A Stroke Turns a Straight Man Gay

Rugby player ditches fiancee for hairdressing school and boyfriend

Here’s a scenario you’ve never likely considered: You’re engaged to your long-time boyfriend, a rugby player who loves going to the pub and watching sports with his buds. Then, one day, during a freak accident, he breaks his neck, suffers a stroke, and ends up in a coma. You and his family anxiously wait by his bed, praying for his recovery. While you fear that the accident will irrevocably alter his life, it does so in a way no one expected. He wakes up gay.

Crazy, right? Well  that’s exactly what happened to Chris Birch, a chubby bank teller and jock from Wales who suffered a stroke in 2005 that he says turned him gay.

“When I came round I immediately felt different,” Birch explained to the Daily Mail. “I wasn’t interested in women any more. I was definitely gay. I had never been attracted to a man before -- I’d never even had any gay friends. But I didn’t care about who I was before, I had to be true to my feelings.”

And true to his feelings he was. The now 26-year-old ditched his fiancée, quit his finance job and went back to school to become a hairdresser. Finding that he no longer had any interest in sports, Birch also found a new group of friends and started frequenting dance clubs. He started working out, dropped over 100 pounds and now lives with his 19-year-old boyfriend.

“Suddenly, I hated everything about my old life. I didn’t get on with my friends, I hated sport and found my job boring. I started to take more pride in my appearance, bleached my hair and started working out.”

But as for his claims that it’s all the result of a brain attack? CBS News talked to a couple of stroke experts who were wary of committing one way or the other. Ira G. Rashbaum, M.D., professor of rehabilitation medicine and chief of stroke rehab at NYU Langone Medical Center, said he couldn't speculate on the case, but said personality changes in stroke sufferers are quite common. However, he also stated that major shifts in personality are usually temporary.

Joe Korner, director of communications for The Stroke Association in the U.K., told CBS News that he's never heard of a stroke changing someone's sexuality, but believes it did impact Birch’s life. "Strokes are traumatic, life-changing experiences, which can make you reassess life and your feelings so perhaps that's the reason behind it," Korner said. "Whether or not the stroke turned Chris gay, or whether he was gay anyway but unaware of it, his experience seems to be a positive one, which is great."

As for Birch’s family, well, they’re still hoping their son will snap out of it. We say, not likely.

If the guy has been living the gay lifestyle since 2005, we just don’t see him ever turning back -- save another stroke that reverts him to his life of repressed sexuality. While we do feel bad for former fiancée (who we have to imagine has moved on since then), Birch says he is happier than ever. How could anyone begrudge him that? At least he has his stroke as a solid and convenient excuse. Plenty of people (my uncle’s ex-wife included) wake up one day and realize they’re gay, and it doesn’t take a traumatic brain injury to cause it.

But what really has us scratching our head is why, after six years, this story is only coming out now. Something tells us Birch is looking to change up his life even more -- in the form of a reality TV show or book deal. Who knew a stroke could have such a fabulous outcome?

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