This is what the man whose 'stroke made him gay' has to say, years later

BBC/YouTube screengrab

The subject of BBC Three show I Woke Up Gay, Chris Birch, has talked about suffering a stroke, coming out as gay, and the subsequent media attention he's received for his claims.

In an interview with Vice in May, Chris Birch talked about coming out as gay, which happened after he suffered a stroke.

Birch was one of the one in four people under the age of 65 who experienced a stroke, after he apparently did a forward roll and knocked his head.

The pressure damaged an artery bringing blood to the brain, which was reportedly the cause of his stroke.

When he recovered Birch claims that for the first time in his life he had homosexual feelings.

In a 2011 interview with The Daily Mail, Birch said

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.

A spokesperson for the Stroke Association, Joe Korner told Pink News that parts of Birch's brain could have been opened up by the stroke.

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.

In a 2017 interview with Vice, Chris reports that there were other significant changes to his personality, such a new fondness for animals, and wanting a change of career.

Ditching his clerical job for a bank to go into sales, Chris told Vice.

I thought, 'I don't like this job any more; I don't see anyone, I'd like to actually meet people.

I was very introverted before, but now I had more confidence and was less inhibited.

His sexuality change was allegedly less immediate.

When I realised I was gay, I didn't do anything about it for a good six months. I told my mother, which was bigger than I thought it would be; you go round the mulberry bush to say it – you think, 'Why am I doing this?' – and as soon as I told her, I thought, 'Right, that's sorted.'

He left banking for good after the 2008 crash, and joined a course on hairdressing. One of his clients in the salon he was working in recommended he sell his story to a weekly magazine. The small article was syndicated to become a double page spread in The Mirror entitled 'A Stroke Made Me Gay'.

The salon had umpteen phone calls every day from people who wanted to speak to me. One lady in her seventies travelled an hour on the bus to thank me for telling this story

Birch told Vice he was 'disappointed' in the BBC Three documentary.

I thought it would be more medical; I thought it would tell a more honest story

The series saw a camera crew enter his Welsh hometown of Ystrad Mynach, and look at the difference between Chris before and after his stroke, with a focus on his sexuality.

The idea that a stroke can cause such a change to one's sexuality, or that it is a provenance of homosexuality, is obviously contentious.

Birch told Vice:

I know [after a stroke] you're reminded of your mortality and think you have to live every day differently, or as if it was the last. All I can say is that I am the proof [of stroke changing sexual orientation], and I'm not the only one...

Obviously there are portions of my life I can't remember, but I can remember very vividly being very happy and content with being with girls on every level: relationships, sensual, everything. I distinctly remember that, but now I look at those feelings as if they're distant and they don't belong to me.

His experience with the British media and the BBC documentary have reportedly led Birch to refuse to pay his TV licence, and the sale of a German book he co-authored about his stroke have been banned from being sold in the UK.

In particular, Birch said he was harassed by proponents of 'gay cure' therapies, who held up his experience as evidence.

They were saying, 'You don't have to be gay. Look, this man wasn't gay before and now he's gay, therefore it's not from birth and we can correct it'.

He said that others simply did not believe his story.

They said I was a liar and gay all along, too. I was absolutely heartbroken. If there was a way of pressing 'delete' on the internet I would have done.

Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts were set up in my name and they would go at odds with what I was saying and pick out every small detail. It was awful. I wish I hadn't said anything.

As of May, when Vice spoke to Birch, he is living in Cardiff with his first boyfriend Jack, and their four dogs.

If you need someone to talk to about sexuality or gender identity Switchboard LGBT+ helpline is avaiable online, via instant messenger, and on the phone from 10am to 10pm every day - 0300 330 0630

HT Vice, Daily Mail, Pink News

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