Meet the world's first openly gay prince Manvendra Singh Gohil

The prince's experience of coming out has led him to do wondrous work for the Indian LGBTQ+ community.

Manvendra Singh Gohil, the world's first openly gay prince.
Image: wiki commons

Proudly holding the title of first openly gay prince in the world, India’s Prince of Rajpipla, Manvendra Singh Gohil, had a long journey to being accepted for his sexuality. Despite facing many personal hardships when coming out during a time when homosexuality was illegal in the nation, he still bravely campaigned for LGBTQ+ equality in India, helping countless people through his activism. This is his story.

Manvendra was born in 1965 into a traditional and conservative royal family. Princes were derecognised in India in 1971, but still keep their titles as an honorary status. His royal lineage goes all the way back to the sixth century and many of his ancestors have been immortalised in paintings seen throughout his family’s palace.

Growing up, Manvendra confessed that he always had homosexual feelings, yet didn’t understand what they could mean because of his upbringing. It was only when he endured an arranged marriage in 1991 that he began to understand and learn to accept his sexual preferences.

He recalls, “I thought after marriage I would be alright because I never knew and nobody told me that I was gay and this is normal. Homosexuality is not a disease. I tremendously regret for ruining her life.” His wife filed for a divorce less than a year after they married and he painfully remembers “It was a total disaster. A total failure. The marriage never got consummated. I realized I had done something very wrong. Now two people were suffering instead of one. Far from becoming normal, my life was more miserable.”

Following his unsuccessful marriage, the gay prince continued to struggle with accepting his sexuality while living in a conservative family and suffered a mental breakdown in 2002. This is when a medical official explained his sexual orientation to his family. His parents pushed the doctors to “fix” their child yet even when the trained professionals explained to them that homosexuality is not a disease, Manvendra’s parents pushed to send him to spiritual guides and electric shock therapy sessions. “You can spend all the money you want on this,” one doctor warned them, “but nothing will change.”

Later in 2005, the Indian royal was approached by a young journalist, Chirantana Bhatt, where he expressed all his mental anguish about being a closeted homosexual man. The story aired in mid-2006 and it was talked about nationally and quickly became a global news story. Although Manvendra felt emotional relief to finally have the platform to publicly come out, he sadly faced a lot of criticism from his family and the people who looked up to his clan.

His mother took to newspapers to announce that he was a disgrace to the family name and she disowned him. Furthermore, people in his town began to burn effigies of Manvendra, jeering and heckling his name.

Although the gay prince had his life turned upside down, publicly coming out led him to achieve greater heights in the long run. He was invited on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007 to feature in an episode called ‘Gay Around the World’. There, he spoke about his experience to a global audience: “I knew that they would never accept me for who I truly am, but I also knew that I could no longer live a lie. I wanted to come out because I had gotten involved with activism and I felt it was no longer right to live in the closet.

“I came out as gay to a Gujarati daily because I wanted people to openly discuss homosexuality since it’s a hidden affair with a lot of stigma attached.” After this appearance, the global LGBTQ+ community openly supported his decisions and actions and he began to get more involved in the community.

Before he publicly disclosed his sexuality, the Indian prince had already begun getting involved in LGBTQ+ charity work. In 2000, he started the Lashkya Trust, a community organisation dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM). It provides counselling services, clinics for the treatment of sexually transmitted infections, libraries, and condom-use promotion. The Lakshya Trust won the Civil Society Award in 2006 for its contribution towards preventing HIV/AIDS among queer men.

He continues to promote the work that his community organisation does for India’s LGBTQ+ people, and has taken a step further into ensuring the queer youth of India are safe. In 2018, Manvendra opened up his 15-acre palace grounds to help house vulnerable LGBTQ+ people who might otherwise be “left with nothing” when “their families disown them after coming out”.

After the prince’s long struggle of coming to terms with his sexuality, he got the happy ending he deserved. In 2013, he happily married his now husband, an American man named Cecil ‘DeAndre’ Richardson from Albany, Oregon. They live safely in India and continue to be activists for LGBTQ+ equality.

When the two men got married, same-sex marriage was a criminal offence, but in 2018, the country’s Supreme Court ruled it to be legal. “There is still a lot of work to be done. Many don’t agree with the Supreme Court’s decision,” explains the Prince. “It is now our duty to explain why it was important to change this law. Homophobia and hypocrisy must be decimated.”

To stay up to date with the world’s first openly gay prince, follow Manvendra Singh Gohil on Instagram. To find out more about his community-led organisation, Lakshya Trust, visit the website here.

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

Support GCN

GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.

During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.

GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.

0 comments. Please sign in to comment.