Olympic legend Dame Kelly Holmes has revealed she’s gay – after living a ‘secret life’ for decades.
The 52-year-old sports heroine, who is in a happy relationship, says she wanted to “scream” about her sexuality for years – but felt unable to speak openly.
She bravely chose to break her silence during Pride month after “dark times” as she considered taking her own life.
Dame Kelly, who served in the army, told the Sunday Mirror that she first realized she was gay when she kissed another female soldier when she was just 17.
But she’s kept her true feelings under wraps for years – and endured episodes of self-harm.
Even her celebrations after winning gold in the 800m and 1,500m in Athens were spoiled amid fears of being outed.
The national treasure told the newspaper: “I had to do this for myself now. It was my choice. I’m nervous to say it.
“I feel like I’m about to explode with excitement. Sometimes I cry with relief.”
Dame Kelly feared she would “still be in trouble” if she admitted to being gay in the army, despite family and close friends having known about her sexuality for years.
She joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps in 1988, a month before her 18th birthday.
Back then, the armed forces had a ban on LGBT soldiers that wasn’t lifted until 2000.
After her first kiss with another woman, Kelly wrote to her stepfather to tell him what had happened.
“I was confused and a little scared of what it meant,” she said.
“But he accepted it immediately.”
During her 10-year service, she had relationships with other female soldiers, risked a court-martial, and came out to the rest of her family in 1997.
Between the ages of 27 and 32, she was in a relationship but broke it off to focus on the Olympics.
At 33, however, her mental health began to suffer.
Before the 2003 World Cup final in France, she injured herself by running a tap to drown out the sound of her tears.
“I felt like I had no control over myself,” she said.
“But at the same time, I had this urge to succeed and I was like, ‘If I win gold, I’ll be fine’.”
I feel like I’m about to explode with excitement. Sometimes I cry with relief
Despite her grief, she did not ask for support as she was afraid of being kicked out of Team GB.
In 2020 she suffered Covid and a breakdown – and contacted an LGBTQ+ military leader to ask if she could still face sanctions for her ties with the army.
When the lawyer reassures her, Kelly says, “I felt like I could breathe again.
“One phone call could have saved 28 years of heartache.”
She is now working on a document called “Being Me” about her experiences.
- Visit NHS.uk for more information on how to seek support if you are affected by the issues in this article
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
A life is lost to suicide in the UK EVERY 90 minutes.
It does not discriminate and touches the lives of people in all sectors of society – from the homeless and unemployed to construction workers and doctors, to reality stars and footballers.
It is the leading cause of death for people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car accidents.
And men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Yet it’s rarely talked about, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage if we don’t all stop now and take notice.
That’s why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The goal is that we can all do our part to save lives by providing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health.
Let’s all pledge to ask for help when we need it and to listen to others… You are not alone.
If you or someone you know needs help coping with mental health issues, the following organizations offer support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5592177/dame-kelly-holmes-gay-olympics-army/ Dame Kelly Holmes reveals she is gay as brave Olympian hero, 52, vows to be her ‘real self’ following mental trauma