Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, India’s only openly gay prince is welcoming the LGBTQ community with open arms by declaring that his palace will be a safe haven for the LGBTQ community. The prince defied all odds by coming out in 2006. And turns out, royalty really doesn’t change much about mentalities.
Proof? Singh was disowned by his parents.
But unlike most, finances were not a problem for him. So Singh decided to generously open his 15-acre palace grounds to LGBTQ people and their allies in a country where same-sex relationships are deemed illegal and punishable by law because they apparently “go against the order of nature.”
The Prince also runs a charity called The Lakshya Trust which aims to provide counseling, clinical services, and support groups to gay and bisexual men across India.
It’s insanely refreshing to see such benevolence towards the underrepresented groups in our global desi community. In lieu of complaining about his own troubles, he is paving the way to make sure LGBTQ people without financial and emotional support don’t have to face the aftermath of societal scrutiny and getting disowned by loved ones. Such prodigality is seen very rarely in third world countries like India or even in places across the US, but I must say, seeing Singh being courageous enough to break the norm in a country where anyone with unorthodox opinions is severely punished, is beyond inspiring.
The Indo-Pak subcontinent desperately needs more people like him who use their power towards the betterment of those whose voices are suppressed.
But just like any person, who dares to break the norm, Singh faced many hardships.
The Prince was forced into marriage back in 1991, but has since stated the relationship was a “total disaster” and that was obvious as said relationship resulted in divorce a year later, in 1992. Unbeknownst to him, it would take another decade of living an oppressed life before he could acknowledge his sexuality. In 2002, he suffered a mental breakdown, after years of living in self-imposed isolation. Because of which, he finally confided in his doctor about his sexuality. Speaking of his experience, Singh said:
“I was struggling and striving to be ‘normal.’ I never knew and nobody told me that I was gay and that this itself is normal and will not change. That this is what is called homosexuality and it is not a disease.”
Sadly, Gohil is just one of the countless men who has been pressured into mixed-orientation marriages by societal and religious restrictions. These men have to live the majority of their lives in deafening amounts of silence because if and when they speak up for themselves, the so-called honor and repute of their loved ones will be at stake which will, in turn, force them to disown the gay man. So not only are they left feeling immensely helpless, but guilty, too.
So much that according to The Suicide Prevention Resource Centre, between 5%-10% of LGBTQ+ youth have attempted suicide. A rate, that is, 1.5-3 times higher than heterosexual youth. A research carried out by The Trevor Project shines a light on the fact that victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average, in LGBTQ+ individuals.
Another heartbreaking reason why countless LGBTQ+ people in South Asia put an end to their lives is that they know they’ll be killed, whipped, imprisoned, or all the three, mercilessly by the governments of their respective countries. Some of the stricter countries include Brunei, Singapore, Myanmar, and Malaysia.
But all these statistics are of no use unless we start taking them seriously. Parents, siblings, friends, and relatives of such individuals need to learn how to be kind towards them and come to terms with the fact that it is impossible for one’s sexuality to be “treated” or “cured”.
All people are born a certain way and it is incumbent upon us to make them feel like they belong, regardless of how they identify.
So let’s all try and work to build a more kind and loving future, because if Indian royalty can do it, why can’t you?