Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, India's only openly gay prince, has opened his palace doors to people belonging to the LGBTQ community. He has declared his 15-acre palace grounds open to people needing shelter, in a country where sexual relations between people of the same sex is illegal.
Fifty-two-year old Manvendra is the 39th direct descendant of the Gohil dynasty, and belongs to the royal family of Rajpipla, Gujarat. Though he realised in his teens that he was attracted to people from same gender, he had no one to confide in and openly talk about his sexuality.
As a result, he ended up marrying a princess, only to divorce her and come out as gay. This agitated his parents, who disowned him publicly. It is this series of events that made him realise how even people with privilege are also vulnerable in India. So, he decided to do something in his capacity to help people in need. In an interview with IBT, he said
If I could undergo these problems then any other gay person could face a similar situation. I want to give people social and financial empowerment, so eventually people who want to come out won't be affected. They will have their own social security system. It won't make a difference if they are disinherited.
Manvendra is building a centre to provide shelter to marginalised people from the community in his ancestral palace ground. Along with building it, he is also planning to start organic farming and install solar panels in the grounds.
The centre will work jointly with the trust - Lakshya Trust, that he set up more than a decade ago after coming out. The trust has played an important role in championing the rights of LGBTQ community in his State.
Currently, manager of the centre - a gay person and a transwoman from the US are residing in the centre. Appreciating the gay prince for his initiative in an interview with Reuters, Harish Iyer, a gay rights activist said,
“For him to be one of us, the stakes are even higher, so providing this space is a great gesture. We are lucky to have many LGBT-friendly spaces in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. But in smaller towns, there are not so many places, and that is where they are most needed.”
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