Manvendra Singh Gohil: My journey has been very tough and challenging
"If sex education is not there in our country, then how are people supposed to know about homosexuality and LGTBQ," said Manvendra Singh Gohil
Tell us about the movie Boy Erased and how do you connect with the movie?
Boy Erased for me is a story of any individual who is gay. It talks about struggles of coming out as a gay first of all to himself/herself, then coming out to the parents and how parents react to that. In this case, especially there is a religious angle to the story and how that family is trying to pressurise their gay child for conversation therapies. How the movie relates to me is that my story is a bit similar to this where even my parents pressurised me for conversion therapies when they came to know about me being gay. I don't blame the parents also because they are only doing what they know about since they've not studied about this in their education system. Even today not many people are aware of our issues because there is no education about it. It's unfortunate coming from a country where Kamasutra was discovered, basic sex education is not taught to people.
If sex education is not there in our country, then how are people supposed to know about homosexuality and LGTBQ. Parents are naturally going to think that their children are up to something wrong. My mother is supposed to be a graduate in Psychology but in spite of that if she feels that homosexuality is a mental disorder then it is the education system which is at the fault. I came out to them through a psychiatrist, but they still didn't listen, they felt that this is a scientific advancement and there is a cure for all diseases. They went to the extent where they believed that if it can't be cured in India, then it can definitely be cured in the USA. They were ready to give me shock therapy. This is not just the story of the boy from Boy Erased or me but of any gay individual whose parents are not able to reconcile or accept the fact that their son is gay. Even if they are ready, it is the society around them, or the people around them who pressurise them saying how can you accept your child, it is a sin, he is a criminal, people will talk about it, what kind of a parent you are, why are you staying quiet, how can you allow him to be like this?
The story is bringing out what has happened to most of our lives and since I do lots of counselling, these cases keep coming to me. People often say that why are they born like this, it would have been better, if they were dead, we don't want to live, we want to commit suicide because even they are attached to their parents, and would like to do what they say. In India, we are all in a mental condition of being attached to our parents and Indian parents specialise in emotionally blackmailing their children so that they can get what they want and what is right according to them. They will not give freedom to their children to decide what is right or wrong for themselves.
You have been so at so many pride movements… Tell us about your journey so far?
My journey has been very tough and challenging. It was not easy for me to come out being a member of the royal family, but the truth and honesty were the only weapons that kept me going and kept me strong amidst all the odds. I fought with hypocrisy and homophobia. Ultimately it was honestly which won and hypocrisy which lost on September 6, 2018, when we won the Supreme Court judgement. When you are honest, you are subject to struggle because nobody likes the Truth. When you speak the truth, you will always hurt somebody. It is said that being true is better. Truth is truth ultimately and there is no comparison to it. We Indians also say Satyamev Jayate. I am greatly inspired by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi who used truth and honestly to win freedom. If they got their freedom from Britishers, why couldn't I get my freedom of the way I want to be. That has been my mantra and I have managed to win against a lot.
What was your family's response like when you confronted them?
My family was scared because of society. Even though they knew about my sexuality before I came out, it was the so-called 'society' that pressurised them and my father appeared in an interview where he accepted that he was pressurised by the conservative society to take the step to publicly disown me and publicly throw me out of the ancestral name. So, I started coming out in the newspaper, talking about me being gay in the Royal family. There are so many people in the royal family who are gay, it is up to them if they want to come out or not to come. But I wanted to come out, but they tried to fight with me and thought that I'll lose the battle or give up, but I never gave up, I kept fighting because the whole reason of me coming out was that I wanted to fight Hypocrisy and Homophobia. I didn't at all get shattered by whatever came and went. I don't blame my parents at all and it is my duty as an activist to educate them about the truth and the reality and now they reconcile with me, they came to know the truth and regret about talking this action. And now they are fine with me.
What gave you the courage to come out and spread the world for Homosexuality?
Courage was the weapon of truth and honesty. That was the only thing there with me. I knew that I was not harming anybody or causing them any injury because I have always decided to be with myself as well as to others. And that was the spirit. In any religion you see, all the good ones speak the truth. No religion likes hypocrisy. Also, I belong to a warrior clan and fighting is in our blood. As my ancestors fought a lot of wars, I was also fighting a war, but mine was a different kind of hypocrisy. I had the courage in my blood.
Who is that one person who has stood by you throughout your journey?
That person is Ashok Row Kavi, who happens to be the first person to come out openly as gay. He is the Godfather of the LGBTQ community. He has retired now, but he has stood by me right since the day one. He has been my mentor, my guide, my godfather, my everything and not only to me but to many others. He removed the guilt from our mind and made us feel proud of who we are. He was the one who encouraged me to start my own foundation – The Lakshya Trust which works with the LGBTQ community in Gujarat, with the help of the government. He is still by my side and I consult him for everything.
What are the challenges you are facing even today?
The challenge that I face even today I that even after Supreme Court giving a judgement in our favour, still there is a lot of unawareness, they are not ready to accept us. It is easier to get a Supreme Court acceptance than getting a social acceptance. That is the biggest challenge and I'm trying to educate students in colleges, universities because they are the future of our country and our culture. So, if they are able to accept our issues and understand us to make a better India and make a positive change in the country.
What is that one message you would like to give people who have not come out of the closet?
I just want to tell them that, Be yourself, accept the way you are and be happy.
How do you react to people who do not want to accept your orientation?
People who don't want to accept, please get yourselves aware about it. People today don't know about most of the things. Like the Corona Virus, how many people actually know what it is. So, make yourselves aware and then react to any issues you have a phobia about. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder but Homophobia definitely is.
The Indian Television Premiere of Boy Erased happened on February 9 on Sony PIX
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