Prince Of Pride

Manvendra Singh Gohil, Crown Prince of Rajpipla and his husband, DeAndre Richardson, Duke of Hanumanteshwar celebrate years of their marriage and talk about their journey, identity and work in the LGBTQ+ community


DeAndre Richardson met his future partner, Manvendra Singh Gohil while working as a make-up artist for Christian Dior in 2009. Not knowing anything about the crown prince, they began their friendship just by talking on social media about apparel. Later he learnt about Gohil’s global icon status. They finally met in 2011, but Richardson would not realise his feelings till the following year. In 2013, the couple finally came together and things moved fast from there. 

“The older members of his [Gohil] family recognised something very special within our relationship.” Richardson shares. During this meeting, Gohil’s grandmother and great-great uncle encouraged him to marry Richardson. Richardson goes on, “The older generation has a remarkable way of weaving together relationships.” He was presented with a ring and by the end of the week, they would be married in a small ceremony with Gohil’s family in attendance. “It started off as a friendship, which got converted into a relationship and I think these kinds of relationships are stronger” states Gohil.

Education, Representation And Awareness 

When it comes to creating awareness and starting conversations around the subject of queerness, Gohil states that while he is proud of India’s rich heritage, sex education in India is lacking. He claims that it is not the people, but their ignorance along with lack of awareness and education in the country that contribute to bigotry, intolerance, violation of human rights and discrimination.

Gohil points out that there is a large gap between the country’s history and people’s current views. He states, “India should be proud to have the world’s oldest sex encyclopaedia (Kama Sutra) which openly talks about homosexuality and transgenders”. These are not new concepts. However, due to the stigma surrounding it, people are afraid to come out and speak their truth. Many are abandoned or disowned by families after coming out. Gohil further elaborates that most of the times members of the queer community are forced to live a double life, often through marriage, which ultimately spoils many lives. 

DeAndre Richardson adds that mixed-orientation marriages, where members of the queer community enter a hetero-normative marriage union to conceal the stigmatised sexual orientation of one or both spouses, have gone down with the increased discussion, acceptance and support for and within the vention of HIV/AIDS among MSM (men having sex with men) and the GBT (Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community in Gujarat. 

With its inception in 2000, Lakshya began with government funding and support during a time when HIV/AIDS was rampant in the country. The virus had begun spreading in India during the mid1980s, largely affecting the transgender and MSM population. It was then that the government stepped in and started working with organisations that supported these vulnerable groups. 

The trust has now grown to include mental health support, ageing issues as well as counselling for women who are married to queer men.  

Future Of LGBTQ+ Community

Within India, Gohil and Richardson are both optimistic about the de-stigmatisation of LGBTQ+ couples. Richardson believes that in a country such as India, that has perhaps the largest youth population and one of the best, well-written constitutional documents in the world, it is inevitable for change to happen on a large scale. “I feel like there is a lot of hope for the LGBTQ+ community” he says.  

According to Gohil, the older generations are far more accepting, supportive and open minded than we give them credit for; the youth are more socially aware than ever before. It is only the middle generation that seems to have a problem, but that too can change with education, representation and awareness. Gohil recalls what his grandmother told him on her deathbed: ‘I can now die in peace because I am no longer worried about you’. He further shares the response he received from his people when he first came out. They said: ‘You are our prince first, that will never change’. The support and love that Gohil has received can be seen in the work and message he is now putting out into the world alongside his partner, DeAndre Richardson. 

(The article appeared in the August issue of BW People  publication)

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