Manvendra Singh Gohil
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Manvendra Singh Gohil
|Hereditary Prince of Rajpipla|
|Born||23 September 1965|
Ajmer, Ajmer district, Rajasthan, India
Princess Chandrika Kumari of Jhabua
(m. 1991; div. 1992)
DeAndre Richardson (m. 2013)
|Father||Maharana Shri Raghubir Singhji Rajendrasinghji of Rajpipla|
|Mother||Princess Rukmini Devi, Rajasthan|
Manvendra Singh Gohil (born 23 September 1965) is an Indian prince who is the son and probable heir of the Maharaja of Rajpipla in Gujarat. He is the first openly gay prince in the world. He runs a charity, the Lakshya Trust, which works with the LGBT community.
He was born in Ajmer, the only son of Maharana Shri Raghubir Singhji Rajendrasinghji Sahib, Maharana of Rajpipla, and his wife Maharani Rukmini Devi. He has one sister, Minaxi Kumari, who is married into the princely family of Chenani in Jammu and Kashmir.
In 1971, the government of India "de-recognized" the Indian princes, and Manvendra's father consequently lost the official title of Maharaja and the privy purse (an annual pension) that came with it. The princes adjusted to the new socialist regime; the Rajpipla royals converted their family seat, the Rajvant Palace in Rajpipla, into a tourist resort and location for film-shooting. They also set up a second residence in Mumbai. He was educated at Bombay Scottish School and at the Amrutben Jivanlal College of Commerce and Economics (one of the institutions in the Mithibai College campus in Vile Parle, Mumbai.
- "I thought that after marriage everything will be all right, that with a wife, I will have children and become "normal" and then I will be at peace. 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 it will not change. That this is what is called homosexuality and it is not a disease. I tremendously regret for ruining (Chandrika's) life. I feel guilty, but I simply did not know better."
The marriage remained unconsummated. He says, "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."
His wife filed for divorce after just over a year of marriage. Although further requests for marriage were received, he declined them. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 2002. He says:
It was difficult to be gay in my family. The villagers worship us and we are role models for them. My family didn't allow us to mix with ordinary or low-caste people. Our exposure to the liberal world was minimal. Only when I was hospitalized after my nervous breakdown in 2002 did my doctor inform my parents about my sexuality. All these years I was hiding my sexuality from my parents, family and people. I never liked it and I wanted to face the reality. When I came out in the open and gave an interview to a friendly journalist, my life was transformed. Now, people accept me.
Upon being informed by the psychiatrists that their son was gay, Manvendra's parents accepted the truth, but stipulated that this matter should not be revealed to anyone else. He left Mumbai and began living full-time with his parents in the small town of Rajpipla.
In 2005, Chirantana Bhatt, a young journalist from Vadodara Gujarat approached Manvendra. He confided his sexual orientation and the mental stress he was going through as a closeted gay man to the journalist. On 14 March 2006, the story of his coming out made headlines. The "coming out" story was first published in the Vadodara edition of Divya Bhaskar, a regional Gujarati language daily of the Bhaskar media group. It was covered the next day in all other editions of Bhaskar groups language newspapers like Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi language) and Daily News Analysis (DNA), an English newspaper. Soon the news appeared in other English and vernacular newspapers across the country, and became a story that they followed up in their gossip and society pages for several weeks afterward. Manvendra's effigies were burnt in Rajpipla, where people were shocked. Manavendra was jeered and heckled when he made a public appearance in the town. His family accused him of bringing dishonor and disowned him soon after.
He appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show on 24 October 2007. He was one of three persons featured in the show entitled 'Gay Around the World'.
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.
In July 2013, Manvendra married an American gay man named DeAndre (Cecil) Richardson (née Hilton), a Macy's cosmetics counter employee, hailing from Albany, Oregon in Seattle, Washington. After meeting Manvendra's parents, his new father in-law allegedly gave him the "title" of Duke of Hanumanteshwar.
In 2000, he started the Lakshya Trust, of which he is chairman, a group dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention. A registered public charitable trust, Lakshya is a community-based organisation working for HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men (MSMs). It provides counselling services, clinics for treatment of sexually transmitted infections, libraries, and condom-use promotion. The trust also trains female field workers who educate women married to MSM about safe sex practices. Lakshya won the Civil Society Award 2006 for its contribution in preventing HIV/AIDS among homosexual men.
