Sara Gilbert has been very open about her sexuality in recent years, but there was a time early on in her career when she wasn't quite as comfortable letting people know who she really was. Johnny Galecki, her Roseanne costar and ex-boyfriend, helped change that.
Gilbert opened up about their relationship, and its role in her coming to terms with being gay, during an emotional episode of The Talk on Thursday, Sept. 12. (Each of the show's co-hosts are sharing confessions as part of a secret-spilling week; prior to Gilbert's revelation, Julie Chen admitted to having plastic surgery in order to make her "Asian eyes" look bigger.)
"So, some of you may know that when I was a teenager, I dated Johnny Galecki for a little while, who played my boyfriend and husband on Roseanne," Gilbert began. "And I thought he was super cute and had a total crush on him, and we started dating, and he would come over, and we would make out, and then I would start to get depressed."
She continued: "Johnny felt badly, I think, and started to take it personally and didn't know what was going on. So I eventually told him that I thought it was about my sexuality and he was super sweet about it."
(He's still super sweet. Gilbert noted at the end of her confession that she had given Galecki a heads up that she would be discussing this on The Talk, and he offered to come on the show to hold her hand while she did it.)
The former child star, now 38 and engaged to Linda Perry, noted that Galecki never betrayed her trust by telling anyone what she had told him -- but she lived in fear anyway. "I started dating a woman who was like 18 years older than I was, who was also in the public eye, and it was something that people could have found out about," she revealed. "No one knew at the show for years, and Johnny held the secret the whole time, and I just felt like always so scared [about], if it came out, what could happen. Would I lose my career? Could I ever play a straight role again?"
That fear still haunts her. "When I talk about my sexuality on the show or in public, I still feel really scared," Gilbert admitted, her voice breaking. "So I'll try to act confident or I'll make jokes about it, but there's still a piece of me that goes, 'Well, what is this costing me in career?'"
She continued: "And it's not that I'm not thrilled to be who I am and so grateful to have the life that I have, because I really am. But, for example, even when I got engaged, there was a piece of me that was like, 'Oh, wow, I've gotta say this now to everybody.'"
"I want to live a true life," she concluded. "And beyond that, I guess I just want people to know that we do often say things like 'it gets better' -- and it does get better. And like I said, I have an amazing life. But I want people to know that there can still be a struggle with it, and that's okay. It really is like a process. There can be a part of you that doesn't want to be different or feel scared. And that is maybe more important than any of it."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Sara Gilbert: I Realized I Was Gay While Dating Johnny Galecki