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How can a stroke "turn" you gay?

Posted in: Heart Health 18 Apr, 2012

Around 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK each year and a third of them will suffer from severe life changes such as a disability. However, some of the alterations which people experience can be to their personality and even sexuality, in the case of Chris Birch.

The 27-year-old ex-womanising rugby player has made the headlines again this week after a BBC3 documentary about his story aired last night. Now 8 stone lighter, he has left his job at a bank to retrain as a hairdresser and sports a new look which involves routine Botox injections.

Although he feels completely comfortable in his new skin, Chris still strives to gain vindication for his theory that the stroke which he suffered “turned” him gay, despite family members, friends, his fiancé and even doctors telling him that this is not possible.

The concept of “turning” gay has been offending readers since the story emerged, as the acceptance of this theory would pave the way for claims that gay people can be “cured”. Despite the fairly objective tone of the documentary, most articles on the subject have maintained the (sometimes implicit) view that he is using the stroke as an excuse to justify his sexuality, and that he has been gay all along.

Alfred Kinsey first suggested the possibility that sexuality was a sliding scale in the 1940s, and this has been adapted and built upon ever since in order to gain an understanding of the sociological and genetic factors involved in a person’s attraction to mostly male or female partners. With 0 being completely heterosexual and 6 being completely homosexual, the Kinsey scale showed that the majority of the population falls between 1 and 5, meaning that they are technically bisexual.

All the neurologists who have examined Chris dismissed the possibility of his stroke making him gay possibly because they view sexuality as black or white, rather than varying shades of grey. Strokes can be caused by high blood pressure or blood clots which cause the brain to become starved of oxygen, killing brain cells. This can occur in any part of the brain, including the areas which control our personality.

Tommy McHugh, a builder from Liverpool, suffered a stroke in 2001 which caused him to discover a passion and talent for art which he had either not previously had, or had not been aware of. Similarly, many stroke patients have reported memory loss causing them to forget aspects of their personality which have been completely different after a stroke.

If sociological factors such as pressure from an environment and life experiences can cause people to develop different parts of their personality, it is only logical to assume that if these factors were to be erased from your memory it may be possible to undergo radical changes such as Chris and Tommy did.

This does not mean that the stroke “turned” Chris gay or Tommy into an artist, but the phrase may not be as much as a non sequitor as it seems on the surface. The correlation between their stroke and their new lifestyles is undisputed, so the debate seems somewhat redundant. And if we insist on asking the question, we should remember that science and medicine will not be able to give us an answer unless the foundations of our quandaries are perhaps based on more open-minded theories.


  • CarolineWednesday, Apr 18, 2012

    I can't help but think that blaming a stroke for 'turning gay' is a bit of an excuse, not that there is any need to make excuses.

  • JamieWednesday, Apr 18, 2012

    What gives people a right to comment on what this guy is going through anyway? I can’t imagine waking up one day with an entirely different sexuality. It’s bad enough as it is without having people passing judgement on things which they clearly don’t understand.

  • MillieWednesday, Apr 18, 2012

    Jamie, if he isn't prepared to face criticism, then he shouldn't have been so public about his experiences. But to be honest, I have no particular views on this topic, as long as people are happy with themselves, who cares about the details?

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