A trans contestant on the gruelling Channel 4 show SAS: Who Dares Wins has been praised for sharing her story on prime time TV.
The programme sees 21 contestants head to Scotland to be put through the mentally and physically challenging SAS selection process, recreated by former Special Forces soldiers.
The first episode of the sixth season aired on Sunday (9 May), and one contestant in particular captured the hearts of viewers.
Holly, 32, is a trans woman from Manchester and has become the show’s first-ever trans recruit in its six-year run.
Although at one point in the first episode Holly collapsed from dehydration, she was cleared by doctors to continue with the competition, which Channel 4 has described as the “toughest, most unforgiving selection course in the six-year history of SAS: Who Dares Wins“.
Explaining her decision to apply for the show, she said during Sunday’s episode: “I’m at a stage in my life where I feel comfortable with who I am.”
Fans took to Twitter to praise Holly, with one writing: “It must take absolute courage as a trans female to go on SAS: Who Dares Wins. Take my hat off to Holly, she should be proud to even be there sharing her story to the world!”
“So chuffed to see Holly competing on the hellscape SAS: Who Dares Wins,” said another. “More trans representation on prime time TV please.”
It must take absolute courage as a trans female to go on #SASWhoDaresWins take my hat off to Holly, she should be proud to even be there sharing her story to the world!
— courtenay taylor 🏴🇯🇲 (@CourtTaylor95) May 9, 2021
So chuffed to see Holly competing on the hellscape #SASWhoDaresWins More trans representation on prime time tv please 👏🏳️⚧️
— Hannah Mackie (@HeyMack_) May 9, 2021
— Autumn (@autumnxjean) May 9, 2021
Great to see Holly representing the trans community on #SASWhoDaresWins. I hope that she gets something positive out of the experience!
— Jonny Bentley (@TheJonnyBentley) May 9, 2021
In an interview with Channel 4 before her appearance on the show, Holly said: “I turned 30 not long before signing up and as a transgender woman with mental health issues, who has been single her entire life, I guess I was really insecure in myself.
“Plus what woman wants to date a 6’4 trans muscle queen?
“So one of the reasons I signed up was because with my mental health issues and feeling like I was going to be single for the rest of my life, having never had a relationship, I needed to do something to prove to myself that no matter what life throws at me I’m going to be OK.
“I also wanted to make my parents proud and prove to them that I’m strong mentally.”
She added that the show made her feel “more comfortable in social situations” and more “willing to open up a bit more to people”.
“I don’t fit expectations,” Holly, who works as an aerial silks artist and circus performer, continued.
“I have no intention of turning myself into a slim blonde Barbie doll to make it easier for society to cope. I identify as female but I don’t want an hour glass figure as I love my aerial circus disciplines which demand a strong physique.
“I always feel like people just want to put me in the male box because that’s going to make it easier for them… But after this experience and the respect I received from the other recruits, I feel a lot more secure in myself and my identity, so am more positive about the future now.”
Since competing on SAS: Who Dares Wins, Holly has been “inspired to start a community circus organisation dedicated to providing a safe space and an alternative to the gym”.
“We especially welcome the LGBTQ+ community and those suffering with mental health issues,” she said.
“We offer the chance to learn aerial circus disciplines and crossfly which blends crossfit with aerial circus disciplines.
“I also feel so much more confident in myself and my identity. I can say I truly accept myself now, which for me is a huge step forwards.
“I also have a lot of pride in my identity and my story which I hope is going to help give people the courage to step out into the world as their true selves.”