This new memoir recounts how Kelly was forced to hide her sexuality throughout her time in the army and during her sporting career
BY ELLA GAUCI
Dame Kelly Holmes’ new memoir Unique opens amid rainbow chaos. It’s London Pride 2022, and the float has just broken down. She rushes through London to make it to the stage where she will speak in front of thousands of people as an openly gay woman. She’s terrified but exhilarated nonetheless.
This new book follows her previous memoir Kelly Holmes: Black, White & Gold with one vital difference – in Unique, Kelly finally reveals the trauma and difficulty of keeping her sexuality a secret throughout her career.
Most of Britain will be able to tell you where they were when Kelly broke history and took home two gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The country went wild with excitement when the nation’s golden girl came home. However, Unique opens up about the trials and tribulations behind this win.
From growing up as the only mixed-race kid in Kent to serving in the army during the ban on LGBTQIA citizens, Kelly’s memoir documents the power of determination. Regardless of what challenges Kelly came across – from injuries, career setbacks, and navigating the army – it is clear from her writing that she was ready to tackle each and every one.
This memoir comes in the wake of Rishi Sunak’s apology to the LGBTQIA veterans who served under the ban, and Kelly reflects on the lasting impact that this ban has had on her life throughout Unique. Part of this book’s true power comes from its unfiltered and honest recount of being gay in the 1980s and 90s in the army. Kelly details the pain and trauma that came from the constant scrutiny in the army about your sexuality, and how it affected her subsequent Olympic career.
Talking to us as if we were a close friend, Kelly’s story is not just about her sexuality, but also about grieving the loss of “Mother Dear”. There are plenty of heartfelt moments that will make you want to grab a tissue or two. And yet despite her pain, Kelly is still able to bring hope and lightness into her story.
With Kelly’s signature humour and wit, the book feels as though we’re running around the track with the Olympian. Dispersed with photos to bring the book alive – including some snaps with our very own Publisher Linda Riley described by Kelly as “Head Lesbian” – Unique is a book that leaves you with goosebumps.
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