"The day I came out, my effigies were burnt."
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil was India’s first openly gay prince and is now fighting to make conversion therapy illegal.
Prince Gohil, who is the 39th direct descendant of the Gohil Rajput dynasty, publicly came out in a newspaper interview in 2006 at the age of 41.
This triggered a nationwide backlash.
The entire town of Rajpipla turned on him. His parents even publicly disowned him, taking out advertisements in newspapers announcing that he was cut off as heir due to his involvement in activities “unsuitable to society”.
Prince Gohil recalled: “The day I came out, my effigies were burnt.
“There were a lot of protests, people took to the streets and shouted slogans saying that I brought shame and humiliation to the royal family and to the culture of India.
“There were death threats and demands that I be stripped off of my title.”
He remembered reporters clamouring for him to comment on the public rejection.
He said: “I don’t blame the people who are against me. I blame their ignorance on the subject.”
At 56, Prince Gohil’s stance remains the same.
A lot of his advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights continues to primarily revolve around decimating the stigma around homosexuality.
In 2018, Prince Gohil transformed the palace he was once thrown out into a shelter for vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community.
A large part of Prince Gohil’s fight for equal rights is rooted in his own past, which included being forced into an arranged marriage with a woman, years of conversion therapy and suffering in silence.
Prince Gohil eventually married his husband in 2013.
Although he publicly came out in 2006, he came out to his parents in 2002.
He told Insider: “They thought it was impossible that I could be gay because my cultural upbringing had been so rich.
“They had no idea that there’s no connection between someone’s sexuality and their upbringing.”
His parents were initially in denial before insisting on finding a “cure” for his sexuality.
Over a four-year period, Prince Gohil said his parents took him to several medical practitioners and spiritual guides.
“They approached doctors to operate on my brain to make me straight and subjected me to electroshock treatments.”
When it did not work, Prince Gohil was taken to religious leaders who ordered to make him “behave normally”.
By the time his parents stopped their efforts, Prince Gohil was left traumatised and depressed, often contemplating suicide.
He said that in many ways, the newspaper interview freed him.
In India, conversion therapy is not outlawed.
Even though there is no proven success rate, it continues to be widely employed to physically and mentally assault the country’s queer population, leading to increased depression and death by suicide among LGBTQ+ youth in India.
Today, Prince Gohil is leading the demand for a ban on the practice.
“It’s important for people like me who have a certain reputation in society to continue the advocacy.
“We can’t just stop because the country repealed Section 377.”
But Prince Gohil admitted that a law being passed does not always mean that people will immediately start accepting or following it.
“Now we have to fight for issues like same-sex marriage, right to inheritance, right to adoption.
“It’s a never-ending cycle. I have to keep fighting.”