The BBC aired a documentary this week about a British straight man who, after suffering a stroke, "woke up gay." Torsten Højer takes a look.
In a country that’s battling to drum into the right-wing public that some people are born gay—and therefore not a valid target for discrimination—it’s not helpful when a straight man comes out to proclaim that one morning, he woke up gay. But that’s what happened in the UK this month, as 26-year-old Welsh guy Chris Birch starred in a BBC documentary to announce that he’s left his days as an overweight rugby-playing skirt chaser behind to become a camp shirt lifter—overnight.
Well, kind of.
The story tells us that last year, in the small Welsh town of Ystrad Mynach, Chris Birch suffered from a stroke after injuring his neck while rolling down a hill. After coming to, he came out, claiming that the trauma had transformed him into a completely different person, now more keen on beauty treatments, rose wine and hairdressing (his newly chosen profession) than his previous loves of sport, beer and working in a bank.
So, as London buses chug around London emblazoned with a groundbreaking advertising campaign funded by the gay rights organization Stonewall displaying the words "Some People Are Gay – Get Over It!" Chris Birch (who now spells his name Kris, for some unknown reason) is arguing that sexuality can alter at the flick of a switch.
Okay, so it’s well-documented that strokes can have a massive impact on the victim—stories of people waking up suffering from depression, exhibiting violent behavior or, more oddly, suddenly speaking with a Jamaican accent or a talent for crochet, for example, are widespread.
“Emotional changes are typical after any type of stroke,” says Dr. Janet Spradlin, a rehabilitation psychologist at St. Anthony Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma City. “Depression is very common after any life-changing health challenge, especially if it means a loss of independence. While depression is the most common emotional change after stroke, other psychological changes can be equally debilitating or frustrating.”
It can also affect the way we think and our emotional responses.
Apparently, as you can see from the photo, it can also seriously damage taste in hairstyles.
The focus of the BBC documentary was to discover whether Kris had really suddenly become gay or whether it was laying dormant throughout his life and the stroke simply connected the bits that were previously buried. Unsurprisingly, it failed to offer any answer to this question, showing all the people in Kris’s life—from friends to neurologists, family to ex-girlfriends—bewildered about his newly acquired ‘condition.'
Jak, his boyfriend, also seemed uncertain, voicing concerns that if Kris’s sexuality had altered so quickly, it might revert back at any time. As the couple is planning to marry soon, let’s hope it doesn’t. Although ‘I’m Getting Divorced as I’ve Woken Up Straight Again’ would make a fabulous follow-up.
Of course, the Kris Birch story is now one of the biggest talking points online, in bars, and in, er, hair salons around the UK, with old toothless women as interested in the gossip as gay rights campaigners and the anti-gay press.
It’s offered an easy time to poke fun at the age-old stereotypes of Kris’s new life, and for groups less tolerant of ‘the gay agenda’ to question the validity of claims that people are born pre-programmed with sexual orientation.
To me, the overwhelming but perhaps unintended conclusion of the documentary was that Kris was dealing with his newfound Friend of Dorothy status so well, stating in the show that he’d never want to go back to the old Chris. “I'm happier now that I ever have been, why would I want to change?' he said.
Good on you Kris—welcome to a life of glitter and fabulousness!
For more, visit bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00q8wcb