Billie-Gina Thomason, Creating a Diary of Thomas Son

The diary concealed in the Bible.
The diary concealed in the Bible.
by Billie-Gina Thomason. Billie has recently graduated from LJMU with a History and English degree. She will be returning to LJMU next year to take the MRes in History. She plans to research trans* identity in the nineteenth and twentieth century. 

I chose to write a diary for a creative portfolio in my Victorian Cities module. I developed my diary around nineteenth-century transgenderism as a thematic piece alongside my Independent Study. James Allen was my first female husband discovery and inspired me to begin my research on trans* identity. James Allen was found dead at a shipyard in London in 1829 and his autopsy discovered that he was biologically female.[1] I chose to create a fictional character named ‘Thomas Son’ who was a friend of James; by doing so I paid homage to James’s story. Although the diary is only speculative, my research on female husbands has uncovered how they were able to utilise societal expectations of what it meant to a man and to mould these gendered ideals with their own lifestyle and identity.

Bible strapped to the table
Bible strapped to the table
Henry Fielding coined the term ‘female husband’ in his pamphlet in 1746, describing female husbands as biological women who cohabited with other women.[2] By using this as a basis for understanding these men I defined female husbands as women as who, in the words of The Morning Chronicle, ‘assume[d] the garb of gentlemen’.[3] They adopted male characteristics and employment, wore masculine clothing and engaged in same-sex relationships.[4] I tried to incorporate colloquial terminology such as ‘Suke’, which was a mocking term, to heighten its authenticity in my dairy.[5] As my muse for this project was James Allen who lived in London, I wanted to pay homage to the cockney accent. Therefore, I used glottal stopping and L-vocalisation in my diary.[6]

I disguised Thomas’ diary in the Holy Bible as it influenced how people lived their lives. Victorian men were expected to be of good character, religious faith and a strong work ethic.[7] I sealed Thomas’ diary within the pages of the Bible so that it would be hidden, only through ripping the pages was it able to be exposed. Although this can be seen as blasphemous I wanted it to be a symbol of the Bible no longer infiltrating and dictating people’s lives.

Bible ripped open to reveal the hidden diary.
Bible ripped open to reveal the hidden diary.
Creating the diary was a task in itself, I first had to locate an appropriate Bible (I purchased at least 5 before it was the correct one!). After that it became a father daughter collaboration, my dad glued the pages of the Bible together individually, then it took 3 days to completely dry as it was clamped to the dinner table. My dad is a builder (and a perfectionist). Once it had dried, he hand cut the inside of the Bible so that it was large enough for the diary to be concealed. Finally, we stained it with tea, coffee and wood stain to get the correct strength of colour. We then sealed the diary up. This was one of my favourite undergraduate portfolios as I was free to do exactly what I wanted. My final work as an undergraduate investigated transgenderism. This assesment provide me with opportunity to not only be creative but also develop and explore my interest in nineteenth-century trans* identity.

[1] Extraordinary Investigation, Or the Female Husband’, The Newcastle Courant, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne; England), January 4th 1829.

“The Female Husband”, Caledonian Mercury, (Edinburgh; Scotland), January 22nd 1829.

[2] H. Fielding, The Female Husband or the Surprising History of Mrs Mary, Alias George Hamilton, who was Convicted of having married a young Woman of Well and lived with her as her Husband, [1746], (Adelaide: Adelaide University press, 2014) https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fielding/henry/female-husband/ [accessed: 12/04/15].

[3] The Female Husband in Manchester’, The Morning Chronicle, (London: England), 13th April 1838.

[4] ‘The Female Husband in Manchester’, The Morning Chronicle, (London: England), 13th April 1838.

[5] “Marriage Extraordinary”, Glasgow Herald, (Scotland; Glasgow), August 21st 1846.

[6] B, Trawick-Smith, ‘British Accents’, Dialect Blog, (2011). http://dialectblog.com/british-accents/ [accessed 12/04/15].

[7] Gordon, Michael, ‘The Ideal Husband Depicted in the Nineteenth Century Marriage Manual’, The Family Coordinator, 18:3, (1969): p. 228.

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