At the age of 52, Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes has come out as gay.
In 198 8When she was 17, she was a soldier in the Women’s Royal Army Corps and kissed a female comrade when she realized she was lesbian, she claimed.
She kept that side of herself secret for fear of being caught, as same-s*x relationships were prohibited in the military.
Dame Kelly, on the other hand, said the global pandemic taught her that it was time to be her ‘true self and express herself after years of being closed off led to crises and thoughts of suicide.
She says she feels ‘free’ now that she’s come out on her own circumstances, telling the Sunday Mirror: ‘I needed to do this now, for me.’ It was my choice. I’m a little hesitant to say it. I feel like I’m going to burst out of my skin with joy.
‘I cry with relief from time to time. I’m effectively getting rid of that worry the instant this comes out.’
She also spoke openly about the years of anguish she went through before coming out, especially since there was so much suspicion about her sexuality at the time.
‘I was sure my entire life that if I revealed to being homosexual in the Army, I’d still be in trouble,’ she claimed, adding that her close friends and relatives had known for years that she is lesbian.
Dame Kelly is in a love relationship, and while she won’t discuss the details, she expresses her admiration for her partner, adding, “It’s the first time I’ve had someone that I don’t introduce as a PA or friend.”
She went on to say that while she has “no disrespect” for former lovers, they have only been a “tiny portion” of her life.
‘They haven’t been with me in this terrifying world in 34 years.’
The retired distance runner went on to discuss life in the spotlight, revealing that as her celebrity grew, it became more difficult for her to come out.
She also wished she had had “role models” to look forward to when she was younger, because “school s*x education had nothing to with being gay” while she was growing up, during a time when “the stigma of homos*xuality was particularly bad because of the AIDS pandemic.”
Dame Kelly said it felt more natural and ‘comfortable’ to kiss a female friend in the forces a month before she turned 18 when she realized she liked girls.
She remembers writing a letter to her stepfather at the time, admitting to being “nervous” and “scared” about informing him what had happened, but he was instantly receptive.
Despite “everyone knew who was gay” because it was “never spoken about,” the Olympian proceeded to date other female troops during her ten years in the army, fearing court-martial if they were discovered.
‘There was this pub with a back dance floor and a pool table where everyone we knew who was gay would go.’ You could be yourself and then return to your barracks,’ she said, before going on to say that when she was 23, her quarters were searched by Royal Military Police.
She assumed this was a method of determining who was a lesbian, which Dame Kelly describes as “terrifying” because she could have been arrested.
‘It’s humiliating, it’s insulting – it seems disrespectful when you’re serving your country and doing a decent job,’ says the soldier. You feel violated as if you’re being treated like a major villain.
‘Those memories stayed with me because I didn’t want to lose my work, which I enjoyed. But I thought the law was incorrect.’
Despite long struggles with depression and ‘not wanting to be here anymore,’ Dame Kelly is now in a much healthier and happier place.