Dame Kelly Holmes on making the decision to come out: 'I thought this has got to change'

Virgin Radio

27 Jun 2022, 12:36

Dame Kelly Holmes

Credit: Getty

Dame Kelly Holmes has spoken out on her decision to come out as gay aged 52 and the incredible support she has received from the community. 

The former Olympic champion revealed her news to the world last week and speaking to virginradio.co.uk and other press at the LGBT Awards on Friday (24 June), Holmes said there was one life event in particular that pushed her to make this incredibly brave decision. 

She explained: “It was for a few different reasons. My mum passing away was a big one. You know, when somebody passes away, you realise they don’t have their life to live, and if you wake up every day and realise you don’t live your life- I realised I needed to do that.

“It was still a struggle to decide how to do it, you know, I’m not somebody that would just shout at the top of the room and say ‘look at me’. So I had to make that process for me to deal with.”

She continued: “Then the past couple of years, all of us have really struggled through lockdown, and I got COVID really bad, and I just thought we’re all going to pass away, and I don’t want to pass away with my friends family being at my funeral and saying ‘wasn’t it a shame she couldn’t live her life’.”

Holmes, who was in the army before becoming an athlete, has previously said she first realsied she was gay at the of 17 after kissing a fellow female soldier and that her family and friends have known since 1997. 

Holding onto this part of herself for so long was beginning to affect her wellbeing, and she decided enough was enough.

The former Olympian said: “I had some really bad mental health problems, and I thought this has got to change. I can’t deal with this anymore. You’ve got to remember this was 33 years ago. It’s been 34 years of keeping something inside me that I couldn’t say because of the army. 

“So yeah, I’ve been on a journey.”

Coming out can be an extremely difficult thing to do, especially when it has been something you have kept to yourself for such a long time, but Dame Kelly has been overwhelmed by the love and support she has received from the community. 

She added: “Everybody’s been so warm and so generous. People may well come and say, ‘oh we knew what you were anyway’. But that assumption doesn’t free somebody, you know, that doesn’t make any difference. I didn’t really care what people thought about it, me being able to say it makes a difference.”

The athlete also believes that there needs to be more acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in the sporting industry, particularly the Olympics. 

She added: “You have to remember in the Olympics, there are maybe even 11 countries where it’s still punishable by death, or it’s illegal to be gay. So you’ve got that barrier parallel to those countries where it’s okay.”

She went on: “The more people are given visibility, the better. You’ve got more role models now and younger people getting into sport who are in the community will think, ‘Okay, great. I’ve maybe got an opportunity in life to do something.’

“We’ve still got a long way to go, but that’s not my fight. I’ve got my own fight at the moment, and all I hope is that any authority gives people the opportunity to be them, and that’s right across the board.”