Actress Kristy McNichol has announced publicly that she is a lesbian.

According to, the 49-year-old McNichol is coming out now to help bullied LGBT young people.

McNichol said she has been in a 20-year-old relationship with her partner Martie Allen, who is also 49.

She said she wanted to come out because she is “approaching 50” and wants to “be open about who I am.”

McNichol is “very sad about kids being bullied,” publicist Jeff Ballard told “She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different.”

McNichol dropped out of Hollywood to focus on her health after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She is best known for playing Buddy Lawrence on the ABC drama Family and Barbara Weston on the NBC sitcom Empty Nest, a spin-off of the long-running comedy hit The Golden Girls. In the late 90s, she voiced characters in the animated TV series Extreme Ghostbusters and Invasion America.

After retiring from acting, McNichol, who resides in Los Angeles, California, has devoted much of her time to charity work.