Suranne Jones helps gay women appear as lesbians in BBC’s Gentleman Jack

To exclude, to expel:

Gay women say in a new documentary that watching the hit BBC drama Gentleman Jack, starring Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle, has made it easier for them to open up about my sex

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Gentleman Jack: BBC teases second series of shows

The TV series Racy Gentleman Jack has encouraged a generation of women to be more open about their own sexuality.

The historical drama, starring Suranne Jones and a smash hit on BBC1, is based on the real-life diary of landowner Anne Lister. She wore black, a top hat and was nicknamed Gentleman Jack – Jack was a slang term in the 1800s for a gay woman.

Sally Wainwright, writer of the hit TV series Happy Valley, based the series on Anne’s revelations.

Now, a series of women have told how the “Gentleman Jack Effect” has helped them relive their true feelings.

The BBC documentary Gentleman Jack Changed My Life follows women – aged 22 to 63 – as they reveal how they found the courage to live openly as a lesbian after seeing the film.

Sophie Rundle and Suranne Jones star in hit TV series Gentleman Jack


BBC / Lookout Point / Jay Brooks)

They include Yvonne, a Mormon coming with her adult children, and Sami, from Manchester, who is discussing the sensitive topic with Hazel’s mother for the second time after the hostile reaction 10 years earlier.

Meanwhile, Chichi, 22 years old, is going with her parents to meet her grandparents. And partners Isabel and Katie tell of their grief that the church wedding they had longed for was not allowed.

Katie, 28, met Isabel five years ago when they sang in the choir of St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, West London. They share Anne Lister’s desire to marry in a church – but current rules forbid it.

Yvonne, pictured with her children, appears in a new documentary about sex


BBC / Screenhouse)

Isabel, 29, who works in publishing, told the Sunday Mirror how she came to be five years ago.

She said: “Katie and I sat down and watched the movie. I’ve met Anne Lister before and stumbled across her diary when the company I work for publishes it. I think it’s fascinating.

“I heard about the show and thought how great it was. Sally Wainwright is a phenomenon and what she has done for television and setting things up in the north of England is a marvel.

Gentleman Jack admires Isabel and Katie wants to get married in a church

“If I had grown up with this show, I would have known it a lot earlier. It was very emotional for us to watch it, as I grew up watching period dramas in college and studied English literature.

“So to have a BBC drama series that shows two people living their lives normally and seeing all that they’ve been through and the hurdles they’ve faced, it’s hard to believe. when there is a lost history of gay women. I don’t think I was even ‘out of my mind’ when I first read the diary, but the little things started to make sense and I started asking questions.

“Katie was my first girlfriend and it was interesting to have a sense of history behind it.”

Isabel joined her local choir in Cheshire, where she grew up, before moving to London.

But she is sad that there hasn’t been much progress in the church since Anne two centuries ago. Anne and her partner Ann Walker – played by Sophie Rundle on TV – held an informal wedding ceremony in the church. It is not recognized by the C of E.

Sami – wearing a Mr. Jack-inspired cap – with his mother Hazel (left)


BBC / Screenhouse)

Isabel continued: “Their frustration at not being able to get this, it’s all about me. It has been 188 years since their marriage in 1834. Nothing has changed.

“There is a lot of acceptance and people can talk about it – and a lot of clerics who are gay and against the war. But we are all thwarted by this system.

“I have been a weekly churchgoer for 20 years and it has become very important to me that I now know I am a lesbian, but what makes me sad is that the Church of England has always been not. is a welcome place.

“I am very fortunate that my church in Cheshire, and the church I attend in London, both welcome free churches. But there’s a lot that isn’t. No gay person can get married in the Church of England where it stands, so even though we have marriage equality in the country and we can get married in a civil ceremony, we cannot. got married in the church we attended.

“Our pastor really wanted to marry us but he couldn’t, so there are a lot of clergy in the Church of England who support and want to marry same-sex couples, but they can’t.”

Isabel, Katie, Sami and Yvonne pose next to the statue of Anne Lister


BBC / Screenhouse)

Anne Lister – played by Suranne Jones in Gentleman Jack – has been called the ‘first modern lesbian’



Yvonne, from Blackpool, revealed in the documentary that watching the first series of Gentlemen Jack in 2019 was “where my troubles began”. She told the researchers: “I find I am not straightforward. I was shaken and laughed at the absurdity of it all.”

At 63, she says she has no idea “how to navigate my way through this,” especially since she is a Mormon and the Church of Latter-day Saints consider gay and gay marriage. count as a sin.

Yvonne – who has son Jordan and daughter Laurie – added: “It was difficult. I can tell people I’m gay and they all understand and they can treat me like a normal person and all is well, but if I meet someone I’m not really welcome for that. considered a sin.

“In my heart I love my faith but if I meet someone I cannot have that joy. It was quite emotional. Am I just clinging and sacrificing that? ”

Gentleman Jack drew nearly five million viewers for the final episode of the second series last month. It dates back to the 1830s, when men ruled the business world and women were expected to marry and have children – and very little is said about same-sex relationships.

In her diary, Yorkshire businesswoman and adventurer Anne details her secret affairs, her “wedding” to heiress Ann Walker and their life at Shibden Hall, near Halifax .

The four women in the documentary – Katie, Isabel, Sami and Yvonne – met in Halifax to visit the statue of Anne that was unveiled last year.

Actress Suranne, 43, said that her “fantastic” character showed people that “it’s okay to explore gender that way, explore sex that way, and be brave with it”.

Her co-star Sophie, 34 – who also stars in Peaky Blinders – told the documentary: “I’ve been getting a lot of letters from people saying I watch the show and I can deal with it. who you are and feel comfortable with it.”

And writer Sally, 59, added: “I’m glad more people know about Anne Lister and now really want to know. She deserves much more fame than she already has.”

Gentleman Jack Changed My Life airs on the BBC at 10:40pm on Tuesday 24 May and can be watched on BBC iPlayer.

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