Synchronicity Films (The Cry, Only You) is partnering with Brazen Productions to develop and produce a fictionalised mini-series based on the upcoming book The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes: the Transgender Trial that Threatened to Upend the British Establishment, written by Emeritus Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of London Zoë Playdon.
BAFTA-winning trans writer Sukey Fisher (Soundproof, Unconditional, Electricity) is on board to adapt the book into a scripted mini-series for television about love, gender identity and politics set in 1900s rural and royal Scotland – and how that start in life collides with the unexpectedly repressive values of the 1960s.
Based on the extraordinary real-life story of Aberdonian doctor, farmer, and baronet Ewan Forbes-Sempill, who in 1952 corrected the sex on his birth certificate in order to marry the love of his life Isabella “Patty” Mitchell, the series will be set in and around the Scottish aristocratic family of Forbes-Sempill and Craigievar Castle, seat of the Clan Forbes for 350 years.
Ewan’s marriage, the couple’s freedom and Ewan’s gender all became highly politically charged when his inheritance of the Forbes baronetcy was challenged in Scotland’s most senior court of law by his cousin John, who claimed that Ewan was ‘really’ a woman.
Ewan’s case was hidden for decades by a government that believed ‘there are some interests that it is more important to protect than the rights of individuals’, until Professor Zoë Playdon uncovered it, “enabling this remarkable story of love and the fight to live authentically to be brought to the screen.”
Claire Mundell says: “Based on extensive research by Zoë Playdon in her incredible book of the same name, “The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes” will shine a light on this little-known love story, which has remarkable resonance in 2021. Ewan’s life and marriage provide a lens through which we can explore contemporary themes of gender identity and the freedom to live and love authentically – and we are thrilled to have such a thoughtful writer in Sukey to bring this story to mainstream audiences globally.”
Jules Hussey of Brazen Productions adds: “Zoë’s archeological uncovering of Ewan’s life, love and fight reveals not just the lengths he would go to in order to protect his marriage but also how far human rights for trans people have regressed from 50 years ago. I am so pleased that Synchronicity embraced this project and I am honoured to be part of bringing this story to the screen with such passionate co-creators and allies.”
Sukey Fisher says: “Ewan’s is one of the boldest lives I know, forced through unthinkable trials by authority figures and biased experts, emerging triumphant but at an appalling cost. He’s an ordinary but splendid man. His ordeal more than 50 years ago belongs as much to the present as the past. The idea that trans lives belong not to the person living them but to anyone else who cares to express an opinion is no less true today, and our civil rights are more fragile in 2021 than they’ve been for a generation.”
Zoë Playdon adds: “Most people are unaware that until the 1960s, trans people self-identified, received affirmative medical treatment, corrected their birth certificates and lived in complete equality with everyone else. Ewan was the reason that changed. But hopefully, the historical realities so ably dramatised by Sukey, Synchronicity, and Brazen Productions, will help everyone to realise that restoring trans equality is an urgent issue of social justice.”
Zoë Playdon is the Emeritus Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of London. A former co-Chair of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists [GLADD], in 1994 she and her colleague Dr Lynne Jones MP co-founded the Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity which continues to meet. For over twenty years, Zoë was Professor and Head of Postgraduate Medical Education at NHS Kent, Surrey and Sussex Regional Postgraduate Medical Deanery. She has more than thirty years’ front-line experience of LGBTI human rights, working as an adviser to legal teams, trans community groups, government departments, the NHS, and medicine.
Zoë’s book “The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes and the Unwritten History of Trans Experience” is due to be published in the US on 2nd of November 2021 by Scribner, and Bolinda as an audiobook, and the 11th of November in the UK by Bloomsbury. It is described by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC as ‘A landmark work of history, law and social change’.
Sukey Fisher is an award-winning screenwriter, making her living in film and TV for the past 20 years. As a disabled writer she’s especially aware of the extra barriers, visible and invisible, the business can put in too many people’s way and is committed to inclusion and proper representation for all groups across all art forms – and in the workplace generally. She’s a founding member and now Co-Chair, with Sumerah Srivastav, of the Equality and Diversity Committee of the UK Writers Union.
Sukey Fisher is represented by Christine Glover at Casarotto and Zoë Playdon is represented by St John Donald at United Agents.
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