay and happy?
Work while you work, play while you play. Gay word was even taught in school. Basically gay means happy. We are colorful, creative, artistic people. We know makeup, fashion, art and everything. World without LGBTQ will be totally dull and boring.
My passion is to change the mindset of people by educating and creating awareness.