Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of India made history when he came out as gay in 2006, the first openly homosexual prince in the world.
In an interview with the BBC, the prince recalls:”It was a royal secret that I’m gay. So the first reaction when I came out to the media and to the world was that effigies were burnt by the people of Rajpipla who respected me as a royal, and who looked upon me or kind of treated me as their icon.”
Despite facing backlash and discrimination for the past decade, Prince Mavendra has dedicated his life to activism, championing LBGTQA rights and hoping to end discrimination and persecution in India. He also started the Lakshya Trust, a group dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention, and is a member of India Network For Sexual Minorities (INFOSEM), the Interim Governing Board of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health, known as APCOM,and helped found the Sexual Health Action Network (SHAN).
His activism even received acclaim and an invitation to the Oprah Winfrey Show.
In India, homosexuality is still a crime, punishable up to a 10-year prison sentence. Earlier this year, the nation’s highest court said it would reconsider its stance on homosexuality, and activists remain hopeful it will be decriminalized.
Socially, most Indian teens and young adults who come out to their families can be expected to be kicked out by their parents and disinherited. Despite his royal lineage, Prince Manvendra was disowned by his family too. His mother actually took out an ad in a local paper to do so.
Luckily, Prince Manvendra did get to keep the home he grew up in.
One of the grander steps Manvendra is taking is opening up his family’s ancestral home and palace as an LBGTQA community center, where he promises to take in abandoned and at risk, gay youth.
Of his mission, he said “I am not going to have children, so I thought, why not use this space for a good purpose?”
He plans to offer rooms for guests to stay in and a medical facility for them to receive care. He also hopes to empower visitors through training in English and vocational skills, helping them to find jobs.
In closing, Manvendra asked the public to”accept us the way we are. We are also human beings like any one of you are. If you give us a little bit of love, we will give you a lot of love.”