Friday, July 14, 2006

Parental "Love" and "Undertanding": disowning a publicly gay son

I have come across this story rather late. 40 year old "Crown-Prince" Manvendra Singh Gohil was disowned by his parents for going public about being gay.
Manvendra is the son of the "king" of one of the richest erstwhile princely states of India, Rajpipla in south-eastern Gujarat. He has been an activist working for prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men in Gujarat, and had originally come out as gay to his parents in 2002. He says,
Four years ago I had a nervous breakdown and through that breakdown I spoke to my psychotherapist who helped me. I told my parents I was gay initially it was difficult for them to accept it. They tried to convert me to heterosexuality. The doctors told them that was not possible. And I guess they could not deal with the stigma.
But the straw that apparently broke the proverbial camel's back was his coming out in recent interview to a Gujarat daily. Times of India quotes him:
However, they may not have expected that I would go public with the issue. I did so by giving an interview that was carried prominently. I also said gay relationships were not uncommon in royal families. This, along with my recent interviews regarding a documentary film on gay relationships, seems to have prompted the action.
Manvendra heard about his disinheritance from newspapers-- two public notices were issued by the "royal" family on 22 June. One of them said:
Manvendra is not in control of his mother and involved in activities unacceptable to society”, said one notice, issued by his mother. “Hence, he ceases to have rights as a son over the family property and the power of attorney issued to him also stands cancelled. Henceforth, no one must refer to my name as mother of Manvendra. If any individual or organization dares to do so, it will invite contempt proceedings against him.
All I want to do is to ensure there is a discussion and people talk about homosexuality and that we get some sort of social status.
In its days, the erstwhile princely state of Rajpipla had a thirteen gun salute, my Thirteen Gun Salute to Manvendra.


Prash said...


I heard about it too. Or rather was it you who told me when you were in paris ?

Coming out is not an easy issue...

But for the crown prince (to whom i give a damn)...he atleast made people talk.

But it is total injustice ! I agree !

Wild Reeds said...

Hey A.S.,
Cool blog! I have met Manvendra often in Bombay and he seems like a very nice, humble person.

Id it is said...

'Coming out' is never easy but I'd have imagined that being rich makes it easier to do so; I guess not.
Would you consider it a 'bold' step on the part of Manavendra?

Enjoyed reading your blog.

A.S. said...

sorry, late response to comments...
@prash: no, it is unlikely that I had mentioned this to you in Paris, as I got to know this very late myself and blogged this almost immediately. Coming out is indeed a difficult issue, wherever in the world one is in. Perhaps in the Indian context the reaction of the parents are understandable, but still inexcusable. But then we are often fond of drama.

@wild reeds: thanks for commenting and the compliment. And nice to know that you've met Manvendra. Sounds like a brave guy anyway.

@Id it is: thanks for commenting. In many ways, I guess being rich (or at least financially independent of one's parents) does make it easier to come out. But not sure how much that applies to the Indian context where coming out is not easy, period. In Manvendra's case, because of his "royal" lineage, coming out would have been expected to be more complicated, and moreover he came out in the media. Given the society, one might even say that this would have made his parents kinda laughing-stock amongst their "sujects".
Coming out is always a bold step, especially considering the above context. But I guess if you are working with gay people all the time as with Manvendra, it probably feels silly to maintain a hindering facade.