Diana Gabaldon Clarifies Black Jack Randall’s Sexuality

[If you have not read Outlander, there are spoilers in this post about the rest of Season One.  You have been warned.]

BJR official

Diana Gabaldon took to her Facebook Page today to clarify the sexual preference of one of her characters, Black Jack Randall.  Some reviews of Episode 112 have noted that Jack Randall is gay based on his behavior in the episode.  Here is Diana’s post:

Well, we seem to be getting a lot of interesting reviews on Episode 12–which is All Good, to be sure. I just want to make _one_ thing clear, before drawing your attention to a couple of interesting ones: To wit, Black Jack Randall is _not_ a homosexual.

He’s a pervert. He’s a sadist. He derives sexual pleasure from hurting people, but he’s not particular about the gender of a victim. (Personality, yes–gender, no.)

I see reviewers assuming that he told Jenny repeatedly to turn around, during their encounter in a flashback–and they assume it was because he’s gay. Actually (and obviously, I would have thought…), it’s because she’s looking at him and laughing, and he finds this unnerving.

If you look at his behavior throughout the book (and I emphasize book, though it’s almost the same in the show), he’s shown as attacking four people: Jenny, Jamie, Claire, and another prisoner at Fort William (who we don’t hear about in the show) named Alex.

Two men, two women–he’s an equal-opportunity sadist. However, given his position (garrison commander) and the structure of the culture he’s in, he has much easier access to male prisoners, whom he can torture at leisure. But he’ll take women when he can get them–_vide_ his reaction to finding Claire wandering around by herself.

( In the Scottish Highlands, communities were small and tight and people really didn’t move around that much. Women didn’t often live on their own; they went from their fathers’ hearths to their husbands’ and pretty much remained in or near their homes and weren’t wandering around unprotected. Claire _is_, which is why she draws so much unwholesome interest.)

I am not going to flat out deny that I never thought Jack Randall was gay or even bisexual.  Honestly, I can’t remember what I thought at the time of my first read of the books.  I knew he was a sadist, so that’s at least one gold star.

For new readers and those who have read the series many times, what was your first impression of Black Jack Randall’s sexual orientation?  Does Diana’s explanation change how you view BJR?

Source: Diana Gabaldon

  • Dorothy Young

    Diana Gabaldon published OUTLANDER decades ago. She had her say in the book. Her interpretation of the story is no more valid than any reader’s.

    • Sirilicious

      How long ago she published it doesn’t really matter. Her INTENTION with the story is valid, but indeed, if she didn’t make it clear, any reader’s interpretation can be good or better. Or worse. :o)

      • Dorothy Young

        You’re right, Sirilicious. I mentioned the time lapse for emphasis. The literary theory Death of the Author states that once the work is published, the author needs to let it go.

        DG is by no means the only author who engages is this sort of Monday morning quarterbacking but she’s among the most egregious. I think the gaps and inconsistencies in her stories due to her episodic wrinkling style drive some of it, and the ability of authors to interact with readers on the internet allows her this access. But in my never-humble opinion it makes her look insecure. She has released her darlings into the world and they can stand on their own.

        • Sirilicious

          I’d say she has some things to be insecure about. Plus she’s very vocal about how she wrote this book to learn how to write. It would be nice if she’d say “I meant this, but can see how others would read that”. Instead of this ‘clarifying’ attempt.

          • dixichikken

            Oh Sirilicious, where have you been all my life!? I agree with you completely about the weaknesses of Gabaldon’s writing – and how defensive she can be about a good, respectful, vigorous discussion of it. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the books for decades and often wish her editors would address some of those weaknesses, or that she would pay attention to her editors. She has some incredible writing chops, but she can really get in her own way.

          • gone fishin

            “love/hate relationship with the books” – up until now, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I think you just crystallized my feelings about these books. I really, really like this story, enough to have read all eight “big books” so far, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the smaller books too, but there are times I’ll be happily reading along, only to come to a passage that just rings so “wrong” that it completely jars me out of the story, and I’ll just sit there saying “What ???” to myself.

          • D R Allen

            Insecure?? She has a doctorate in Marine Ecology, a book series that has sold 28M+ copies all around the world, a loving husband of 40+ years, children and grandchildren, and now a £50M production based on her work!

            Dr. G has government ministers on her speed-dial, and open invitations to their estates from half the nobles in Scotland whenever she comes to visit.

