After working as a writer and producer in Hollywood in the 1940s—where he was a business partner of Mary Pickford—Malcolm Boyd (1923-2015) left the film business to enter a seminary. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1954 and subsequently spent a year based in Oxford. He told of his experiences in the first edition of Queer Oxford (2006). He wrote: ‘I felt I had to unlearn lots of things. Also learn lots of things. A change of scene was clearly required. I was a ‘seeker’. It was arranged for me to be housed at Pusey House in Oxford, but I had no other direct plans—and certainly didn’t want to be in ‘a box’ (academic or otherwise). Discovering myself to be a contemporary Marco Polo, I needed to find out, well, who in hell I really was. I would let Oxford be a base for me.’
After returning to America, Boyd became deeply involved with the Civil Rights movement. He came out unofficially in 1965 with his eloquent prayer ‘This is a Homosexual Bar, Jesus’ in his best-selling book of prayers Are You Running With Me, Jesus? In 1977 Boyd publicly came out in an interview in the Chicago Sun-Times. In doing so, he became the first prominent openly gay clergyman of a mainstream Christian denomination in the US. Among over 30 best-selling books, Boyd discussed the difficulties of being a gay Episcopal priest in Take Off the Masks (1978). In Gay Priest (1986) he explored the painful spiritual journey forced upon any gay-identified man who would be a priest.
I was deeply saddened to hear of Malcolm’s death in February 2015. He was one of the first public figures to help me with Queer Oxford, a truly inspiring and generous man.
Image: Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd (courtesy of the late Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd).