When your sexual preferences are not of the mainstream kind, it’s easy to be confused about that. Especially if you were born in 1913, as James Broughton was.
Before James made the final joyous leap into accepting and celebrating his sexual orientation, like many others, he went through real turmoil. You can see that in our film BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton. His mother berated him for his effeminate nature. He was kicked out of boarding school (where he was sent to “become a man”) for having a male lover. His journals from childhood depict a young man who thought something was seriously wrong with him because of his tendency toward the “sissy.”
There wasn’t anything wrong with him. He was, simply put, a gay man growing up in an era where homosexuality was not only implicitly silent it was also considered taboo– grounds even for losing your job, or worse. With messages like that coming from the world at large, no wonder it was confusing. So James did what many have done before him. He tried to “fix himself.” He tried on a life of marriage and children.
His journal entries before doing so are profoundly insightful considering what he later became and did. He wrote, “Do I love her enough? What about males? Is this a sacrifice of my real dedication, and an “easy way out” of my larger creative mission? Is this adjustment ‘to the collective human’ really for me?”
It turns out this “adjustment ‘to the collective human’” as James called it really wasn’t for him. His was of a different nature. And it was the accepting of this uniqueness of being that made him, in his later years especially, such an inspiration for so many. He accepted who he was. He embraced it, and he became it completely- with joy. Big Joy.
This October, gay history month, we’re celebrating James Broughton’s decision again—to become the outwardly joyous and queer poet and filmmaker he was. We at the Big Joy project feel it is thanks to gay pioneers like him that the road to self-acceptance is considerably easier for others today.
We celebrate James as an example of a gay elder (who actually considered himself “pansexual”). His story of confusion and coming to terms with his homosexuality is not unique– but what he did with it after is ever so. He has 23 books of poetry (including the ground-breaking Androgyne Journal, and Graffiti for the Johns of Heaven) and 23 films (including Devotions, “Men in pairs, mostly naked, perform various sensual tasks together”) to prove it.
We hope you enjoy his story and that it will, in turn, inspire you to live yours.