ProudlyMe: Embracing self-love & unapologetic authenticity.

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil is a prince from the Indian state of Gujarat. He is known for being one of the first royals in India to come out as gay and advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights. He has been actively involved in promoting awareness, education, and support for the LGBTQIA+ community in India. He established the Lakshya Trust, an organisation that works towards HIV/AIDS prevention and support for LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly those from rural areas. His advocacy and bravery in discussing his sexuality have made him an important figure in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights in India. In an exclusive interview with the Prince, we had the honour to talk to him about life, activism and everything in between.

How has your experience as the first openly gay prince in India shaped your activism?

‘I have grown up in an era where there was no social media network and no internet. There was not much exposure to the outside world and being born in the royal family there are a lot of restrictions one has to follow. First of all, I came out to myself. It took me 30 years to get to accept my own identity.’

‘Then you see so much hypocrisy prevailing in a society and there is no acceptance. There is prevalent discrimination against people like us. This made me realise that somebody needs to shake up people and create controversy so that people start talking about the subject which is existing in our culture and yet they don’t want to talk about it. ‘

Interview With Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil

‘That made me take the decision of openly coming out and breaking the silence because I knew that my voice is going to create a lot of discussions and debates about the LGBTQIA+ community.’

‘I had to go through a lot of struggles, and challenges while coming out. I went forward, fought the battle against hypocrisy, and I even managed to overcome death threats. Homophobia is still there, which results in a lot of hatred against people like us but we continue to fight.’

Tell us a little about your relationship with your partner and how did you two meet?

‘I have always been a person who believes in a long-term relationship and having somebody that you can trust, share and care for. Somehow people have taken advantage of my situation and any relationship in the past did not work out well. Then I decided I will go with the flow otherwise I will manage to live on my own and then I met this person on social media and we were only friends back then.’

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‘He is an American man and I’m in India. So without giving it much thought we just remained friends for three years. In 2011 he came to India until when we were only friends and he was married to a man back in America. So there was no question of a relationship. In 2012, he again visited India and by then was divorced. I was also kind of single. Our friendship, I would say naturally and very organically developed into a relationship.’ 

Interview With Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil

We got married in the US in 2013 and are celebrating our 10th anniversary. We are coming out with a memoir of our lives, of being together, our experiences, and our challenges, as two people from different geographical backgrounds, and different cultures coming together and living together as spouse and spouse. This memoir will be a 10th-anniversary gift to both of us.’

Being on the receiving end, what do you think are the challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces in India?

The challenge starts the moment you open your mouth. Until you are quiet about it and you’re in the closet then nothing much happens to you. We live in a country where Homosocial behaviour is accepted. Though homosexuality may not be liked but homosocial behaviour is very much accepted in our country.’

‘What is Homosocial behaviour? You will mostly find same-sex people together in private or in public. Boys and boys or girls and girls will be together and not necessarily they are gay or lesbian. They might be straight buddies but they will be very intimate with each other. In fact, when some of my foreign friends visit India, they tell me that your Country has got so many gays and lesbians so why do they have a problem with you? I tell them, no, they’re not necessarily gays and lesbians. They are straight people. in India. Even if one has to rent a room in a hotel or an apartment you can easily get a room. On the other hand, if you are a male and female wanting to rent a room there will be 101 questions asked.’

‘So our homosocial behaviour cultured country allows us to be with same-sex without any problem. It is only when you open your mouth and you tell someone that you are gay that’s when the problem starts. It starts from home itself. Parents don’t accept and will behave with you very badly. In some cases they might throw you out of the home, take you to a doctor or a psychiatrist and try to get you treated, they may also take you to a religious leader and try to get you converted.’

Interview with Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil
The Independent

As a part of your organisation, tell us about a few cases of discrimination and violence that the people of the LGBTQIA+ community faces.

‘It starts from home and I know cases where parents of lesbians have had forced sex on their daughter with family members. Can you imagine how ruthless parents can be just to prove the world that their daughter is not a lesbian? I cannot understand when parents love their children and are attached to them, how can end up being so ruthless because of their gender or sexual preference. If one is not accepted at home itself, how can you expect acceptance from other people and society?’

‘At the workplace also there’s discrimination. The moment you open your mouth and tell your boss you are gay, you face discrimination and don’t get the promotion I was handling a case where a guy was refused Promotion saying you are gay. When the guy presented a logical explanation saying that I am working hard as the other people so why can’t I get a promotion? The boss replied, because you’re not married you don’t have a wife, you don’t have children so you don’t need a promotion.’

In the education system there is discrimination, in health access there is discrimination, and there is discrimination everywhere We Are facing discrimination and our basic human rights get violated at every point of our life, for no fault of ours.’

How do you envision the future of LGBTQ+ rights in India?

For our rights, the only way out is education, in creating awareness and sensitising people at all levels. Political, government, media, education, institutions and hospitals. All stakeholders need to be educated. The problem in India is not the people but the ignorance of the people.’

