Last night, a documentary on Chris Birch, the macho rugby player from Wales who suffered a stroke and emerged gay, aired on British television. In I Woke Up Gay, Birch appears to be enormously comfortable with his newfound sexuality (dig those bleached bangs), but he still expresses the frustration and turmoil that typically accompanies burgeoning acceptance of one's queerness. He's convinced that his stroke "turned" him gay, and meets resistance frequently from people bristling at the very notion. (Several turn up in the film, including his current boyfriend.)
It's easy to understand the dissent: removing the idea of volition and considering sexuality as inherent to a person as his or her eye color obliterates the arguments of those who speak out against queer people. It places such sentiment in the realm of unequivocal bigotry. I think a more nuanced argument is that it doesn't even matter if it is a choice because your sexuality is only the business of the people you fuck. (A straight guy electing to suck dick strikes me as superlative queerness.) But we're not there yet, and Birch's story seems counterproductive to the equality cause. It's that hateful Men on Film sketch from In Living Color, in which the flaming Blaine gets hit on the head and turns straight, in reverse. That shit was scarring to watch as a kid.
There is reason for disbelief in this specific case. In the doc, Birch says, "There's loads of things from school that I can't remember, so I can't really tell how different I was." It's conceivable that the holes in Birch's claim are as big as the ones in his memory. Among those irretrievable memories could be ones of repressed gay feelings.
Birch, we learn, was also in a play before his stroke. When his ex-girlfriend shows him a picture of their theater troupe, he says, "I only did that because I fancied you at the time," which is the kind of rationalization a closeted dude would invent. It's not that all people in theater are gay, but Birch is rather fearless when it comes to conforming to stereotypes: in the beginning of I Woke Up Gay, he's introduced as "a gay hairdresser with a love for beauty therapies and rosé wine." It's hard to buy the acting thing as mere coincidence.