I never thought I would say this, but there is good news in Orange County this morning! Yesterday, Real Housewives of Orange County star Braunwyn Windham-Burke came out as a lesbian in an interview with GLAAD, telling the organization: “I’m finally comfortable enough to say: I like women. I’m gay. I’m a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m a lesbian. And it has taken me 42 years to say that.” Now, Windham-Burke has shared her first photo with girlfriend Kris via Instagram, and I am feeling more emotional about it than I probably should be.
In her announcement yesterday, Windham-Burke said that “I’m just now starting to feel like I’m becoming the woman I was supposed to be” after getting “married very young” to husband Sean Burke, who she has been with for 20 years. The couple also share seven children. She continued about their marriage:
“Honestly, we are in uncharted territory. I don’t have a role model for this. I don’t have anyone to go to for answers. So right now, we’re just doing our own way. You know, Sean and I are still married. I plan on staying married...We’re raising the kids together. He’s my best friend. He knows the girl I’m dating; her name is Kris. I mean, we go to parties together! She came over the other night, hung out with the family, had dinner with us. I mean, it’s only as weird as you make it.”
To say that this is unprecedented would be severely underselling it. Windham-Burke joins a group of women who make up the Real Housewives who have, in the past, said they have slept with women, or are bisexual, or simply “experimented.” There are also a host of people in orbit around the franchise, friends and stylists and background characters, who are gay and trans. But she is undoubtedly the first core cast member of any Real Housewives show, in 16 years, to openly identify as a gay woman and a lesbian. And on the notoriously Republican and regressive Real Housewives of Orange County at that!
Early in the pandemic, and documented throughout the current season, Windham-Burke revealed her journey towards sobriety. She also announced that she and Burke had split, but were still married and best friends. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight in October, Windham-Burke also discussed the summer uprisings, and revealed that in conversations off-camera about Black Lives Matter with her cast members, she felt she didn’t “belong here,” because there wasn’t a “decent human on the cast.” She also claimed that there “isn’t anyone I can turn to when it comes to how I feel vocally, how I feel about Black Lives Matter, how I feel about LGBTQIA+ rights.” As she told Entertainment Tonight, the attitude among the cast about these subjects is “very indicative of where we live.”
In her interview with GLAAD, Windham-Burke also discussed her kid Jacob, who has done drag on-camera throughout the season. “I think with the temperament of the country right now, sometimes you forget how many good people there are. At least I have at times. Just to see the amount of love and acceptance for my son, it has been beautiful.” In contrast to this, she also told ET that “the rest of the cast, instead of listening and supporting when they had a chance to be an ally, they were just really judgemental and put it down.”
In all, it’s the deeply entrenched, thoroughly conservative environment on Real Housewives of Orange County that makes Windham-Burke’s announcement feel so special. I’ve long wondered what the future of the franchise might look like, with the rest of her castmates barreling towards outright bigotry and violence. By all accounts, that future might look a lot like Windham-Burke, and nothing like chaos merchant and covid-19 denier Kelly Dodd.
Now to the good news: Here’s Windham-Burke with her girlfriend, Kris. Congrats to the happy couple, and may they have some bit of peace this week.