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So could someone gay have a stroke and wake up straight?

From the Radio Times, about a programme this evening on BBC3 TV, entitled I Woke Up Gay:

Documentary about Chris Birch, who used to be a rugby-playing lad with a girlfriend and a job in a bank. However, his life was radically changed by a stroke when he was just 21, and he is now a gay hairdresser with an interest in fashion and interior décor.

The question I ask with my title is of course an attempt to get a smile, if not a lol, but it is also serious. Has anyone gay suffered a stroke and emerged from it straight, with the overwhelming desire to ditch the hairdressing and instead to get a girlfriend and a job in a bank and to take up rugby? Either way, I think the answer would be interesting. Seriously, is this kind of thing a one way street, or can it work in both directions?

Neither answer would obey the gods of Political Correctness. If a stroke can turn you gay, but not make you straight, that would suggest that gays are, at least in some sense, the result of something a lot like brain damage. They are, sort of, a mistake. If a stroke can turn you straight, then maybe those crazy Christians who say that they can straighten out gays may after all be onto something.

A relative of mine recently had a stroke. He lost his peripheral vision and can no longer drive, but otherwise no change. Still no interest in fashion, or not that anyone in the family has heard about.

All this reminds me of that Woody Allen movie (I can’t recall which – they’re all a blur) where someone gets a smack on the head and wakes up right wing.

I entirely realise that strokes are frequently very unfunny. I’m sure we all know about friends or relatives who were not as lucky as my relative, or as Chris Birch was, kind of. I certainly do.

The programme airs at 9pm, and is repeated at 12.30pm in the very small hours of tomorrow morning. I will record it.

22 comments to So could someone gay have a stroke and wake up straight?

  • Yes of course they could. Some gays just turn straight e.g. Tom Robinson and vice versa, these things happen.

  • Paul

    If only someone had written a Libertarian Alliance paper dealing with this issue:


  • I expect so.
    I watched a programme about the brain the other day, featuring a lady who had previously been a scientist of some sort who suffered a stroke and after many years teaching herself to use the other hemisphere of the brain could no longer do science, but was now much better at art.
    Should the part of the brain that controls sexuality be damaged there is no reason to suppose that another part “filling in” should perform the tasks given it in the same way.

  • You are saying that rugby players are not gay already?

  • Midwesterner

    With a near relative having had an extremely damaging stroke, I keep probably hundreds of brain structure related bookmarks. While it doesn’t address your specific question, this article certainly seems apropos in a general sort of way.

  • RAB

    Only the forwards Michael. We Backs stopped well short of shoving our heads up some other chap’s arse. 😉

    Yes of course it is possible. Many people have had head injuries strokes, etc and woken up speaking in a foreign accent or even language.

    How the brain works is still a huge mystery we have barely scratched the surface of.

  • Alisa

    Is that why we keep scratching our heads?

  • RAB

    Could be dear lady, a la Stan laurel 🙂

    Thanks for the link Mid. Being a reasonable artist and with a very good memory, I have always been fascinated by Artistic Savants, who can hardly function in ordinary social circumstances, but have only to take one glance at say, the London skyline as seen from the Eye, and can reproduce it in the finest detail. I couldn’t do it in a month of sundays.

  • Alsadius

    Yeah, I’ve always figured that “born that way” was a truly awful explanation – if it’s really genetic, it’d have been bred out by now, and that’s even before we consider all the evidence of how ridiculously malleable the human brain is. Sexual desire seems to be a matter of association, mostly associations formed in childhood, which is why most people have a fixed orientation(and largely fixed fetishes etc.) from puberty.

    That’s not a particularly PC viewpoint, and I admit that it plays into the hands of the rather loathsome “Pray the gay away!” crowd, but it does have the virtue of actually fitting observed facts.

  • Has anyone said, “Different strokes for different folks” yet?

    From what I’ve read the present orthodox view – that homosexuality is inherent, particularly for males – is on average correct. (Bearing in mind, as always, the immense variability of humanity.) But it is believed with an absoluteness in excess of the evidence. This writer of this article in the Guardian simply assumes that the man in the documentary must be deluding himself when he claims he was straight before. Quite rightly a lot of people in the comments call him out on that.

    I can vaguely remember a time when it was quite common for gay people active in the lesbian and gay movement to assert their pride in their choice to be homosexual, although that view was always stronger among lesbians. For instance, Julie Bindel, currently writing in the Guardian, says that she became a lesbian for feminist reasons.

    Sometime around the mid-eighties the change occurred and in a slightly Orwellian way members of the PC tribe blanked out all memory of their past views.

    It would be interesting to get many individual accounts of changing sexuality, particularly as it is a lot easier now to be (or have been, or be on the way to being) openly homosexual and not active in the gay and lesbian movement (a victim of its own success in that respect) – so we’d be hearing from a wider subset of people.

