Double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Homes has announced that she’s gay, after keeping her sexuality secret for 34 years.
In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, the 52-year-old, who won gold in the 800m and 1500m at the Athens Olympics in 2004, also spoke about the severe mental health difficulties she had been through while keeping her sexuality secret.
Until 2000, LGBT+ people were banned from serving with the armed forces, and because of this, Holmes said she feared retribution if she was to reveal her sexuality. She says she had relationships with other female soldiers during her 10 years in the Army but kept them secret, as she risked court martial if they were caught.
She also explained how, even when she left the Army to pursue her full-time athletics career, she still felt unable to speak about her sexuality publicly. ‘I’d think, “No one talks about it in the sport, how do I suddenly say I’m gay? I can’t because I’m admitting that I broke the law in the Army”.’
She also told the Sunday Mirror that she feared being pulled from the Team GB squad if she opened up about her mental health struggles and asked for anti-depressants. ‘I couldn’t go to a counsellor because if I tell them I’m gay they might tell someone. It was lonely. I felt stuck in this world where I can’t talk to someone.’
Holmes, who won Commonwealth gold in Victoria 1994 and Manchester 2002, reveals that she had suicidal thoughts in 2003 and had self-harmed before the Athletics World Championship finals in Paris, where Holmes had won silver.
‘I was in a holding camp bathroom and literally wanted to scream so loud, I put the tap on to dull my tears. I did not want to be here anymore.
‘I cut myself on the arms and legs because I felt I had no control over myself. It was a release.
‘Yet at the same time I had this pull to succeed, thinking, "if I win gold it will all be okay".'
She says that running helped her cope with the mental strain of hiding her sexuality during a time when her mental health had reached rock bottom.
However, she reveals she ‘could have saved 28 years of heartache’ if she had spoken to someone in the military sooner about the repercussions associated with revealing her sexuality.
After a mental breakdown in 2020, Holmes finally decided to contact a military LGBTQ+ leader to ask if she could still face sanctions for her Army relationships and the advocate told her she would not.
This helped her take steps to come out publicly, and in January she began filming a documentary about her experiences.
Now out publicly, Holmes feels immense relief, as though she can ‘breathe again’.
Holmes has received an outpouring of support from the elite sporting community and has posted on her Instagram saying ‘the support has been overwhelming, I actually don’t think I can take it all in and process it right now.’
Her documentary ‘Kelly Holmes Being Me’ is out on 26 June at 9pm on ITV1.
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