In the small town of Ystrad Mynach, South Wales, seven years ago, a 19-stone rugby-playing ladies man and bank clerk Chris Birch snapped his neck while larking around doing somersaults and backflips with his friends. As the tabloids excitedly revealed a while ago, he suffered a massive stroke and woke up as a completely different person – a person who happened to be gay.
It’s well-documented that strokes can completely alter a person’s character but Birch is one of the most extreme cases that neurologists have ever seen.
Now 26 and a hairdresser, he has a fiancé called Jak (and no, nobody explains why this cute couple have a curious aversion to the letter C), a dog that wears clothes and a whole new friendship group in the form of the cackling women he works with at the salon. BBC Three clearly spied a glimmer of “the only gay in the village” and ran with it but, if you cast aside the lazy clichés, there was far more interesting stuff to explore.
The crux of the documentary was whether Birch truly “woke up gay” – was it really a transformation, as he insists, or merely a realisation of something that had been dormant within him his whole life? Nobody knows, and the lack of co-operation from people from Birch’s past (including his mother, who is still struggling to come to terms with her reborn son) meant that, by the end of the documentary, we were just as bewildered as we were at the start.
Ultimately, though, it was an extremely uplifting hour of TV because, despite everything he’s been through, Birch absolutely loves his new life.
“I’m happier now than I’ve ever been,” he said from beneath his two-tone, asymmetric fringe. It seems he “woke up gay” in both senses of the word, which is a pretty good outcome from a rare, near-fatal accident.