The RAF’s only openly transgender plane pilot, Flight Lieutenant Ayla Holdom, has given a moving interview to the Mail on Sunday in which she discusses her life – and was full of praise for the way in which her colleagues in Britain’s Royal Air Force accepted her transition.
Holdom, now aged 34, says that she knew she was different from around the age of four, but that the pressure to fit in almost drove her to suicide.
‘From being a teenager I felt a void inside me. It drove me to achieve, to join the military, to fly, to qualify as a search-and-rescue pilot, but it was never, ever enough, because my essential self didn’t correspond to my external image and who could live that kind of lie?
‘I knew I wasn’t a gay man, I couldn’t tick that box. But it is a huge step to ask yourself if you might be transgender because of the stigma attached to it.
‘You know you risk being ostracized, ridiculed, belittled and made to feel somehow less human. You are the punchline in a big joke, or worse, still deemed to have a psychological condition.
‘You are considered a freak and you put your career, your family ties and your friendships on the line. That’s why you deny it, why you deny it even to yourself until the need to do something about it is so overwhelming it makes life impossible – truly impossible.’
Instead of suicide, Holdom instead decided to transition – a move supported by her family, and her wife, Wren, with whom she continues to live at RAF Chivenor in North Devon.
The two now live in a lesbian relationship and plan to try and start a family, as Holdom had some of her sperm frozen from when she was living as a man.
Deciding to undergo transition meant explaining the decision to her RAF colleagues, including Prince William. The two served together on search and rescue when the Prince was a member of the small, tight-knit team of 20 at RAF Valley.