Suranne Jones’ last role in a BBC One series is said to have helped queer women come to terms with their sexuality.
The 43-year-old actress currently stars as “the first modern lesbian” Anne Lister in the historical drama Gentleman Jack. Her role as an English diarist takes viewers back to a time when men ruled the business world and women had to marry and have children – and there was little talk of same-sex relationships.
While the conversation surrounding same-sex relationships is much more prevalent these days, fear of judgment when coming out is still common. Ahead of the season two finale airing this Sunday, the BBC has released a new documentary showing how the hit TV show has made it easier for women across the country to open up about how they really feel. Gentleman Jack changes my life follows women aged 22-63 as they reveal how they found the courage to live life as themselves according to their true identity The mirror.
READ MORE:BBC One’s LGBT period drama that transported Liverpool to the 19th century with stunning costumes and cars
These women include Yvonne, a Mormon who is coming out to her adult children, and Sami, from Manchester, who is trying to bring up the sensitive subject with her mother Hazel after initially receiving a hostile response a decade earlier. . However, a story closer to Liverpool is that of Isabel, who is from Cheshire, and Katie as they recount their pain that the church marriage they aspire to is not allowed.
Katie, 28, met Isabel five years ago when the couple sang in a church choir in London. Like Anne Lister, they share a desire to marry in church – but current rules prohibit it. Isabel, a 29-year-old who works in publishing, told the Sunday Mirror how she dated five years ago.
She said: “Katie and I sat down and watched the show. I had met Anne Lister before and came across her diary as the company I worked for was publishing it. I thought it was so fascinating. I heard about the show and thought how great it was. Sally Wainwright is phenomenal and what she has done for TV and the set in the North of England is brilliant.
“If I had had this show growing up, I might have known a lot sooner. It was emotional for us to watch it, because I grew up watching period dramas in college and I had studied English Literature So to have a period drama on the BBC showing two people living their lives without shame and seeing all the things they’ve been through and the obstacles they’ve faced, it’s amazing to have that lost story gay women. I don’t think I was even ‘out’ when I first read the papers, but little things started to make sense and I started to wonder. Katie is my first girlfriend and it’s interesting to have that sense of history behind her.
Isabel joined her local choir in Cheshire, where she grew up, before moving to London. She said it saddens her that little progress has been made in the church since Anne’s time two centuries ago. Anne and her partner Ann Walker – played on TV by Sophie Rundle – had an unofficial church wedding ceremony. It was not recognized by the Church of England.
Isabel added: “Their frustration at not being able to have that, well, that totally concerns me. It’s been 188 years since they got married in 1834. Nothing has changed. There’s a lot more acceptance and people can talk about it – and a lot of the clergy themselves are gay and fight, but we are all embarrassed by this system.
“I have been a weekly churchgoer for 20 years and it has become very important to me now that I know I am a gay woman, but it saddens me that the Church of England is not always a welcoming place. I was lucky that my church in Cheshire and the one I joined in London both hosted liberal churches. But there are many who are not.
“No gay man can marry in the Church of England where she is, so although we have marriage equality in the country and we can marry in a civil ceremony, we cannot marry in the church we go to. Our vicar would like to marry us but he can’t, so there are a lot of clergy in the Church of England who are supportive and want to marry same-sex couples, but they don’t. can’t.
Same-sex marriages were made legal in England and Wales in 2014, but those same laws also protected the right of the Church of England not to hold such ceremonies without fear of being brought to justice under equality legislation.
Later in the documentary, viewers see four women, including Katie and Isabel, meeting in Halifax to visit a statue of Anne that was unveiled last year. Actress Suranne, who rose to prominence as Karen McDonald on Coronation Street between 2000 and 2004, said her “incredible” character showed people it was “ok to explore the genre in this way , to explore sexuality in this way and to be brave”. .
Gentleman Jack Changed My Life is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.