The trust also creates employment opportunities for gay men and support for other organisations for MSMs, and plans to open a hospice/old age home for gay men.
In 2007, Manvendra joined the Interim Governing Board of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health, known as APCOM, a regional coalition of MSM and HIV community-based organisations, the government sector, donors, technical experts and the UN system. He serves as India Community Representative on behalf of INFOSEM, the India MSM and HIV network. Manvendra said of this work, "APCOM is one of the best mediums to bring together different nationalities and develop linkages with others working for HIV and MSM/TG. In India, it will be an important tool to influence authorities to change thinking and broaden outlooks for the betterment of society. APCOM demonstrates the essence of unity and solidarity within diversity."
In January 2008, while performing an annual ceremony in Rajpipla in honour of his great-grandfather Maharaja Vijaysinhji, Manvendra Gohil announced plans to adopt a child, saying: "I have carried out all my responsibilities as the prince so far and will continue as long as I can. I will also adopt a child soon so that all traditions continue". If the adoption proceeds, it will be the first known case of a single gay man adopting a child in India.
In 2018 Manvendra opened up his 15-acre palace grounds to help house vulnerable LGBT people who might otherwise be "left with nothing" when "their families disown them after coming out".
In popular culture
In 2017 Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Khloe Kardashian and Kourtney Kardashian had a special guest in an episode of their reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians: India’s first openly gay prince, Manvendra Singh Gohil.
- India's gay prince appears on Oprah show. Rediff.com (31 December 2004). Retrieved on 20 August 2012.
- Oprah Winfrey's Official Website – Live Your Best Life. Oprah.com (24 October 2007). Retrieved on 20 August 2012.
- "Hundreds Celebrate Gay Prince's Birthday". 365Gay.com. 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
- Chu, Henry. "Prince is out, but not down". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2007.
- "Manvendra Singh Gohil: The Gay Prince of Rajpipla". BBC Radio 4 - Crossing Continents. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
- Gay Prince Manvendra Gohil to Appear on Oprah Winfrey Show. Sheetudeep.com (14 October 2007). Retrieved on 20 August 2012.
- "Gujarat gay prince seeks love through BBC series". Times of India. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
- "Facebook page for Fun Magazine".
- Ammu Kannampilly (18 January 2011). "Gay magazines in India hint at quiet revolution". AFP, via Sify. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011.
- Yogesh Prateek (23 July 2010). "Latest from Manavendra: India's 1st gay mag". Times of India.
- "Le prince Manvendra et son époux DeAndre : l'histoire d'amour du premier prince ouvertement homosexuel". Histoires Royales (in French). 27 June 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
- "Prince of Rajapipla joins BJP with 50 transgenders". Ahmedabad Mirror.
- "Gay Prince says "I have not joined BJP, I never will."". etv bharat.
- "Gay prince to form sexual minorities forum". Rediff India Abroad. 7 December 2006. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
- APCOM – Home. Msmasia.org. Retrieved on 20 August 2012.
- Pareek, Yogesh (31 January 2008). "Gujarat's gay prince to adopt child soon". The Times of India.
- "India's gay prince opens palace to the LGBT community". The Independent. 7 January 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
- "The World's First Openly Gay Prince Fights for Equal Rights in India". OWN. 9 May 2021. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
- Dixit, Mini (14 March 2016). "How India's First Openly Gay Prince Came Out, met Oprah, and Now Fights for the LGBT Community". India Today. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
- "The Kardashian sisters invited India's first openly gay prince over, and here's what happened". Hindustan Times. 30 June 2017. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
- Website of the Lakshya Trust
- Website of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM)
- Gujarat's Gay Prince to Adopt a Child
- Gay Prince appears on Oprah Show
- Gay Prince to form Sexual Minorities Forum
- Gay Prince to Appear on Oprah Winfrey Show
- The coming out interview in Divya Bhaskar's English newspaper DNA by Chirantana Bhatt, 16 March 2006 (Gujarati was published prior to this)