ABOUT Manvendra Singh Gohil

Manvendra was born at Ajmer, 23 September 1965, as the son of Maharana Shri Raghubir Singhji Rajendrasinghji Sahib, who inherited the title of Maharana of Rajpipla in 1963. The princes were derecognized by the Republic of India in 1971. Therefore their residence Rajvant Palace has been converted into a resort (Several Royal Palaces have been converted into Resorts, Universities and Government buildings after the derecognition by the Republic of India). Manvendra had a traditional and conservative upbringing. He was educated at Bombay Scottish School and at Amrutben Jivanlal College of Commerce and Economics, Vile Parle, Bombay.

In January 1991, he married Chandrika Kumari from Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, because, he claims, "I thought after marriage I would be alright because I never knew and nobody told me that I was gay and this is normal. Homosexuality is not a disease. I tremendously regret for ruining her life. I feel guilty". The marriage ended in divorce when Manvendra revealed his homosexuality to his wife."It was a total disaster. A total failure. The marriage never got consummated. I realized I had done something very wrong".

Several years after his divorce in 1992, he became involved in a social network to help gays in Gujarat. "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, my doctor informed my parents about my sexuality. All these years I was hiding my sexuality from my parents, family and people. I never liked it, neither 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."

Coming out

Manvendra's homosexuality was revealed to his family by doctors in 2002 following his hospitalisation for a nervous breakdown. However, it was when he talked publicly about is sexual orientation in 2006 that his family took action and accused him of bringing dishonour to the clan. The disowning, however, is likely to remain a symbolic act rather than legally enforceable disinheritance, given India's modern inheritance laws. He has been reunited with his father.

On 14 March 2006, the story of Manvendra's coming out made headlines in India and around the world. His effigies were burnt in Rajpipla, where the traditional society was shocked.

Manavendra appeared as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show on October 24, 2007. He was one of three persons featured in the show entitled 'Gay Around the World'. He expressed that he has no regrets about coming out, and that he believes the people of his state respect him for his leadership in preventing and educating on HIV/AIDS.

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. – Manvendra
He inaugurated the Euro Pride gay festival in Stockholm, Sweden, on 25 July 2008 and featured in a BBC Television series, Undercover Princes, screened on BBC Three in the UK in January 2009 which documented his search for a British boyfriend in Brighton.

In June of 2009, invited by Douglas Drumond, President of Casarão Brasil, a GLS Association, Manvendra went to one of the world’s biggest parties: São Paulo gay pride parade. He was one of the main speakers along with ministers and other officials of various governments around the world. He used his presence at the largest gay pride parade to advocate safe sex and create awareness about HIV and AIDS. He was also interested in the programmes being implemented in Brazil to fight diseases like AIDS. He also participated in a group discussion on making homosexuality legal in India by studying the norms that helped in making homosexuality legal in Brazil.

Charitable activities

In 2000, Manvendra started the Lakshya Trust, which he is the chairman, a group dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention. A registered public charitable trust, Lakshya is a community-based organization working for HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men (MSMs). It provides counseling services, clinics for treatment of sexually transmitted infections, libraries, and condom-use promotion. 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 organizations for MSMs, and plans to open a hospice/old age home for gay men.

Lakshya is a member of the India Network For Sexual Minorities (INFOSEM) and a founding member of the Sexual Health Action Network (SHAN). He serves as India Community Representative on behalf of INFOSEM, the India MSM and HIV network.
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. – Manvendra

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 organizations, the government sector, donors, technical experts and the UN system.