Young, Royal & Gay: the Life of an Indian Prince

What is it like being homosexual in the land of the Kama Sutra?

ByABC News
April 17, 2009, 11:21 AM

RAJPIPLA, India, June 3, 2009 — -- He types awkwardly, his fingers scrunched on the keyboard, back hunched over and elbows bent outward. I'm guessing he's rarely done it.

"Never mind typing, I've never had to bathe myself," he says, turning his attention back to a gay men's Web site.

Such is the life of a prince. Literally, it's the life of Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, who was raised in a pink-colored palace located at the bottom of long driveway dotted with purple flowers. His upbringing was so formal he felt more affection toward his nanny than his mother. His closest friends were his servants.

Now, though, some of his closest friends are the ones he's met in "pen pal" ads in gay newspapers. Men from around the world e-mail him, often seeking his advice on homosexuality.

If it's not obvious, the Prince is a gay man, which makes life rather complicated in a country where being gay is illegal. Article 377 criminalizes the act of homosexuality between men.

India's attitude toward homosexuality is a combination of homophobia and ignorance. Sometimes, homosexuality is flat-out ignored. Walk past any black-and-yellow taxi at midnight, and you're just as likely to see two men spooning in the front seat as a flashing-neon Ganesha on the dashboard.

India's attitude toward sex, in general, seems hypocritical. After all, it's the birthplace of the Kama Sutra, and some of its famed temples offer graphic murals and sculptures depicting sex, including same-sex sex behavior. It's a country where men can walk down the street, holding hands, arms wrapped around each other, but young men and women must cower in parks to sneak a kiss away from their families.

What's a person to think? It's confusing for most people, but particularly a prince, who never even knew what it meant to be "gay." It took a year of an unconsummated marriage, a subsequent divorce and a nervous breakdown to give him some perspective.

"Being brought up in such a protected atmosphere, there's nobody to share your thoughts, your feelings with anyone. I was confused whether I'm getting attracted toward the same sex. Is it a kind of disease? Is it a mental disorder? Am I the only one suffering for this mental disorder? I was totally confused about myself," he said.