We were incredibly honored to host the first openly gay royal in the world, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of India. As an activist, organic farmer, public health educator and humanitarian, Prince Manvendra has gained legalization for homosexuality in India, founded multiple organizations to support the gay and lesbian community of India and educate about HIV prevention, and travelled far and wide with a message of self-empowerment, mutual aid, and political and social enlightenment.
During his stay at Ace Hotel New York, he found a moment to tell us more about his experiences, his activism and his take on the gay and lesbian culture in the US.
How are you finding your stay in New York?
Oh, wonderful. The Ace Hotel is really looking after me very well, it’s rather pampering me, I would say. And my stay has been really wonderful until now, very enjoyable and meeting up with a lot of people. And I must say, New York is very warm and friendly.
Oh, good, I’m so glad to hear it.
Even though the weather is not warm, the people are warm. So I’m having a very comfortable time here.
I’m curious if you feel that being part of the royal family has made it easier or more difficult for you to come out as gay and do the work that you do?
Initially it was very difficult because I happened to be the only openly gay royal in the whole world and the first person to come out and talk. And I think I still enjoy the monopoly, nobody has yet come out and talked that openly. And it was very challenging for me because I was disowned by my family, publicly disowned and publicly disinherited, my effigies were burned in the fire and people kind of protested against my coming out and there was a lot of outcry. And then gradually it faded down because I told the media that I don’t blame the society, I blame their ignorance.
And it is bound to happen that whenever something new happens, or this kind of thing happens, in society people are bound to react. And it is my duty to make them aware of what is the facts of life and I always say if one has to solve a problem, one has to go to the root of that problem. And in order to do that, one has to realize or one has to accept the facts of life or one has to accept the reality, come to terms to the reality. Then you can solve that problem. So now I started doing that, media has helped me a lot. Indian media really has brought out very positive stories on homosexuality, which they were not doing in the past. And I’ve managed to sensitize the media, the print media as well as the television media and especially the vernacular media and through their help I managed to sensitize a lot of people, made them aware of what is the truth. A lot of misconceptions about homosexuality we managed to kind of remove from their minds and that’s how the process began. And now it’s fine, people have started accepting gradually. And more than that, I think my attachment to a call or a larger call helped me a lot for the people to accept me. And the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of social work, not just for the gay community but for others as well in the fields of employment, education, agriculture, health.
So that branding of mine, I would call it, helped me to gain… regain the respect from the people, from my town, from my family. And again, Oprah’s interview made a difference because when people realized that I was the third Indian to be invited by her and the only one to be invited twice, they realized that if Oprah is calling me all the way to Chicago and I mean there are a lot of Oprah fans in India and all of them know that Oprah is not gay. So if there’s a person who’s not in the community and yet she is so openly supporting this whole entire call, I mean there is something, there’s some substance to my fight. So that’s how people… I could change people’s attitudes and mindsets and it’s gradually happening. I mean I am kind of realizing that very soon we will be kind of, you know, achieving our freedom very soon.