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I Woke Up Gay

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Chris Birch Chris Birch | 16:44 UK time, Monday, 16 April 2012

Chris Birch

I had a stroke when I was 20. I know it sounds crazy but it caused me to stop liking girls and start liking boys. The stroke turned me gay (I Woke Up Gay, Tuesday 9pm). 

My life changing stroke happened because I did a forward roll down a hill. Don’t worry, I'd laugh too if someone told me that.

It was a really scary time; everything I knew about myself had been pulled from under me and I needed to start all over again. I turned into a totally different person.

Before the stroke, the 'old me' loved girls. I'd had a few girlfriends, been out on single nights, speed dating, even the odd 'grab a granny night' in the local clubs. At one point, I was even engaged to a girl.

Then this massive change happened.

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I had physical problems after the stroke and still have some of them today - like one nipple is oddly lower than the other - but thankfully for the most part, the changes are only noticeable to me.

After all the physical stuff had sorted itself out, I started to notice I was different to the person I was before. It wasn't an overnight change though; it took me a few years to completely realise that the person I am wasn't the person I was.

There were loads of differences in my personality - mostly little things, but still - things I noticed. I found myself staring at my DVD collection and considered throwing out the horror flicks that seemed to dominate it. I didn't feel the need to fill the gaps with Disney flicks or Dirty Dancing, but I definitely had a realisation that I wasn’t the same person I used to be.

I found myself going from liking girls to liking guys. I'd always been able to say a guy was attractive without being attracted to them, but this was different.

The feelings I had worried me. I kept thinking that these weren't my thoughts, then I wondered if I'd always felt this way. I was afraid to talk to anyone around me in case this was just temporary or they'd take the mick.

This whole process was like going through puberty all over again, only this time I was alone, it was unexpected and nobody understood what I was going through. I was a typical teenager but at 23 years old!

Eventually, after I realised that these changes were here to stay I started to tell people that I wasn't straight anymore, beginning with my family and closest friends. This was the most awkward set of conversations I've ever had to have. As it’d taken me nearly 2 years to deal with these feelings myself, I knew that the people around me would probably need time to deal with what I'd told them too.

The majority of people I told were really accepting and understanding. There were the odd few who weren’t so accepting, but I do live in the Valleys and like it or not, there are some people whose opinions are firmly planted back in the 1950s!

Even though the majority were accepting, I started to feel like I no longer connected with the people I used to spend my time with. The conversations no longer interested me (sorry!) and I started to wonder why I was even friends with them in the first place. I guess that was when I realised that the 'New Me' was making a stand here. I was left with a choice; either live a life I didn't enjoy and that didn't belong to me anymore or make a change. So I made the change.

Chris and his friends

Chris and his friends

I decided to make this documentary to let people know that this kind of thing can happen after any sort of brain injury. Even though my case is towards the extreme end, it's important to me that the psychological effects of a brain injury aren't given nearly enough attention as they should be.

Personally, it also gave me the chance to learn more about what happened to me and to find out if what happened was unique to just me. I guess you'll have to watch it to find out!

I'm happier than I ever have been. Meeting new people was way easier than I expected - I went out one night, and chatted to - rather than chatted up – girls. I have now found myself with a group of friends I love, who I might not have had without having had a stroke. Weird!

I Woke Up Gay is on Tuesday 17 april at 9pm.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think you're so brave going through what you had been through.

  • Comment number 3.

    I look forward to watching this later as I went through a very similar experience. When I was 20 I had a traumatic head injury and was in a coma for two months, when I came round I realised I was a lesbian. I had never had a relationship before this, fooled around with men a few times but never had a boyfriend, then came out of a coma and started telling people I was a lesbian, something about my brain being effected made me realise what I really wanted. I wonder if more people have come out after brain traumas

  • Comment number 4.

    Chris seems like a really nice guy and its shame he's getting so much stick for something he can't help, why does he have to justify himself to everyone. If he says that's what happened thats what's happened. His boyfriend should be a bit more understanding about it though i think. iv heard of weirder things that have happened so why can't this.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hiya I'm watching this programme and it's really interesting. Good on ya Chris for wanting to chat about something very personal. I don't think I would do it.

    The part about your mum cutting you off after your stroke really upset me. What kind of mother would do that to their child? What mother she turned out to be abandoning her child when you needed her most!!

