Openly gay Indian Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil is opening his home to LGBTQ people, and is adding to his 15-acre property to accommodate more in need.
The Prince is the only member of the Indian royal family to come out as gay. He came out in 2006 and was disowned by his parents because of that. The Prince, who was married at the time to a Princess, divorced his wife and launched a charity to help LGBT people.
Defying his parents, who disowned him over a decade ago, Singh has now opened his 15-acre palace grounds to LGBT people and their allies in a country where sexual activity between people of the same gender is illegal. His action has earned him praise from social media users with many thanking him for being so amazing.
The centre will be run in conjunction with the Lakshya Trust, the charity for LGBT people Prince Manvendra founded shortly after he came out in 2006.
Asides opening the palace to LGBTQ people, Prince Manvendra, 52, is also building more structures on the palace grounds to accommodate more potential guests. For a decade after he came out, he has devoted his life to helping LGBT people who are less privileged than he is.
“If I could undergo these problems then any other gay person could face a similar situation,” he told IBTimes.
“In India we have a family system and we are mentally conditioned to be with our parents. The moment you try to come out you are told you’ll be thrown out and society will boycott you. You become a social outcast. A lot of people are financially dependent on their parents.
“I want to give people social and financial empowerment, so eventually people who want to come out won’t be affected. They will have their own social security system. It won’t make a difference if they are disinherited.
The Prince spoke of what it was like growing up in a conservative royal household as the heir apparent to the throne of Rajpipla in Gujarat state and confused about his sexuality.
“Around the age of 12 or 13, when I was undergoing sexual maturity, I thought I’m attracted to the same sex and not opposite,” he recalled.
“I knew there was something different about me, but I didn’t know why I was feeling different to others. There was a conflict in myself that was different but at the time I didn’t realise I was gay.”
He resolved to squash down his feelings about his sexuality and he chose to marry Chandrika Kumari, princess of Jhabua state in Madhya Pradesh. They divorced after a year in 1992. Hoping to find a “cure” for his sexuality, Prince Manvendra claimed his parents approached medical practitioners to find a “fix”.
The Prince laments the lack of understanding about India’s history of homosexual and gender non-binary people. He pointed out that in Indian scripture, hijra, kinner, or third gender people, were regarded as demi-gods and played an important advisory role in royal palaces in centuries past, while the Quran also acknowledges that God created ambiguities in gender. Current attitudes towards homosexuality and gender non-conforming and non-binary people are a hangover from British Imperial rule.
“If you read our history and culture homosexuality has been in the Kama Sutra, and we have temples which have openly depict homoerotic statues and sculptures,” he added.