            She is NOT insecure. She DOES, however, have reams of unpublished material that is background for the book series (which she HAS provided to Messrs. Moore and Heughan to aid their work) to which she occasionally reveals to fans when their assumptions/interpretations are getting so far away from her story that it starts to influence public perceptions of the same.

        • Klasko

          Are you people serious? Get over YOURselves. DG is a consultant on the series. They take her very seriously. She wrote the canon of source material. As a writer myself, I have no problem with the author clarifying anything, and neither do many other readers. Sheesh! But there are always those who have nothing better to do than to pick nits.

          • Sirilicious

            “As a writer myself” – and WE need to get over ourselves? Discussing the (good and) bad things about a work actually proves you are invested in it. Why else would we bother? Ron Moore is welcome to take Diana’s word as canon, it doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything she claims when it isn’t supported in the books.

          • JacyJul

            I’ve been a published writer for 30 years (started getting paid to write fiction; short stories and illustrations in my teens) and then, went on to write many articles and columns for magazines and newspapers and finally co-authored another non-fiction book.

            My husband is also a successful author with five books published via one of the largest publishing houses in the U.S.

            Some of D.G.’s more zealous fans are just guzzling the ‘Kool-Aid,’ and really, it IS the right of each reader to state their opinion about a book and it’s author. The most important thing is that NO WHERE in D.G’s books does BJR have sex with, molest, or rape a woman. Period.

            He DOES have no problem raping young men and even a ten year old boy. YES, he’s a sadistic pervert but according to the author’s own words and story, BJR has no sexual interest in women (torturing them or demeaning them yes, but no sexual interest or ability to even have sex with a woman). You can’t write one thing and then jump on a bandwagon with the people producing your work and say you didn’t write your own words without some fans pointing out the obvious duplicity.

      • Christina L.

        I totally agree! Reading is always going to be influenced by the reader’s perspective, life events, etc. I don’t CARE what DG meant when she wrote it; I am going to take from it what I will and form my own opinion. I remember an especially heated debate where she got on her high horse and basically called her readers stupid for thinking Frank had cheated on Claire and defended him. Look, if the majority of your readers have formed the impression that Frank is a cheater then maybe at least consider the possibility that your writing is not clear, instead of blaming the readers.

        • cptacek

          Huh. I thought Frank cheated on Claire after she came back. How else should we read the perfume comments and the looks the other women gave her?

          • DrBlueFrogPhD

            He definitely cheated on her after she came back from the stones, but there was strong inference (w/o actual confirmation from either Claire or Frank) that Frank wasn’t entirely faithful to his young bride while they were separated during the war years. Claire was insistent that she remained faithful to him, but she did think that perhaps his questioning of her (after seeing Jamie’s spirit/ghost/entity outside the B&B) was in part due to his own guilt.

          • cptacek

            Oh yes, I forgot about that, and I agree.

        • sixela872

          I think Diana’s position on Franks cheating is rather disingenuous and not relallt supported by what she wrote. Whether or not Frank actually cheated, he certainly wanted Claire to *think* he was cheating and that kind of manipulative mind game is worse than actual cheating. I think the whole coy/smug response to questions whether he cheated isThere are numerous instances of this throughout the series.

        • DeniScribe

          Everything is from Claire’s POV…but that doesn’t mean that her POV is always correct. If you assume things based on your own logic, it doesn’t mean that your conclusions are always right. I agree with Diana on this one. Claire could be wrong, she only voiced her suspicions.

  • Carol PIckersgill

    I never took Black Jack for a gay man. He was clearly a pervert and a sadist right from the first. It was never about sex with him, it was always all about the pain spectrum.

    • JacyJul

      Is your head in the sand or just drinking up the ‘new Ron Moore et al’ Kool-aid?

      BJR rapes a young man named Alex in the book who commits suicide because of it (Jamie ends up keeping Alex’s bible), he repeatedly rapes & tortures Jamie and later SPOILER; rapes a 10 year old BOY.

      Now, point out one time where he actually was ‘able’ to rape a woman….any woman in any of his scenes in several books (and scaring Jenny and Claire by ‘going thru the motion’ doesn’t count since he didn’t rape either of them).

      A sadist who gladly will torture anyone who suits his fancy but when it comes to sexual assault in D.G.’s own books and scenes no women are EVER involved.

  • Tierni

    I thought Randall was primarily homosexual, but not adverse to female companionship. Though I think if given a choice, he would a man over a woman any day.

