LET’S WALK A MILE FOR EQUALITY ON THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

Posted: October 30, 2011 in Interview, The NamoLeague Times
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“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 did my doctor inform my parents about my sexuality. All these years I was hiding my sexuality from my parents, family and people. I never liked it and I 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”

• What are the main stereotypes and myths that prevail when it comes to homosexuality?

One of the main stereotypes is that most people confuse to be gay with being transgender (Hijda, as it is called in India).
Number two, people think we are pedophiles (Adult men who like to have sex with children).
Another myth is that most gay men are effeminate.
The fourth one is that we are impotent (Sexually inactive).
We found one interesting myth around ten years ago when we started working for the community and for HIV-AIDS. It was a survey done among the lower income group and the uneducated class. We found that most straight men think that by having sex with another man, will not get them infected with HIV.
Also, most people think that if you are a gay, you cannot be from the upper class. They think only the uneducated, poor, lower middle class men can be gay.
These are the general types of myths when it comes to homosexuality.

• People have lowered viewpoints about homosexuality. What are the main reasons behind this?

Unawareness and ignorance about the subject are the main reasons. If any subject has been considered a taboo, kept hidden, not been allowed to discuss or debate openly, over a period of time, people will definitely carry myths and wrong understanding about that subject.
If you look at the history, homosexuality was very much a part and parcel of our Indian society. We have the Kamasutra, which is a 2500-year-old sex guidebook. The book has a chapter exclusively on homosexuality. It also talks about transgenderism, lesbianism and has different photographs and paintings that show homosexual positions. Apart from this book, we have temples in Khajurao, Modhera, Patan, Dahod, Somnath etc where I myself have seen homosexual statues. These temples have been built before thousands of years, even before the Muslims invaded India. So, I would say that homosexuality has existed since years, but because of the influence of Islam and Christianity, people started degrading it.

• Do you have any regrets for coming out as a homosexual?

The only regret I had was that I should have come out much earlier. I would have saved much more lives and many more families from getting devastated. This is the only regret, apart from this; I’ll never ever regret that I came out. 

• Does being a part of a royal family help or hinder your cause?

I would say it is more of a help than a hindrance. The fact is that some of the royal families are being worshipped in India. What work our ancestors did for development cannot even be compared with what our politicians are doing today. And this is why, people, even today; treat us as their role models. Fortunately, for me, when I started living in Rajpipla, I did a lot of social work for the people in almost all sectors like health, education, employment, agriculture, tourism, heritage, culture, art, music etc. and that was what people remembered when I came out.
Recently, without my knowledge, one of the newspapers (Times of India) conducted a survey. One of their reporters questioned the people, at random, to find out what they felt about me. Most of them replied, “We don’t have issues with he being gay or straight, for us he is our Prince. He has helped us in all these sectors.”

On the contrary, I was felicitated by a senior citizens group in Rajpipla for coming out. They felt that not many people could be honest to themselves and the fact that he has come out and been true is what we appreciate.

• You’ve decided to adopt a child…

This was just an answer to the questions put forward by the people of Rajpipla. They were worried about the future, the legacy. My adoption decision is just to carry forward our 650-year old family lineage. I am the direct descendant of that dynasty.
And adoptions in royal families are very common. Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad was also adopted in the Gaekwad family. In fact, our own dynasty began with an adoption 650 years ago and there have been several adoptions in the period in between as well.
Anyway, it is too early for me to take any decision because my father is still holding charge. It is only after I take over this responsibility, I can decide what is to be done. 

• Ten years down the line, how do you foresee the future of homosexuality?

The society is gearing up to come to terms with the realities of life. After all, how long can one support something that is not true? I very much gain inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophies on life. One of the things that I like is ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (Truth always prevails). Based on this, he managed to get India free from the Britishers.
I connect India’s freedom movement with India’s gay rights movement. We also do not wish to create any sort of violence, we want to protest or rather fight for our rights in a very non-violent manner. We wish to collect people’s confidence, create awareness and build a network. So, we almost follow the path of Gandhiji. And he could manage to get freedom, though it took almost 50 years, but ultimately he won it on the basis of truth. So if he could do it, why not we?

So, I think, down the line, may be ten years-twenty years-thirty years, I don’t know what will be the period; but I am very clear, ‘Truth always prevails’. And on the basis of this, we also won our High Court case and this should be a learning lesson for us.

Prince Manvendrasingh Gohil was born on 23 September 1965, as the son of Maharana Shri Raghubir Singhji Rajendrasinghji Sahib, who inherited the title of Maharana of Rajpipla in 1963. In 2000, Manvendra started the Lakshya Trust, of which he is the Chairman, a group dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs for gay and bisexual men. He is the only known person of royal lineage in modern India to have publicly revealed that he is a gay. It was on 14 March 2006, that the story of Manvendra’s coming out made headlines in India and around the world.

Read original article at:

http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=Let%20s%20Walk%20A%20Mile%20For%20Equality%20On%20The%20Road%20Less%20Travelled_642

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