Many of us faced challenges when we came out: the disapproval of peers, our family’s disappointment and the burden of parental grief when it’s understood that there may be no grandchildren on the horizon.
Imagine, then, the crushing weight of dynastic demands and a royal lineage founded 650 years ago.
Prince Manvendra Singh Raghubir Singh, 44, is the sole male heir to the royal family of the former princely state of Rajpipla, India, and Prince Manvendra is gay.
On Monday, the prince was attending a wedding in Gujarat in western India, but took time to discuss his royal life, his challenges, and his role in the new TLC series, “Undercover Princes.”
The four-part series follows an African prince (Prince Africa Zulu of Zululand in South Africa), a Sri Lankan prince (Prince Remigius of Jaffna, Sri Lanka) and an Indian prince (Prince Manvendra) as they cruise the nightlife of Brighton, England. Of the trio, only Prince Manvendra is gay, and as such, far more steeped in controversy than his royal counterparts.
“As I was growing up, around the age of puberty, 12 or 13, I realized I’m attracted toward the same sex, but I didn’t have a word for it. I didn’t know that this type of behavior is called homosexuality, or something called ‘being gay.’ But I knew for sure that I was different from the others,” he said.
“During childhood there was no role model. I never knew anyone who was gay. I didn’t know anyone who was an older person who had a similar kind of attraction, so I was alone during the process. It can be very lonely when you don’t have anyone to talk to about your personal issues,” the prince said.
Coming out took its toll on family relationships, the prince said.
“My father has come around. He understands. We don’t talk about sexuality but he is fine with my being gay. He has no issues with it. But my mother has not changed. She doesn’t speak to me. She has been like this since the beginning so I must respect her for what she’s doing with me. I think I should give her some more time before she understands me,” he said.
“Most mothers know if their children are gay, but they’re not able to accept (that their children are gay) and they’ll blame it on their upbringing. They think there was something wrong in their upbringing that has made them gay, you know? That type of thinking is quite common in India.”
Funny, how universally, both perceived truths and harmful delusion can secede reality and fly in the face of fact, no matter country of origin, religion or position in life. It was tempting to tell the prince an old joke:
“My mother made me a homosexual.”
“If I give her the yarn, will she make me one too?”
Fortunately, Prince Manvendra has another family ally … his younger sister.
“My sister, Minaxi, is quite open about my issues. She has a degree in psychology. She understands sexuality issues,” he said.
Prince Manvendra came out in 2002 at age 37. He is the only known royal in modern India to publicly speak of his homosexuality and as such, nearly was disinherited from throne and family.
A major issue facing the prince and the royal family is the issue of succession. The prince must produce an heir in order for the dynasty to survive.
“My point on adoption is quite different than that option for commoners, because when I declare I’ll be adopting, it will be a child of the people, not my child alone, for this is an heir to the throne,” he explained.
“Ours is a very old dynasty, a 650-year-old dynasty. I’m the 39th direct descendent. In most royal families, adoption has been a common practice. Because we are a patriarchal society, the male child becomes the next heir. It has happened in the past where the male child has been killed in a war and there was no heir, so adoption has happened. Even in our family, our dynasty started with an adoption in the year 1370,” the prince said.
Prince Manvendra elaborated further.
“I may not necessarily adopt a child. It could be a grown-up boy or man who is from the extended family, someone to be the custodian of our family lineage. That is the main purpose of adoption for me,” he said.
On tonight's episode, Prince Manvendra is planning to test the waters as a bisexual person. He says he has never been with a woman, and is open to the idea of exploring that theme with the ladies of Brighton. Duty calls?
Duty aside, the prince explained his personal agenda.
“My main reason for coming out was to spread awareness of homosexuality, make people realize there is nothing wrong with being gay, and that it is absolutely normal and natural,” the prince said.
“I founded an organization, which works for HIV-prevention among the gay community, and my coming out has helped spread awareness about HIV in my country. But personally, who I seek has nothing to do with nationality or religion or appearance or anything of that sort. For me I seek a person whose mental level is the same as mine.”
So there it is. Be bright, be kind, be articulate and be patient with a reticent future mother-in-law. Be these things; be at the right place and the right time and perhaps, help shape the fortieth generation of an ancient dynastic family in the 21st century.
There is an honest-to-God prince out there who is looking for his own Prince Charming. Meanwhile, check out “Undercover Princes” for a tip or two.
You just never know …
“Undercover Princes” airs Tuesdays on TLC.
Kurt Niece is a freelance journalist from Tucson, Ariz., and author of "The Breath of Rapture." He writes about television for Echo Magazine in Phoenix and SDGLN. He is also an artist who sells his work on his website.
Prince Manvendra visits a gay caberet
Prince Manvendra turning bisexual?