  • Sirilicious

    In the book he was also floppy with Claire at Fort Whatever before Jamie rescues her. Claire was afraid then, so he needs more than inflicting hurt or fear i think.

    I wasn’t sure at first how they would spin it in the series, since there was no clear sign of him wanting men, but then in ep 9 he says to Jamie “For the life of me, i cannot understand why any man would pledge himself to a woman, especially such a mendacious slut as this one”.

    I think he is sexually attracted to men and sadistically attracted to both.

    • DrBlueFrogPhD

      In the book, when BJR attacks Claire in his office, he starts off limp but begins to get aroused as he hurts her (slapping her, tweaking her nipple, etc.), so technically I think DG’s summation still stands.

      Also, in the show BJR’s comment is more anti-marriage than anti-woman, though to goad Jamie on he does call Claire a slut.

      • Sirilicious

        Dammit, you made me look up that sequence. :o)

        He was doing the tweaking and such before there was mention of flopping, so i don’t agree about the (moment of) arousal.

        In a society where your only chance to have a meaningful relationship with a woman other than family is marriage, being anti-marriage is the same as being anti-woman.

        Another inconsistency, not in the character but in the TV series writing if you ask me, is when Jamie saves Claire from that tower. BJR wanted to fuck/break Jamie before that moment, so why on earth would he shoot him unprovoked, when he has Jamie and his wife (yay, leverage) under his control? If you truly follow the story, this means he isn’t obsessed at all. In the book Jamie was charging at him though.

        • DrBlueFrogPhD

          I was confused as to why BJR fired at Jamie when it appeared he was unprovoked as well. Honestly I think that was an editing error on Ron Moore & Co.’s part. Another 5 seconds of showing Jamie looking or moving in a manner that implied that he was about to rip BJR’s head from his shoulders would have satisfied the requirement (then again, maybe pursed lips & flaring nostril’s IS Sam’s version of Jamie about to come unhinged….I dunno). If I recall from the book, Jamie begins to move when BJR pulls the trigger.

  • Klasko

    I saw it pretty much the same way Diana Gabaldon explained it. He wasn’t particular about the gender of the victim as long as he could inflict some kind of pain. Something the show didn’t go into II’m sure for dramatic effect, but in the book, Claire figured that out for herself just prior to Jamie coming to her rescue. Black Jack gets off on causing fear and pain, whether physical, emotional or psychological. That was my read of him.

    • JacyJul

      ah, but wouldn’t a “bi-sexual sadist” detain both Claire and Jamie and have his way with both of them; what an ultimate way to torture Jamie, but NO. BJR clearly states that he does not understand why any man would give himself to a woman… BJR may be an equal opportunity sadist but that does not make him a “bi-sexual pervert,” especially in view of the fact that in all of the scenes/books he’s in, he NEVER rapes or forces sex on a WOMAN. Sure, he likes to ‘go thru the motions’ with Jenny and Claire but never actually did the job! Whereas he’s quite efficient at raping & torturing Jamie (repeatedly), another young male prisoner (Alex) who later commits suicide because of the rape, and, then, there is the 10 year old BOY in the brothel he attacks – ignoring every other woman and young girl there.

      Three of our dearest friends (two men who’ve been married for 12 years) and one woman who is a wonderful person and also a lesbian, consider this latest PR BS to be insulting to their integrity. Like the rest of us; none of these three individuals saw anything remotely indicating BJR as being “bi-sexual.”

      • Tani J

        Correct. BJR is a gay sadist, there is nothing more to it. I don’t see why it’s a big deal in terms of PC. A rotten sadist can be gay, straight or bi – and so can a serial killer. I get why Clair did not cut his throat – because of the future implications – but still. I’d have killed him

        • JacyJul

          So agree…BJR NEVER had sex with any woman in the books but had plenty of opportunities and could never “perform” where women were concerned. He had no trouble raping young men and boys.

          I think R.Moore and producers and backers at Starz felt they had to walk on eggshells to keep from offending anyone who’s gay when in fact, they’re obviously just pandering to gays – who are smart enough to know that there are sadists, rapists, and even serial killers who may want to hurt people, but, they typically have a sexual preference.

          Diana G. is obviously going to say whatever Moore and the money backers want because the series is making her a millionaire all over again (most people will go along with something whether it really applies or not if it’s going to make them rich(er) and more famous.

          • Tani J

            I never read the books and only got to watch season 1 because Starz had a “free week” special.

