Dame Kelly Holmes self-harmed after Army career left her terrified of coming out

Katie Archer

·TV Reporter, Yahoo Entertainment UK

Fri, 24 June 2022, 5:05 pm

Dame Kelly Holmes has spoken about the mental health effects of having to hide her sexuality. (ITV)
Dame Kelly Holmes has spoken about the mental health effects of having to hide her sexuality. (ITV)

Dame Kelly Holmes will open up on the mental trauma she was left with after her Army career left her terrified of coming out in an ITV documentary on Sunday.

The Olympic Gold medallist, 52, came out earlier this week and will give a more in depth look at her struggles with living openly as a gay woman in Sunday’s Kelly Holmes: Being Me.

At one point, Dame Kelly tearfully admits: “I’ve self-harmed, I’ve wanted to commit suicide, all these things because of not being me.”

Dame Kelly Holmes was forced to hide being gay while in the Army. (ITV)
Dame Kelly Holmes was forced to hide being gay while in the Army. (ITV)

In the documentary, she tells how she joined the British Army at the age of 17, working as a physical training instructor in the 80s and 90s – a time when it was illegal for gay people to serve in the Army.

The ban wasn’t lifted until 2000 and the documentary sees Dame Kelly meet various other ex-military people who were imprisoned and thrown out of the Army for being gay.

She says of her own experiences: “They had Royal Military Police and their job was to try and find people who were gay.

“We were tipped off that they were coming in, you would then pile everything into a box and put it in somebody’s boot in the car park.”

The Olympian says she's relieved to have publicly come out. (ITV)
The Olympian says she’s relieved to have publicly come out. (ITV)

The athlete, who met her first girlfriend in the Army, adds that she had her room turned upside down and that the police “violated your space” looking for evidence of homosexuality.

She says that the experience was directly responsible for making her so afraid to come out, even once she left the Army.

“It was very frightening because I didn’t want to lose my career,” she explains.

“When I left the Army I had this fear that if I go talking about being gay, is something going to happen. I couldn’t ask anybody because I was afraid to tell anyone. I had that fear all my life.”

Dame Kelly Holmes was emotional as she spoke on TV for the first time about being a gay woman. (ITV)
Dame Kelly Holmes spoke to Phillip Schofield on This Morning about coming out. (ITV)

At the beginning of the documentary, a clearly nervous Dame Kelly is in tears within minutes of beginning filming as she talks about her sexuality.

She cries as she says: “Basically, I want people to know, directly from me, that I’m a gay woman but I’ve been unable to live my life authentically.

“I feel like I’ve been trapped, it weighs down on you every single day. It puts a barrier up and then people don’t get to know the real you and I don’t want to live my life like that any more.

“I’m just trying to free myself.”

The documentary also shows close friend Alan Carr encouraging her to tell her story and telling her how proud he is of her bravery.

For confidential emotional support contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org

Kelly Holmes: Being Me airs on Sunday, 26 June at 10.20pm on ITV.

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