    You are the same Chris as before and if people can't see than Hun then they aren't your true friends.


  • Comment number 6.

    Oh, and the bit where you said your fringe hides you bad eye. I think it draws attention as you have the white part in it, and I'm not keen on that. If all your hair was jet black you would love lovely x

    And if people can't see past your poorly eye, then they aren't worth knowing in the first place xx

  • Comment number 7.

    The brain works in an amazing way, one of my work colleagues had a stroke a few years ago and when she came round, she forgot that she had ever smoked (after being a chain smoker for many years) She still doesn't smoke to this day!!

  • Comment number 8.

    To be honest the fact that he is happy when the doctor said being gay was part of his personality was the most offensive thing about this program! It is possible to act 'straight' and be gay, the fact his personality changed from this to a more homosexual person is the personality change, not being gay being a personality change.

    I personally cannot believe the BBC would commission a show so offensive and discriminatory towards the gay community

  • Comment number 9.

    I think you're an inspirational person.

    There is such homophobia in the world today, and you break through that barrier of oppression in what I see as a vigorous strength of character. To stand up to those ignorant people who denounce homosexuality is great act.

    You have clearly undergone an incredible emotional journey and to come out of it with such optimism, determination and courage is amazing. You even manage to withstand the onslaught of unfriendliness which accompanies being in the public-eye!

    The world would be better off with more people like you.

  • Comment number 10.

    Interesting film,

    Having had a viral infection some 10 years ago, I too have had a (minor) change in my personality.

    Your interests,opinions & tastes can change - but how can you communicate that to family, colleagues and friends?

    Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with one piece becoming slightly misshapen. it won't pop out and fly away - but it certainly no longer fits well.

    There must be very many people out there with similar issues, but who are too nervous to mention them.

  • Comment number 11.

    Your some guy Chris :D I could imagine its hard being constantly questioned about what happened to you and doubted, I personally believe you and your a brave, inspirational guy :P Hope you and your mum work things out

  • Comment number 12.

    I think it's great that you have done this programme, it's really important that people know about all the things that can happen after stroke, and that it is something that can effect all ages not just to old people. I had my strokes when I was 26. I believe lots of things about me have changed, both physically and how I think, feel and express myself, i have given up trying to explain them to friends and family as people don't want to believe you have changed so wont acknowledged that you have. I have the upmost respect for you to for trying to prove what you already know to be fact. I want to thank you for sharing your story, being a young stroke survivor can be a lonely thing at times so it is always valuable to hear the story of others. Regards and best wishes for the future

  • Comment number 13.

    I am no medical expert... I have worked with people who have suffered from brain injury for 10 years.

    But not only that!!!

    I also have family members who have suffered from brain injury in various forms...... Therefore I have known people before and after...... ANYTHING is possible Chris. I believe you :)

  • Comment number 14.

    Just watched this ... from my point of view who are we to judge NO ONE understands the human brain fully so how can the press and others have a negative view against this lad ... I feel for him and what he's had to go through and hope he can get on with his life and have a happy future xxx

  • Comment number 15.

    Hello Chris, just watched this - what a lovely, mature and kind lad you seem to be. I'm sure if your Mum sees this she will be incredibly proud of you - although its easy to understand how confused she must be - just like you, she will probably need time. Can I just throw something else into the pot? I'm a hypnotherapist and very interested in the brain. There's some interesting research on split brain studies - including some suggestions that each hemisphere of the brain may have its own, different personality. A brain insult like a stroke might concievably kick-start the brain into allowing a different hemisphere to become dominant, which would cause all sorts of changes including Tommy's increased creativity. Found the following page online, although I've not read any of the books, it might be pertinent and interesting for you to look into split brain research. All the very best of happiness going forward.

  • Comment number 16.

    As always the so-called experts fall into the trap of thinking that personality must be either nature (genetic) or nurture (culture). In truth it is both. Homosexuality as a personality trait displays both. The stroke may have affected the part of the brain which manages the genetic or the learnt components or both.

    Chris is agonising unnecessarily. No one disagrees (I think) that his stroke changed his personality and that is all that matters. Trying then to label it as EITHER a genetic or cultural change is unhelpful and wrong.