            Episode 15 and 16 where it shows you what BJR did – I mean, DEFINITLY gay, NO doubt about it. Anyone who can’t see it is naive, blind. He made love to Jamie; Jamie says so himself. In that sense, he “broke” Jamie, at least temporarily from what I could see so far (season 1). It’s not words anyone has to rely on here. It was on the TV screen. He got Jamie to the point where he thought BJR was Clair, even called him Clair.

            PC is absurd. PC is where it is only OK to portray a white male hetero as evil – and that in itself is insanity.

            I don’t see any reason why anyone gay would object to any of it. He likes to hurt both sexes, I saw that on the screen. But he MADE LOVE to Jamie.

  • Cat Mckenzie

    Always the supreme Sadist, I toyed with the impression of him as a Bi sexual when Jenny is “introduced” to him, previous to that I thought him Gay. Since he is ever evolving into his evil, learning he has no boundaries is where I feel from. I keep wanting to see Tobias’s wonderful smile make it all go away too !! God but he is a MARVELOUS Actor !!

  • Lori

    It’s about power for him as it often is for rapists, regardless of which gender they pursue in their actions. My impression, when reading the first book, was that BJR was a nasty misogynistic misanthrope and probably a sociopath. I don’t ever recall thinking of him as being anything specific as far as sexuality as it always just seemed it was about him having all the control. I do sort of recall thinking, “Oh, he’s a preference for men…younger men…okay.” But, I don’t think it’s that simple…it never is, is it? Diana constructed him quite well.

    • Piper312

      Sadism isn’t a sexual orientation. You could say he needs to inflict pain to be aroused, but fetishes and orientation are not interchangeable characteristics. Someone who has a fury fetish isn’t attracted to anyone or any gender dresses in fury garb.

      Fetish or not Black Jack asks Jamie to give his body over willingly to spare Jamie of lashings. He doesn’t use sexuality to exercise sadism; he uses sadism as a bargaining chip to get his sexual gratification.

  • Outlandishly_hooked

    I have read these books many times and from the first I knew he was deviant, a sexual predator. I never thought of him as gay or straight. In my opinion he just likes giving pain, dominating and breaking his prey. This is why he can’t stop chasing Jamie. He can’t break him and he won’t stop until he does.

  • cd1

    Have read the.books a dozen times and it never once came to me that he was specifically a homosexual. I just thought he was an insane, vial, human that got his kicks with whomever he could at the time and the focus on Jamie because despite everything, BJR couldn’t truly break him for his own spiritual keeping. He’s a man that needs to be in control and thrives on the terrified fight of his hunt, but like Jenny found, insult him as the “man” he is, he can’t do squat. I think the show has done a phenomenal job portraying all sides and I’m (unfortunately) very much looking forward to the later scenes we’re about to see.

  • DrBlueFrogPhD

    I had always thought BJR was non-specific in his gender preferences. In fact he was almost asexual, unless it was used as a form of torture & punishment.

  • Michele Bosco

    I had a friend who was (likely IS still, a hedonist, although I haven’t spoken with him in over 10 years) . . . basically he didn’t care who he had sex with, since it was all about the physical pleasure and he ascribed to being heterosexual, even though he welcomed partners of both genders. But he was never a sadist.

    It’s my opinion that BJR, at some point, may have crossed the line from ‘exploration’ to sadism, finding out that inflicting pain was his major motivator. That, coupled with his original hedonistic urges, truly made a monster. Since he then progressed to more than sexual avenues for inflicting pain. And anyone who watched ‘The Garrison Commander’ could see the arousal he experienced while recounting the whipping scene to Claire.


  • nise

    I never thought of BJR as gay at all when reading the books or watching the tv show, it never occurred to me, unlike another certain character introduced in Voyager who is obviously gay. BJR is definitely a sadist.

  • Beverly Haynes-Love

    I never actually thought BlackJack was homosexual, just that he felt somehow he was connected to Jamie. Thus, had to try and emmerse with him and to do that he had to physically connect.

  • mpo323

    Jack Randall is DEFINITELY gay! His behavior is that of a sadist, yes, but he seems to prefer men over women. He turns down opportunities time and again to have sex with women. What straight man would do that? He can’t get it up when he tries to rape Jenny. He’s “good friends” with the Duke, who is obviously also a homosexual, and he was oohing and ahhing over Jaime’s body as he contemplates raping him. The way he looks and comments on his body, the way he insists on kissing him, does not suggest straight man to me. (I would think most rapists and sadists don’t bother with kissing, because it doesn’t inflict pain or power). I think that Diane Galbaldon is either a) homophobic herself, b) does not want to promote a homosexual character or agenda in her books, for fear that might result in a loss of sales or viewership, or c) times and interpretations of literature have changed since she wrote the books, maybe she’s just totally in denial, even though she wrote it herself??

