India's Openly Gay Prince Speaks Out on LGTBQ Rights in the Age of COVID

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 8, 2020

When the Royal Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil came out in 2007, people in his home country of India expressed their unhappiness by burning him in effigy, and his parents disowned him. None of that deterred Gohil, who is said to be the first openly gay prince in the world: He has continued to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ Indians.

In the face of COVID-19, the prince has stepped up his advocacy, Forbes reports.

"Under COVID, many are being forced to be at home with parents, with little or no privacy, forced to be in the closet," Gohil told Forbes. "They will be struggling now at home."

The prince recalled his own turbulent relationship with his parents, who, he said, subjected him to the quack practice of so-called "conversion therapy."

"They tried to ask the doctors to operate on me," Gohil said. "They took me to religious leaders to ask them to cure me."

The prince is working to inform his LGBTQ countrymen about their legal rights in a nation where, two years ago, homosexuality was decriminalized after the British colonial law outlawed it.

It's only the latest in Gohil's unstinting efforts on behalf of the huge nation's non-heterosexual and non-cisgender population. In 2018, before India's colonial-era anti-gay law was struck down, Gohil famously opened his palace for use as an LGBTQ community center.

The prince has also spoken of India's heritage as a land where the sexuality of all sorts was traditionally celebrated. "We have the famous Kama Sutra — the sex encyclopedia — which was written 500 years before Jesus Christ was born," Gohil told Australian news outlet ABC in 2018. "And it has a full chapter dedicated to homosexuality and transgenderism."

The prince went on to add: "We have temples in India which are centuries old where homoerotic statues have been openly depicted."

Now, with the anti-gay law gone but many people in India still uninformed about their legal rights or human sexuality in general, Gohil still has his work cut out for him. "India has the largest population in the world, they need to know that LGBT people have the right to equality, privacy and to live with dignity and respect," he told Forbes.

The message may be starting to take: The prince noted that "the students of India, the 14 and 15-year-olds" are now "reaching out to me to find out about the issues. They want to know," Gohil said, about LGBTQ people.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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