ITV Pridecast Kelly Holmes: Letting the world in and finally being me
Dame Kelly Holmes MBE is one of the most respected and recognisable athletes the UK has ever produced. Many will remember when she triumphed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens to bring home two gold medals, and scenes of sheer joy following her incredible achievement.
Kelly has won an array of medals during her sporting career, making her an Olympic, Commonwealth and European Champion and she continues to hold British records in the 800m and 1000m. Undoubtedly, to reach such sporting heights Kelly needed to have a great deal of determination and discipline. In many ways, that discipline came from her military career, when she joined the British Army aged 18. Whilst serving, she became a HGV driver and then a Physical Training Instructor and in 1998 she was awarded an MBE for her services to the British Army. It was in 2018 that she was made Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps.
Despite all her sporting and military success though, Kelly was having to hide a very important part of her life. Before the year 2000, LGBTQ+ people were banned from serving in the British Armed Forces - a rule that existed even after homosexuality had been decriminalised in the UK in 1967. Those who were found out or assumed to be LGBTQ+ in the military, were ‘discharged with disgrace’, losing all their medals and their pension.
Living in fear that someone might find out that she’s a gay woman, Kelly kept part of her life secret and only her closest friends and family knew her story. However this year, Kelly decided to let the world in. In a documentary on ITV called Kelly Holmes: Being Me, Kelly came out and discussed her struggle in telling people about who she is and her deep concerns about being found out in the military.
Now she is working tirelessly to support ex-service people who may have been discharged from the military, just because they’re LGBTQ+. The UK Government is currently gathering evidence from people who may have served up until 2000, for the LGBT Veterans Independent Review. The aim is for the government to understand, acknowledge and, where appropriate, address the impact the ban has had on veterans today, which Kelly is a massive champion of.
Following her documentary, the ITV Embrace, Pride, and Women’s Network came together to chat with Kelly about her story and how she has become so much more aware of her own intersectionality. The event which was held early in October, was also a celebration of Black History Month and a chance to find out how race has impacted on Kelly’s life as well. The talk was also recorded as an episode for the ITV Pridecast and alongside Liam McConkey to host it was Simmone Gardiner, from the Women’s Network and Sonny Hanley from the Embrace Network.
Kelly Holmes’s documentary, Kelly Holmes: Being Me, is still available to watch on the ITV Hub.
More information on the LGBT Veterans Independent Review, can be found on the UK Government website.