The Indian Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil is now joining global calls to end conversion therapy after revealing he was a victim of the debunked practice which is still legal and widely practiced in India. The experience left Gohil scarred and determined to see it outlawed.
Gohil is the first out gay prince in India and runs the LGBTQ+ Lakshya Trust charity which he helps fund through his vast wealth. His 2006 coming out was a national scandal.
When he initially came out to his parents, they were not supportive. “The first thing they tried to do was convert me," Gohil told Forbes in a new interview. "They wouldn’t accept me as a gay child.”
What came next was conversion therapy, a loose set of methods or practices that seek to alter a person's gender identity and/or sexuality. They range from "praying the gay away" to torture. In Gohil's case this included electroshock treatments in an effort to “cure” him. Conversion therapy has been widely debunked, has no proven success rate, and often leads to increased depression, anxiety, and sometimes death by suicide.
“They tried to ask the doctors to operate on me,” he said. “They took me to religious leaders to ask them to cure me.”
Part of the problem, as Gohil sees it, is that many Indian parents view LGBTQ+ children as socially stigmatizing in a stratified Indian society.
“Indian parents are fearful of [people in] society, relatives, neighbors,” Gohil explains. “I always say, [LGBTQ+ people] coming out to their parents is easier, than parents coming out about [having LGBTQ+ children] to the rest of the world.”
In line with his parrent's efforts to change his sexuality, Gohil was forced into an unsuccessful and unconsummated arranged marriage in 1991. He divorced a year later. He now focuses his efforts on issues impacting the Indian LGBTQ+ community. His Lakshya Trust provides HIV/AIDS education and prevention to men who have sex with men, as well as the women married to them.
While Gohil’s experiences are painful, he says women have it far worse in his country.
“Lesbians are treated so badly,” he laments. “I’ve known cases where the family member [will] rape the child to prove she can have sex with a man. ‘That proves you are heterosexual.’”