Kristy McNichol comes out as a lesbian

Kristy McNichol as Officer Barbara Weston in "Empty Nest."
Paul Drinkwater/NBCU/AP Photo
Kristy McNichol as Officer Barbara Weston in "Empty Nest."
Paul Drinkwater/NBCU/AP Photo

(CBS) Kristy McNichol, who is known for her roles on "Family" and "Empty Nest," has decided to step back into the spotlight after years and come out as a lesbian to help kids who are being bullied, reports say.

McNichol, 49, has lived with her partner Martie Allen for the last 20 years, but now she has decided to make a statement about her sexuality because she is "approaching 50" and wants to "be open about who I am," reports People magazine.

"She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support," the former actress' publicist Jeff Ballard told People. "She would like to help others who feel different."

McNichol played Buddy Lawrence in the '70s TV show "Family," for which she won an Emmy, and later played Barbara Weston in "Empty Nest."  Now, McNichol is done with acting and spends her free time playing tennis, traveling and doing yoga.