Page 3 Profile: Ayla Holdom, RAF pilot

 

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The Independent Online

A high flyer?

Flight Lieutenant Ayla Holdom, 34, is the first and currently the only openly transgender military pilot in Britain. Yesterday she spoke out about returning to work at RAF Chivenor in North Devon as a search and rescue helicopter pilot, having undergone two years’ of operations to become a woman.

That must have put the top brass in a spin?

Quite the opposite. Holdom said that her colleagues were really open in accepting her decision – even the seasoned warrant officers. She went through a number of emotional one-to-one meetings to tell her team about what she was going through.

Holdom feels the military – often perceived as hard and macho – was an easier environment to come out as transgender than civilian life. In the past she’s called the RAF a “benchmark” for progress.

Any one special friend?

One of those conversations was with her fellow search and rescue pilot, Prince William. Holdom trained alongside the Prince while at RAF Valley in Wales. She told the Mail on Sunday how he showed “support” and “understanding” – and also invited Holdom to the Royal Wedding in 2011. It was one of her first work-related outings after going through the transition.

She must be on top of the world?

Yes, but Holdom also explained that her “life has not always been stable”. She explained how in the past she came close to killing herself due to the social pressures of fitting in. And she revealed that as a teenager she felt a “void” – and while she knew she wasn’t gay, battled for a long time with the idea that she might be transgender, because of the stigma attached. Ultimately, it was her confusion that motivated her to join the RAF. She achieved a great deal, but Holdom felt there was always something missing.

So what’s next?

Holdom lives with her wife, Wren, a doctor, in a lesbian relationship. Her home situation is described as a “picture of ordinary domestic life”. Holdom also had her sperm frozen before going through the sex change and the couple hope to start a family.

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