    • JacyJul

      Well stated! Sadists don’t typically (and sincerely) “admire” the body that they’re about to rape/torture nor do they ‘tenderly kiss’ their victims.

      I smell a campaign for being “politically correct” toward gays – which is gratuitous in the least (at least that’s what three of our friends who are gay thought, who were part of our group watching the series together!).

      D.G. does not include one SINGLE scene in ANY of her books that shows BJR having even the slightest sexual interest in women and when he does try (to prove to his officers or onlookers he’s a ‘straight man’) he fails miserably. SPOILERS: In fact, in the next book/series, he is in a brothel where he can (as an officer and aristocrat), torture and rape any number of girls and women BUT, he chooses the one BOY in the entire place to rape. Sorry D.G. you wrote the books and created that character as a perverse sadist who may like torturing everyone, but he does NOT choose to have sex (consensual or otherwise) nor does he EVER HAVE sex with a female; your character depiction not mine.

      As an author/writer, married to a very successful author (who also happens to be a doctor who specializes in treating patients who have – in REAL LIFE, been traumatized as much as Jamie’s character or more), I can understand that having your books have an entire new life (and readers) via your stories on the Starz series, means a whole lot more income for you and thus your willingness to stand by virtually any claims the Producers, directors, and writers may feel the need to cook up.

      YES, most sadists (a.k.a. psychopaths by today’s terms) DO have a sexual preference; Jeffrey Dahmer preferred young men and boys. Richard Speck was only interested in torturing and killing young women.

      Starz or R. Moore et al (and D.G.) please stop ‘pandering’ to the gay and lesbian community. There is at least another major character in this book series who is gay and an incredibly wonderful person through out, so stay out of the political fray; you’re only insulting the individuals you’re pandering to (at least according to our 3 dear friends).

    • Alias Darker

      the author said he’s not gay , stop being so thirsty

  • Pingback: In Defense of Sadists- A Few Thoughts on BJR’s Sexuality | sexpositiveoutlander()

  • JacyJul

    Uhm…Diana, YOU wrote the scenes and BJR does not ‘sexually assault’ either Jenny OR Claire (and clearly has a problem in his attempt to ‘do the job’).

    YOU ALSO WROTE that Jenny had her back to him on the bed and was frightened yes, UNTIL she looked around and realized he could not get turned on by her. She didn’t see him initially having this problem getting aroused and only laughed at him after being curious as to why he wasn’t attacking her.

    Perhaps you’ve written too many books – as you say and too many details to remember it all but you’ve got the part about what you wrote about Jenny and BJR out of sequence in your “equal opportunity offender” response!

    Two women, Two Men; and only TWO rapes/sexual assaults – both on MEN (Jamie – repeatedly, no ‘trouble’ there for BJR to get aroused) and Alex, who commits suicide after he’s assaulted sexually by BJR. SPOILER: And, then, there’s the 10 year old boy he molests when there is a house full of girls and women he could torture and rape IF INDEED he was an “equal opportunity rapist.”

    “Equal opportunity sadist” does not necessarily equate to “equal opportunity rapist.” I’m simply going by YOUR words about this character in YOUR books.

    Now, I DO understand being a writer/presenter for many years (and producing a popular special for one of the top cable networks about 20 years ago), and, being married to a successful non-fiction author on relationships, and Clinical/Forensics Psychologist, that one does not look a gift horse in the mouth. Starz production of your books is a great tribute to your writing and story telling. SO, understandably, it would be stopping a whole new income flow by disagreeing with this ridiculous attempt to pander to gay people (most of whom have the integrity to see this ‘claim’ about BJR’s gender preference as gratuitous at the very best).

    Honesty and integrity can be costly and some prefer to avoid the costs. I DO get that part and your decision to go with the Ron Moore et al flow…

  • Jim

    I never thought ‘Outlander’ series was a ‘show’, how very confusing and misdirected US terminology has become. To call Black Jack Randal ‘gay’ is PC gone mad, i can think of far better very non PC terminology for that particular character.