LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

A royal visit
Fri, 07/01/2022 - 4:00pm
Category: 

To the Editor,
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla, India celebrated International Pride Month with a visit to Block Island. The Prince began his visit to the United States in New Jersey with a string of performances as part of the Open Hearts Weekend and his New Jersey premiere of the international award-winning documentary about LGBTQ+ hate crime survivors, “Pieces of Us,” in which he is one of the subjects.
The Prince was introduced to Block Island by a close friend, Kris Lamb, who is the sister of Bud Oddsen. Kris and Bud are the great grandchildren of Edward G. Faile, who, as a sword fisherman on Block Island, built a home at the end of Southeast Road in the 1920s that Kris and Bud grew to love. Bud and the Prince were dear friends before Bud passed away 10 years ago. Kris and the Prince were here to honor the 10th anniversary of Bud’s death.
While on-island the Prince led a meditation class at Champlin’s, spoke at the Harbor Church about Queerness in India, and performed harmonium music for attendees. The Prince was hosted by the island’s LGBTQ+ organization Queer Block Island. Gohil came out as gay in 2002, then was subjected to electroshock treatments, publicly disowned by his family, and victim of an attempted assassination. The Prince highlighted the many ways in which queer culture is an “Indian export” to the world, and for thousands of years India had established queerness as an acceptable sexual/gender expression. Gohil has advocated for LGBTQ+ rights in India and abroad, and is internationally recognized as a voice in the fight against HIV. Gohil stands as a proud symbol of social progress in India, while honoring and surviving its rich cultural heritage. Gohil enlightened attendees about the history of the traditional Hijra gender identity which is a distinct third gender unique to the Indian subcontinent. Hijra are eunuchs, trans, or intersex people who are considered neither male nor female and exist outside the gender binary system. The Prince said from the pulpit of the Harbor Church “There are
whole chapters in the sacred Kamasutra dedicated to gay sex, and the positions which allow for optimal pleasure. These holy passages were all written centuries before Christianity was even invented.”
Similar to Block Island, India was subject to repeated European colonization starting in the 1500s with the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British in the 1800s.
Even after, the scar of European colonization has established firm taboos and negative attitudes towards gender and sexuality, leading to widespread marginalization of
India’s queer people.
Thank you to Kris Lamb, Pastor Peter Preiser, the Harbor Church, Champlin’s, Kim Gaffett and Joe Teja for helping to make this event possible.
Austin Morin
Block Island