Kristy McNichol, 'Family' and 'Empty Nest' Actress, Comes Out as Lesbian

Kristy McNichol 2012

The former sitcom star made the announcement in hopes of helping others who are victims of bullying.

Kristy McNichol, best known for her roles on Family and Empty Nest, has been out of the spotlight for quite some time, but decided to walk back into the public eye, announcing that she is a lesbian, and revealing that she has been happily living with her partner for that past two decades.

PHOTOS: Midseason TV Preview of 17 New Shows Premiering in 2012

The actress, who no longer works in the business, told People that she made the decision to come out as a lesbian because she is "approaching 50" and wants to "be open about who I am."

Her publicist told People that McNichol is upset about young people being bullied. "She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different,” said the rep.

STORY: Why Emmy Snubs Kids

McNichol, 49, also provided a photo to people, showing her and her partner Martie Allen, also 49, smiling at a dinner.

McNichol played Buddy Lawrence on the show Family in the 70s, and won an Emmy for her work on the show. She also starred as Barbara Weston on Empty Nest. She also had several roles in films, including in 1980’s Little Darlings.

She has not worked in the industry in years, focusing on her personal life and health. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1992. Currently living in Los Angeles, she spends her free time traveling, playing tennis and doing yoga.