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Invert theory grew from exploring 

hermaphrodites’ bodies, dead and alive. 

Finding a ‘true sex’, not a spectrum,


was the sexologists’ grail, 

those who couldn’t live 

in their findings, jailed or ostracised. 


Marriages broken. 

Unruly hermaphrodites 

were placed in asylums alongside


those who had no trace of 

biological bothness, people living 

by their own self-knowledge. 


Victorian asylums enforced 

gendered clothing, re-education. 

Guards with flaming swords stood at gates. 


One soul, asylumed as a man, 

wrote to Carl Westphal. 

The letter self-combusted in Carl’s hands. 


Freud later thought that invert males 

were deviants caused by 

arrested development, and invert females


repressed homosexuals 

or narcissists when loving women. 

Not much has changed: 


deviant, freak, liar, con. Though 

documentaries now get screened

pre-watershed - not evil any more,


sensational instead.

Here we are then,

stunt-men and -women 


without fire-suits. 

Watch us stumble, lift our arms 

like flaming swords.