Isabel Sinagola (2011, English) featured this week on the BBC One documentary Gentleman Jack Changed My Life, discussing the power of the 2019 drama’s ‘wedding’ scene and her own advocacy for equal marriage within the Anglican Church.
Anne Lister, the protagonist of Sally Wainwright’s 2019 drama Gentleman Jack, is considered by many to be the “first modern lesbian”. She has been an inspirational figure ever since the 1980s, when her diaries, detailing affairs with women, were decoded and published.
Sally Wainwright’s powerful period drama Gentleman Jack drastically increased awareness of Lister’s extraordinary story, with word of the Yorkshirewoman’s radical ways spreading like wildfire and, as this documentary movingly shows, upending many women’s lives in the process.
For some participants, these changes include coming out to family members. In the case of Somerville alumna and active church-goer Isabel and her partner Katie, watching the wedding scene between Anne Lister and Ann Walker inspired them to renew their fight for the dream religious wedding which the Church of England is still denying them – 188 years after Lister and Walker chose to take communion as the closest approximation of a marriage ceremony available to them within the church.
In the documentary, Isabel also talks about her decision to stand as one of the youngest candidates for election to the Church of England’s General Synod – the governing body of the church – in order to join the hundreds of lay people and clergy seeking to elect more inclusive representatives and push for change from within. Isabel is also working alongside groups like Inclusive Church and The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England to secure equal marriage so that all couples can celebrate their union within the faith they profess.
Featured image: Suranne Jones as Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack. Photograph: Aimee Spinks/BBC/Lookout Point/HBO