‘Anyone who has gone against me, I don’t blame the people but I blame their ignorance. It is our education system that is to be blamed. We need to change the education system. Justice Anand Venkatesh two years back during a judgement in the Madras High Court said that if you need to give justice to it to the LGBTQIA+ community, you need to include their issues in the textbooks. All schools and colleges should include these issues. If a justice of a High Court says such a thing, I don’t understand why the education system cannot be changed. If the textbooks are changed only then the then future generations will learn about us. Myths and misconceptions which they carry about us will gradually reduce and people will start accepting and understanding us.’

In an Interview with Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil

How do you think can allies effectively contribute to the LGBTQ+ rights movement?

‘I think Allies can do wonderful work. In fact, we love allies, we love everyone but we love our allies more than anyone else. Allies are the best way in which we can get mainstreaming done in society. We want to tell the people that we are not some exclusive creatures, we are a part of this society, of this culture, of this country.’

‘If you’re an ally, you’re a person not belonging to the community and if you were talking or supporting us in public or in private, then it definitely helps the other person to think and try to change their mindset about us. So I think allies play a very important role.’

‘However, for you to be an ally, you need to get educated about us. People might start making allegations that he or she is definitely from the community and that is why they are supporting the community. An Ally needs to be prepared for such allegations. They need to be educated about the community by meeting people like us who have undergone struggles. They can also go to organisations that are working for the LGBTQIA+ community and can intern with them as well. Education will help to prepare the Ally to face questions from any homophobic or any remarks that are aimed at the community, the ally will be able to handle better.’

Tell us about the funniest moment you’ve experienced during your activism journey.

‘In  2009 when Delhi High Court Judgement came in our favour and when Homosexuality was first time decriminalised, a lot of religious leaders went against us and they filed a case in the Supreme Court, challenging the Delhi High Court Judgement. On of them was Baba Ramdev. He challenged me and many others that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be cured through yoga and meditation.’

‘The Baba said it would take 3 months to cure the person of homosexuality to which I replied, I am willing to come for 5 months but in these 5 months if you’re not able to cure me, you just come to my palace in Rajpipla and in 3 hours I’ll make you gay.’

‘He has not yet accepted my challenge and is very scared of me so much so that he cancelled his plan of visiting Rajpipla. He was visiting Rajpipla to conduct a course and when he knew that I am in town, he cancelled his plan. I’m still waiting to get the 3 hours of him but he’s a hypocrite. He went against the Supreme Court and lost. Supreme Court needs evidence to prove that we are mentally retarded or mentally deranged. That’s how we have to deal with hypocrisy otherwise people will take advantage of us.

In an Interview with Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil

If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what advice would you give them?

The advice I would give myself is I should have come out much earlier, to myself and to the world, than now but I think there’s time for everything so better late than never.

What are your views on Same-sex marriage?

Same-sex marriage or everything that we are fighting for today, has to do with human rights. As citizens of this country, we have been guaranteed certain rights by the Indian Constitution. Indian Constitution is the best-written constitution in the world. Even Hillary Clinton in a speech said that Indian Constitution is the best-written Constitution in the world. If one does a survey in India to find out how many Indians have read the Constitution? I think not more than 5% of the population has read the Indian Constitution.’

‘We do not know about our rights so how will we fight for it? Same-sex marriage is also a right. There is no law in India which says Same-sex marriage is illegal. On the contrary, we have the right to equality and the right against discrimination guaranteed to us by the Constitution of India.’

‘When heterosexual couples can get married then why can’t we get married? I am very glad The Supreme Court of India is taking up this matter. They have allowed live streaming of this case where the whole world can see it.’

The whole same-sex marriage is nothing but education. I compare the Supreme Court with a University, where the Chief Justice is the Chancellor and the other judges of the bench are the Vice-Chancellors and the senior lawyers who are fighting the case are the Deans of the University and the students are the Government of India. The judgement will be the degree that the university will grant to the students of the University.’

We are doing this ProudlyMe Series. What gives you the confidence to be unapologetically authentic?

‘My authenticity lies in my honesty and my fight against hypocrisy. I think that this is the greatest tool I have which helps me to stay motivated and helps to fight against hypocrisy, bigotry, transphobia and any other kind of phobia. That’s the thing which I love about myself. Even Opera Winfrey gave me a very big compliment. She said you are the most honest person I’ve ever met. Honesty always wins. Honesty is bitter and not liked by people but we also have to remember Satyameva Jayate- Truth and Honesty will always win.’

How do you think you can bring a change in the community?

I’m already fighting for my rights. In fact, I would say that we should not just think about ourselves, but we should think about others too. When I fight for rights, I do not fight only for LGBTQIA+ rights.  I call myself a human rights activist. I fight for women’s rights, tribal rights, animal rights, environmental rights, and farmer’s rights. You should try to make yourself more and more inclusive. Where ever and whose ever basic rights have been denied, I fight for them. These people then join us in our fights as well.  In fact, I get very upset when I see people misuse their power and therefore think it is important to fight for all those who are marginalised.’

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil spoke about his partner in the interview

The interview with Manvendra Singh Gohil ji shed light on his remarkable journey as an advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights in India. As an openly gay prince, he has broken barriers and challenged traditional norms. His story serves as an inspiration to others, showing that authenticity and embracing one’s true self can lead to personal fulfilment and contribute to a more inclusive society.