She says that she loves the way she flicks her hair and he says he loves the way he lifts his eyebrows. They are totally in love with their partners. But one of them insisted not to carry it forward, because he is afraid of what the world would think. Whom are we afraid of? Do you think that you can embrace and love yourself if you can't accept who you are? No, you can't. Society has always been judgemental and will remain to be. The only thing that matters is what you think and once you accept and love yourself, there is no going back.
Manvendra Singh Gohil, 55, a resident of Mumbai, was born in a royal family. It was not late for Manvendra, the royal prince to acknowledge his true self. He was 13 when he discovered that he is attracted to the same sex. He studied in a co-ed school, he never liked the way boys treated girls and ended up having more girl-friends than boy-friends. Being grown up in a royal family, it was difficult for the prince as he didn't understand what exactly he was in terms of his sexuality, with very little divulge communication because strict royal protocols made it more difficult and challenging for him to discover. What a person is without his identity, just a clueless human who doesn't know where to start and what to ask?
Manvendra said, “My family came to know much later about me because I didn't have courage to tell them, I got married and I was divorced. That was the start when I started exploring my sexuality. Later I met Ashok Row Kavi, an LGBTQ activist, he was the one who made me feel comfortable with my sexuality and helped me identity myself as a gay. He exposed me to a lot of people, told me all about it and made me proud of my sexuality.”
In 2002, the royal prince came out of the closet to his family when he was around 37 years old. Manvendra at the same time was suffering from a nervous breakdown and was admitted to the hospital. The physiatrist who was treating him happened to share his sexuality with family.
“The initial reaction was of course was the state of denial, they said they have given the best upbringing and also said that Ashok Row made me gay. My family tried to get me operated on, subject me to electroshock therapy and took me to religious leaders for conversion and nothing happened, then they started torturing me, blackmailing me and everything that affected my mental health,” said Manvendra.
Manvendra had no choice but to break the chain, come out and open up in front of society. A journalist came to the prince and asked for his interview, which he accepted. It was indeed a good start and reflected as a breaking headline in all the local and national media like Divya Bhaskar and many more. It was a beginning for him but he was thrown out of his home, disinherited from his ancestor's property, and protests happened in his town. He was even getting death threats. But the prince stands still and continued his journey as a gay prince.
He later started a campaign named ‘Free Gay Campaign’ in the year 2013, he was invited to Michigan to inaugurate a hotel which was started by his gay friend. “On August 15, I launched a free gay India campaign in the USA in the year 2013, with the idea to collect support from other people and to see how we can get freedom for the LGBTQ community in India,” said Manvendra.
Apart from this, the gay prince also started Lakshay Trust in the year 2000, which was before he shared his true identity. Lakshay Trust was the first community-based organisation to work for the LGBTQ community in the state of Gujarat. Indeed it was a good move and was supported by the Gujarat government, the government was funding them for HIV prevention, awareness among the homosexual transgender population.
“We have been working majorly in three cities and we have covered the population of more than 25,000 with committed staff of 300 people and we are also working on other issues like mental health issues, issues of ageing LGBTQ, wides of a gay man, especially for the transgender we are working for their rights, social entitlement and also we have a project for the care and support for HIV positive transgender population. I am also building the Ashram LGBTQ campus in my royal establishment for the social and financial empowerment of the community,” said Manvendra.
He also said that it will make a difference if the families start accepting their child with their true self instead of boycotting them. He also extended his views by giving a message for pride month. He said, “Please don't make judgements on what you are hearing and what you are seeing. Put yourself in the place of the other person who is from the LGBTQ community and try to experience their journey, their struggle, their challenges, and then you will be in a better position to judge us better. The things that we need is love, equality without being subject to stigma and discrimination. We do not want any special privileges, reservations, we just want to be treated equally without getting worried if our human rights are being violated or not.”
If we think we are modernising then we cannot modernise with our backward thinking. Let them feel free to accept themselves and let us make a free environment for all the communities so that they can live freely as everyone deserves to live.