  • Smited!

    (Deservedly so. Before going off into my usual well-intentioned waffle, I asked if anyone had said, “Different strokes for different folks” yet.)

  • Alsadius

    I was smited as well for the above comment. Odd how we both got censored for saying at least partially opposite things.

  • Paul Marks

    Politically Correctness (i.e. the doctrine invented by the Frankfurt School of Marxism back in the 1920s – with the express objective of underming “capitalist” society).

    A recent example…..

    Ads on the London transport.

    “Gay – Get Over It”

    A Christian group replied with a few advertisements (far fewer than the original ads) saying….

    “No Longer Gay – Get Over It”.

    The “Conservative” Mayor of London (Boris Johnson) promptly banned the Chrisitian ads.

    Actually Mr Johnson (unintentionally) provided a valuable service.

    He showed the line of defence of P.C. doctrine “it does not matter that was invented by Marxists – these days it is in the hands of responsble people….” does not work.

    It is the DOCTRINE of Political Correctness that is not compatible with free speech and the other principles of civil society. Not who happens to be in charge of administering the doctrine.

    After all the P.C. doctrine was DESIGNED to be incompatible with civil society – the whole point of P.C. doctrine (and so on) was to undermine civil society.

  • Mark

    The Woody Allen film is Everyone Says I Love You

  • Petronius

    I heard a BBC interview with the man in question, and of course they failed to ask a few pertinent questions. For example, they never asked if he had also suffered any physical problems from the stroke, like weakness on one side or a temporary aphasia, which might tell us the severity of his stroke. They also never pointed out that many people who undergo a life-threatening illness often reassess their life decisions during their recovery. I know people who got divorced (or married) or changed careers after some extreme experience. Until we develop some lab test for homosexuality it reamins a difference of opinion.

    I also wonder if his experience will encourage some people to try to develop a brain operation to cure homosexuality? That will ruffle some feathers!

  • I believe the muslim world has already developed a brain operation that cures homosexuality.

    It involves starving the brain of oxygen until the aberant behavior ceases.

    It does have some side effects but…

  • Rich Rostrom

    There are lots of cases of brain trauma leading to dramatic changes in behavior. Oliver Sacks has cited many. In Musicophilia, he tells of a middle-aged cardiologist who was struck by lightning, and developed an intense, completely unprecedented interest in classical piano.

    Alsadius: if it’s really genetic, it’d have been bred out by now…

    Evolution doesn’t work that way.

    In the first place, homosexual impulses don’t rigidly block reproduction. Many male homosexuals have fathered children (Oscar Wilde had two); lesbians just have to hold still.

    In the second place, most “bad” traits persist as recessives. (Homosexuality being considered “bad” for reproduction.) The persons who express a bad trait may die, or otherwise not reproduce, but the carriers of it aren’t affected. Carriers will occasionally mate and produce an expressor. Selection pressure will reduce the occurrence of the trait, but not eliminate it.

    When the trait has only limited negative effects, the selection pressure is even weaker.

    It is probable that homosexuality usually arises from a combination of inherited qualities and environmental factors. When the environmental factors are missing, there is no selection pressure against the genetic component at all.

  • It is also possible that the same genetic factors that lead to homosexuality in males also lead to greater fertility in females. If the increase in fertility in females due to these genes is greater than the decrease in fertility in males, then they confer an evolutionary advantage, particularly if less fertile males help to rear and/or protect the offspring of related children.

    As Rich says, these things are complex.

  • PeterE

    There’s a piece in today’s Times by Matthew Parris making pretty much the same point – that for very many of people, being “gay” or “straight” is a matter of choice, not the way you were born. This of course contradicts the politically correct orthodoxy that gays are just “made that way”.

  • guy herbert

    Matthew Parris’s other point in that article is a more important one. It is that one that brings me close to apoplexy every time I get into this sort of discussion: the very idea of gay and straight, of homosexual and homosexual people, of sexuality falling into neatly classified types that have some meaning beyond social classification, and the type you have forming a fundamental part of your identity, is a recent invention, from the 19th century. It is contemporaneous with a similar piece of arbitrary classification that has been seized as real and used politically in a number of different ways: that of race.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    I remember a study a few years back which found evidence of sexual identity being linked to birth order- if the last child of a large family was a son, he would be much more inclined to homosexual behaviour, for instance- whilst if the first child of a large family was a daughter, she, being the oldest and most domineering, would be most likely to become a lesbian in later life. That would seem to indicate some psychological aspect to gender bias.

  • andrewdb

    Nuke – I have read much speculation related to birth order and sexual orientation, but in what I have read it is usually attributed to hormonal or other changes in the mother’s immune system resulting from the prior pregnancies. The idea of “domineering” is not given much support at least currently.