A Royal Affair: Openly Gay Prince Entertains Love in New Reality Series

By: Christopher Donaldson
2.8.2012

It’s lonely in the closet where people go to hide, even for India’s Crown Prince, Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla. But like in love and sex, the most meaningful prospects from life, or at least the most interesting ones, often mean taking on more risk than usual.

In 2006, four years after suffering a nervous breakdown, Prince Gohil decided to come out, a move that made him the world’s first openly gay Royal, but at the same time, the protagonist at the center of a very painful and public spectacle: Effigies of him were burned across India by his own people and his father disowned and disinherited him without reserve. Homophobia, then, seemed to come from everywhere.

The Advocate’s Diane Anderson-Minshall recently spoke to 47-year-old Gohil about what it really feels like to open a closet door attached to a palace, HIV/AIDS outreach in India and his new reality series, Undercover Princes, which airs Tuesdays at 10 pm on TLC. Here are some of the highlights from that interview:

Deciding to live openly as a gay man: I was very much concerned about the lack of awareness in the Indian society about homosexuality and about HIV/AIDS because I’ve been working for HIV/AIDS [causes] since 1995, especially among the gay community, and I was not satisfied by the way people are in their approach to homosexuality or their approach to HIV/AIDS. So I said, “It doesn’t matter if I have to sacrifice something in my life, but I want to stand up and fight against this kind of discrimination in our country. And I must make people realize that we are also human beings, that we should also get respect without being discriminated against.”

Changing how people talk and think about sexuality in India: In India, I’m still respected because, especially those royal families where the ruler has done something for the people or for the welfare of the state — and fortunately my ancestors have done a lot for the welfare and social upliftment of the people — so we are being respected by the society, we are treated like gods. People actually worship my sisters, their statues. So there is a lot of respect from the society, so it definitely makes us different because they treat us as their role models. And I’ve also started in working for the people in the a similar manner as my sisters. I started working for ... the social cause for the people, much before I came out, in the fields of education, health, agriculture, giving employment opportunities, tourism. I was quite popular amongst the people of my town, so because of this, when I came out it had a big impact. When you rule, when you are popular and you come out openly and talk about your sexuality, it carries a lot of weight.

Doing a reality show about single princes looking for love in the UK: I think one of the reasons was that the whole show involved me being undercover, which would give me an opportunity to do all those things a modern commoner is supposed to do. So that is one of the reasons I thought it would be a challenge for me because I would be able to do all those things which I can’t do ... in India.

Read the full interview, “World’s First Openly Gay Royal Is on Fairy Tale Search For Love” here. Video below.

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