The actress Kristy MCNichol has revealed that she is gay, in the hope that it may help to combat child bullying. MCNichol, who has been away from the public eye for almost 20 years, has lived with her partner Martie Allen for the last two decades, but has only now - approaching her 50th birthday - decided to speak publicly about her sexuality.

An NBC report yesterday (January 8, 2012) quoted her publicist as saying "She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different". MCNichol was best known as a child actress. She twice won an Emmy award for her performances on the drama series Family, in which she starred alongside Helen Hunt and Michael J Fox. In 1980, she starred in Little Darlings, a rites-of-passage movie, starring TATUM O'NEAL, Matt Dillon and Cynthia Nixon. Shortly after the film's release, though, the symptoms of MCNichol's bi-polar disorder disrupted her ability to work and the success of her career began to decline. In 1988, she began appearing as Barbara Weston in the Nbc comedy Empty Nest but left the series in 1992.

Since retiring from acting, MCNichol has taught acting at a private school in Los Angeles. She has now re-entered the public arena to "make a statement about her own sexuality and help those in need" the Nbc report states.