Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, or rather Yuvraj Shri Manvendra Singhji Raghubir Singhji Sahib, the crown prince of one of India's oldest royal families made a public announcement in 2006 that made headlines around the world: the 40-year-old formerly married prince announced he is gay.
The prince recently collaborated with Come Out Loud, and in a video shared his experiences.
"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," he said.
This is a country where gay sex is still criminalised, the pressure to marry and have children in order to continue the family line is massive and there's a huge stigma attached to homosexuality. However, there was no pressure on the Prince to marry at first. In the video, he says he did it 'voluntarily' because he thought that will make him 'normal.'
Manavendra says that he is not the only homosexual man in the Indian royalty. In the video he claims that he knew several relatives and friends from royal families who were gay, but could never 'come out'.
When he came out to his parents, they refused to accept it. So, they took him to several doctors to 'make him straight'. They offered to pay money for any form of surgery. They also took him to religious leaders.
After they failed to 'convert him back to normal', the Queen, took out an ad in the newspaper to publicly disown her only son. In his home state, effigies of the prince were burned and demands were made that he be stripped of his title for bringing shame to his family line.
"I'm not attached to my biological family and that is something that happens in most royal families. Because you're not brought up by them – they're there to give birth to you and then you're in the care of servants... I have never experienced love and affection from my own biological mother so when my parents disapproved or disowned me, it didn't hurt me at all," he once told Guardian in an interview.
In 2000, a sense of injustice compelled Prince Manvendra to start The Lakshya Trust, a community-based organisation dedicated to supporting gay men and to education about and prevention of HIV/Aids. "It's doing well, a lot more people are educated now," he says in the video.
When Oprah Winfrey called the Prince to her show, he had said, "When I say that the homosexuals are not free in India, we don't have the freedom to love. All of us are scared. Imagine those who have fallen in love, they've had partners in their lives, they've had boyfriends, they want to go for long-term relationships -- are now all scared. That's where we are losing our freedom."
At the end of the video, the Prince signs off with a lovely message: "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 the minds of the people we live with."
We hope the world listens to this one.
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