    Personally I side with the argument that Chris's homosexuality was latent (there was a genetic component at birth) but this was unaffected by the stroke. He had the same genes before and after the stroke. What changed however was how his brain coped with it - accepting his homosexuality rather than fighting it.

    What was lacking in this interesting programme was a more thorough analysis of Chris's personality before the stroke (obviously not helped by his memory loss). Did his other girlfriends or his Mum detect anything? Even if he can be shown to have been a typical "chav" and the "least gay" of his friends, this does not necessarily prove anything because, as is often found, even extreme homophobes can be latent homosexuals - fighting culturally and vehemently against the genes they were born with.

    Chris should be proud of who he is - now.

  • Comment number 17.

    I watched this programme last night and I'm sorry but if you lost your memory like you said you did, how on earth can you know that you weren't gay before your stroke ?? You contradicted yourself on numerous occasions and find you story of a stroke turning you gay very hard to believe .... Sorry.

  • Comment number 18.

    Throughout this whole programme i felt strongly that Chris has lost much but also gained loads too through the stroke. Why is everyone so hell bent on proving that Chris was gay before the stroke? If Chris believes he was straight before, and gay after? Then that is the way it is, end of. no discussion as far as i'm concerned. Chris, please stop worrying about trying to prove yourself to others, you know the truth so look to your future. Gay or straight, its how you treat the people you love that matters. Love well and live long Chris,
    Love Marielle x

  • Comment number 19.

    I think human neurology is so complex that I fail to believe that anybody can judge Chris on if he was gay before the accident. Anyway what difference does it make???? We only use a fraction of our brain therefore any trauma to it is bound to have effects then are not yet understood..... I think it's possible that it has altered his sexuality, why not???
    I can appreciate the frustration he feels and it must so frustrating to have to explain what has happened to everybody however well done for embracing it and well done on sharing the experience,it was thought provoking and I'm hoping that you get good feed back..

  • Comment number 20.

    I agree with Marielle, Chris, you are such a lovely guy, you know where you're going, you have a happy partnership with Jack and you can look to the future with some great friends to support you. I was impressed with the way you've dealt with such a huge transition, I would be proud to have a son like you. I sincerely hope you and your Mum can be re-united, life is too short. Good luck and best wishes. Rosie

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Chris- I live in the US but have counseled many people who have suffered similar traumas and "woke up" as different people. That is the key here; you are different, completely. You are whats known as a 'Walk-In" and you aren't alone. Look for WE International for more information. Lots of explanation, lots of people who've gone through the same confusing and unsettling thing. Enjoy your "new" life, be at peace with your old one :)

  • Comment number 22.

    I don't understand why some people don't believe he woke up gay? Why would he make it up? & If people just think he just didn't realise he was gay maybe he didn't, maybe he did. Truth is none of us know him to judge whether he is telling the truth or not. I believe Chris when he says it because one of my friends brother went through the same thing but woke up straight. I believe Chris anyway because when I watched the programme looking at the "old Chris" photo's you can tell he wasn't gay! I've read comments before saying he didn't want to admit it before but why would he do it now if he was scared before? Just because of a stroke? I don't think so. If Chris reads this then know that you DO have people out there who believe you! Don't let anyone tell you your wrong if you know your not. I hope you have a good married life with your partner. Don't let anyone tell you different from what you know and let them think what they want to because everyone has a right to an opinion but not to be horrible about it just remember they don't know you so there's nothing they can say at all.!:)

  • Comment number 23.

    I have no comment about whether or not you "woke up gay" - I've always believed as a gay man that some people are innately homosexual and some are environmentally influenced. The main point being that it makes no difference because either way it is not a choice.

    However, what upset (and almost offended) me was how the stereotype of the gay man was pushed on this program. That's not only because of Chris's obvious look, choice of career and voice, but by the way that he comments about his previous life and how he 'couldn't be gay looking like that'.

    Just because you were younger and have pictures of you drinking, flirting with girls, wearing less flamboyant clothing or have a crew-cut, that does not mean you have "pictures to prove it".

    I and my partner are both proud gay men. I came out at 15, he at 39 after a wife and three children, and we are both rarely recnognised as being gay until people are told. I found it very unsettling that in 2012, a gay man himself is still preporting this illusion that gay people LOOK like this, ACT like this and DO THINGS like this.

    The stroke may have made you gay mate, but it didn't make you a queen


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