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Kristy McNichol, 'Empty Nest' And 'Family' Actress, Comes Out As Lesbian In People Magazine

First Posted: 01/07/12 09:55 AM ET Updated: 01/07/12 10:16 AM ET

Yesterday, Kristy McNichol, best known for her roles on the TV shows "Family" and "Empty Nest," joined the ranks of celebrities who have come out of the closet.

People reports that McNichol, who was beloved for playing Buddy Lawrence in the '70s show "Family," for which she won an Emmy, and later Barbara Weston on the "Golden Girls" spin-off "Empty Nest," revealed she is a lesbian because she is "approaching 50" and wants to "be open about who I am."

The former actress, who has lived with partner Martie Allen for almost two decades, says she is also choosing now to come out because she "is very sad about kids being bullied... and she hopes that coming out can help kids who need support," her publicist Jeff Ballard told People, adding, "She would like to help others who feel different."

Many LGBT stars have stepped up (and out) to speak out against teen bullying, often in the form of "It Gets Better" videos, which feature celebrities giving teens hope and advice on how to survive tormenting from their peers.

McNichol began her acting career with guest roles on shows like "Starsky and Hutch" and "The Bionic Woman," but hasn't regularly starred in a television series since the mid-nineties. People reports that she quit acting to "focus on her health," and now spends her time on "tennis, yoga, travel and raising her beloved miniature dachshunds."

For a look at 25 other stars who surprised the world when they came out of the closet, check out the slideshow below.

Jonathan Knight, 2011
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The New Kids On The Block singer was out-ed by fellow '80s teen pop star Tiffany in January 2011 when she revealed she dated Knight before "he became gay later."

In response, Knight posted a message on his website stating in part:
"I have never been outed by anyone but myself! I did so almost twenty years ago. I never know that I would have to do it all over again publicly just because I reunited with NKOTB! I have lived my life very openly and have never hidden the fact that I am gay!"

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Filed by Noah Michelson  |