LGBT+ History Month: Meet the First Openly Gay Indian Royal

LGBT+ Indians experience a variation of homophobia that has been repeatedly described as being somewhat different to the forms that we stand against in the UK. While people in the western world would cite violence or verbal abuse as the most obvious forms of discrimination, in India homosexuality is “simply not acknowledged”

India’s particular brand of homophobia, combined with the West’s traditional lack of interest in social issues elsewhere in the world, stifles the international conversation when it comes to India’s LGBT+ politics. Even within India, beyond the community, any activist intent is drowned by the social tension which continues to surround LGBT+ Indians.

This is potentially why I hadn’t heard of Yuvraj Shri Manvendra Singhji Raghubir Singhji Sahib (Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil – for short) until the other day. I watched a video, released by Come Out Loud, entitled ‘I seek love, not privilege: India’s first Gay Prince’ where he shares his experiences.

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, a member of one of India’s oldest royal families, came out as gay in 2006 and has continued to passionately fights for the rights and positive experience of LGBT+ people in India. In his interview, Manavendra candidly recounts what it was like to grow up as gay in India, in a position of economic privilege and under an intensely heterosexual spotlight.

“When I was 12 or 13, I realised I wasn’t attracted toward the opposite sex but to the same sex. There was no internet… there was no one to tell me what it was.”

His comments resonate with poignancy as he continues, speaking of several relatives and friends of his, from royal families, who are gay, but are not in positions to be able to ‘come out’. The Prince’s parents refused to accept his sexuality, and sought medical and religious cures. His mother, having failed to reverse her son’s “condition”, resorted to taking out an advert in a national newspaper to publicly disown him; his effigies were burned and requests were made for the removal of his royal status.

But our Prince’s voice shouted louder in response. His community-based organisation, The Lakshya Trust, works to advocate LGBT+ rights and HIV/AIDS education across India. Set up in 2000, the Prince said that “It’s doing well, a lot more people are educated now”.

His message and work have transcended borders in parallel with the nature of the issues on which he speaks. An interview with Oprah cast him under the Western spotlight, his continuous interactions with global press champion a positive message and voice, and most recently, Manvendra attended his first Pride event in the America. He marched alongside the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Los Angeles’ LGBT+ community.

“We are all human beings. We are all equal… All we want is love. Gay rights cannot just be won in the courtroom but in the hearts and minds of the people we live with.”

– Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil

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