One of Britain’s best-known Olympic champions, Dame Kelly Holmes, said on Sunday she was relieved to come out as gay after hiding her sexuality for years. The 52-year-old, two-time gold medalist, also revealed how she struggled with her mental health as she had to keep several same-sex relationships secret during her time in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, from fear of being summoned to court. .
Until 2000 it was illegal for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF), but the law has since changed.
“I had to do it now, for me. It was my decision. I’m nervous to say it. I feel like I’m going to explode with excitement,” Holmes told the ‘Sunday Mirror’ newspaper.
“Sometimes I cry with relief. By the time it comes out, I’m basically letting go of that fear,” she said.
Speaking to coincide with Pride Month which celebrates and raises awareness for LGBTQ+ communities in June, Dame Kelly shared that she realized she was gay aged 17 after kissing a fellow soldier, and that his family and friends had known since 1997.
She reached out to an LGBTQ+ military leader in 2020 to ask if she could be disciplined for breaking Army rules and was told she wouldn’t.
“I felt like I could breathe again, one little call could have saved 28 years of heartache,” she told the newspaper.
Holmes competed in his last major championship in 2004, for a double gold medal performance in the 800 meters and 1500 meters at the Athens Olympics. In 2005, the year she retired from athletics, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II.
She has since been made an Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armored Corps Training Regiment and has also set up a charity to help retired athletes leave their sport.
Social media has been flooded with support for the Olympic champion since her interview, with many praising her bravery which would help other young athletes feel confident about their sexuality.
“I can finally breathe. Yes, I was petrified to post this – you have no idea. This journey has been the hardest part of life. Living with any type of fear is debilitating” , wrote Holmes on Instagram when posting the interview. .
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