Coming out is a scary endeavor, no matter how well you think your family and friends are likely to respond. And it’s even scarier when you’re on Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County with your husband and seven kids — but today, Braunwyn Windham-Burke stepped up to the plate and spoke her truth anyway. “I am a lesbian,” the reality star wrote on Instagram. “At 43 years old, I’ve finally been able to accept this part of myself and I’ve realized there are no rules about when someone should come out. This is my time.” And in a deeper interview with GLAAD, Braunwyn reflects on why she was able to keep this part of herself hidden for so long, and admits that the substance abuse issues she recently addressed played a big role in suppressing the truth.
In a video interview with GLAAD’s Anthony Ramos, Braunwyn explained how she came to this moment of wanting to come out, a process she says started with her getting sober and learning how to sit with her feelings for the first time.
“This year, I got sober, which I know there is a correlation between the two,” said Braunwyn. “One of the main reasons I drank was I’ve always been uncomfortable in my own skin. I always felt a little bit not right especially in social situations and so when you get sober you sort of just have to sit in that uncomfortable.”
“There was a good chunk of my life during quarantine that was devoted to taking inventory: why do I feel these resentments toward my husband?” she continued. “I slowly but surely got to the core of it, which is, I’m with the wrong gender. And that’s something that is really hard to get over until you admit it and then start working on it.”
Braunwyn clarifies that she’s always known inside she was attracted to women. But it’s taken decades to feel like living her truth publicly was even an option.
“I’m just now starting to feel like I’m becoming the woman I was supposed to be,” she says. “So, for me to be living completely authentically and say, ‘I’m a lesbian. That was who I have always been.’ This isn’t something that is new ‘cause that I think is what a lot of people will think. ‘Oh, suddenly you’re one.’ No, I’ve always known it. But it took me personally 42 years to be comfortable enough in my own skin to say that.”
Now, Braunwyn is happily dating a woman named Kris while remaining married 4to husband Sean, with whom she’s sharing a home but not a bedroom.
“We are in uncharted territory,” she laughs. “I mean, we go to parties together! She came over the other night, hung out with the family…This sort of became something that I didn’t want to hide anymore, and I didn’t want to keep a secret anymore. I wanna be able to go out to dinner with whoever I want without judgment. You know, as long as my husband was OK and the person I was dating was OK and knows everything. I didn’t wanna have to hide this anymore.”
Braunwyn knows that, as a reality star, she’ll still have plenty of people offering up their judgment unasked. But having the acceptance of her family and loved ones has let her live freely for the first time ever, and made her brave enough to go public. As the first lesbian Real Housewives star, Braunwyn just made history.
Before you go, click here to see all the celebrities who have talked about being bisexual, sexually fluid, pansexual, or queer.