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Kristy McNichol, an Emmy-winning actress best known for roles on Family and Empty Nest, has come out to People: she’s a lesbian who has been living with partner Martie Allen (pictured) for 20 years.

Why go public with this information?

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

David Joyner Photo

McNichol has been out of the spotlight for years. In the 1980s, she left acting for awhile due to emotional issues that included bouts of depression and has not appeared in a movie or a TV show since 1998.