Holmes was also an army officer and feared repercussions because gay people weren't allowed in the army.
Double Olympic champion Kelly Holmes has come out as gay at the age of 52. The British runner said it was a huge relief to come out as gay, adding that she knew she was gay since she was 17. Holmes, who won gold in the 800 and 1,500 meters at the 2004 Games in Athens, said she had hidden her sexuality out of fear. "I needed to do this now, for me. It was my decision. I'm nervous about saying it. I feel like I'm going to explode with excitement," Holmes told the Sunday Mirror in an interview. "Sometimes I cry with relief. The moment this (interview) comes out, I'm essentially getting rid of that fear." Holmes was also an army officer and said she feared repercussions because gay, lesbian and bisexual people were not allowed to serve in the military at the time. Holmes said she had a breakdown after contracting coronavirus in 2020 and that's what prompted her to come out. "I’m not living my life,” she told herself.
Olympics legend Dame Kelly Holmes broke a 34-year silence to tell the world: “I’m gay.”— The Mirror (@DailyMirror) June 19, 2022
The sporting superstar turned to the Sunday Mirror to come out at the age of 52 – in Pride month.
Behind her beaming smile, Kelly has lived a “secret life” for decades. pic.twitter.com/NfCS9wbwrK
She left her army career in 1997 to focus on athletics. Gay people were allowed to serve in the army in the U.K. only from 2000. Holmes assumed she would face sanctions if she came out. She contacted a military LGBTQ+ leader in 2020, who confirmed that she would have faced no sanctions for coming out. "I was convinced throughout my whole life that if I admitted to being gay in the army I'd still be in trouble," said Kelly. Now, she wishes she had made the call sooner. "I felt like I could breathe again (after the call). One little call could have saved 28 years of heartache." She had come out to her family and friends in 1997 and was accepted, but she never came out to the public for the fear of repercussions.
Holmes said she was in a relationship but didn't want to share details about her girlfriend. She recalled realizing the moment she was gay. Holmes dated boys as a teenager. She joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps in 1988 when she was 17. She recalled a fellow soldier kissing her and it just felt right. “I realized I must be gay, because it felt good. It felt more natural, I felt comfortable,” she said. She first came out to her stepdad and was nervous about it but he accepted her immediately. Holmes said being famous made it that much harder to live her life truthfully and made it difficult for her to come out as gay publicly. Holmes said she had relationships with other women in the army but risked court-martial and jail if they were caught. She even had her locker searched for any evidence of her being lesbian during her term with the army. She recalled it as a "humiliating" and "degrading" experience.
Even though it’s ludicrous that it’s still a thing, it’s wonderful that Dame Kelly Holmes, one of our greatest ever athletes, has found the courage to share her feelings. Proud too that @goalhangerfilms are making her documentary, soon to be aired. https://t.co/tkTfiXjZT5— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) June 19, 2022
Holmes has been showered with affection and support after coming out. The Olympic champion said she was overwhelmed by the support from different quarters. “The response has been truly overwhelming. I never ever visualized this positivity and support. There’s been people from all walks of life, people who have followed me for years, and new people who want to hear what I’ve got to say. People have come out in their droves. I feel overwhelmed – it hasn’t sunk in,” said Holmes, reported Mirror. She recalls cutting herself with scissors prior to the 2003 World Championships finals in France because of the pressure she felt from hiding her true self. "I’d think, ‘No one talks about it in the sport, how do I suddenly say I’m gay?" she said. Her mental health plummeted and she couldn't even seek help from a counselor for the fear of being outed. "I felt stuck in this world where I can’t talk to someone," she said.
Congratulations to Dame Kelly Holmes on coming out as gay. 🏳️🌈— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) June 19, 2022
Kelly's story shows that overcoming stigma to live proudly and authentically can take decades, and at huge personal cost.
We need to fight prejudice at every corner so that all LGBTQ+ people are free to be.
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