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Rugby player who 'woke up gay' after stroke says he's happier than ever

London, Wed, 18 Apr 2012 ANI
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London, Apr 18 (ANI): When 19-stone rugby player Chris Birch suffered a stroke during a freak accident, his life was transformed in a way that no one could have ever predicted.

When he regained consciousness, the 26-year-old, who was engaged to his girlfriend at the time, found out that his sexuality had completely altered.

"The Chris I knew had gone and a new Chris sort of came along. I came to the realisation that the stroke had turned me gay," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

He is now the subject of a BBC3 documentary, chronicling his attempt over the past few months to make sense of his new identity.

Birch had been attempting a forward roll down a hill in 2011 when the blood supply to his brain was cut off causing a stroke.

During a stroke the areas starved of oxygen, brain cells die and this can cause damage. However, the brain can make new neural connections and find different pathways to achieve the same thing.

Some scientists believe it is possible that during this recovery process a patient could discover a new skill, accent or even a new sexuality. However, personality changes following a stroke are rare and there have been no documented cases of a stroke changing a person's sexuality.

But Birch, for one, is convinced. Within a year of his stroke he had quit his job at a bank and become a hairdresser, moved out of his family home in the Welsh valleys and started meeting men.

"It was a weird experience," he told the film crew.

"You walk into somewhere and you go from liking that girl to liking that boy," he said.

He found the changes traumatic and admitted it was a "lonely time" when he was afraid to tell anybody about his new sense of self.

"It was quite a scary process. Being with the first guy was a very odd experience. I didn't know what I was doing," he said.

Chris has been putting together a memory box of anything that jogs vague recollections from his past life, such as photos from his school. It includes a photo from his school prom and a badge from the Isle of Man TT Race.

"This jogs something in me," he said holding a pin badge from a trip to see the Isle of Man TT Race.

"Old Chris likes motorbikes, I really don't care anymore," he said.

He has also developed some old films from a holiday taken just before his accident and wasn't best pleased with the results.

"I look awful.

"It sums old Chris up, my God I looked chavvy! It feels like looking at somebody else but with my face," he added.

The change has put a huge strain on his family and he has lost several close friends. He has also had to deal with negative reactions from strangers after telling his story to the media.

In a documentary, Birch is seen trying to rebuild his relationship with his mother.

The 27-year-old said when he was ill his mother took him back and forth to the doctors and was very protective. Now he goes to the hospital appointments alone and barely speaks to her.

"It would be nice if my mother played more of a role in my life, because I always seem happy in the photos that she is in," he said.

Despite all the difficulties Chris said he has no regrets over how his life has turned out. Within a few months of moving out from home he met his then boyfriend and now fiance Jak Powell.

Powell has his own theory that Chris has always been gay and the accident just helped him to realise it.

"People grow up not knowing they are gay and have families and then they realise they are gay, but they don't have a stroke to realise it," Powell said.

"I think eventually if you hadn't had the stroke it would have happened anyway," he said. (ANI)

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