Ex-child star Kristy McNichol comes out as lesbian

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former child star Kristy McNichol, star of 1970s TV shows "Family" and "Empty Nest", came out as a lesbian on Monday, in a public gesture to support kids who are bullied over their sexuality.

McNichol, 49, has been out of the public eye for 20 years. But she decided to share a photo of herself and her partner Martie Allen with People magazine.

She "is very sad about kids being bullied," her publicist Jeff Ballard told the celebrity magazine. "She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different."

"She is very happy and healthy," Ballard said. "And she enjoys living a very private life."

McNichol won two Emmys for her role as Buddy in the drama series "Family". She also appeared in the coming of age movie "Little Darlings" before quitting Hollywood in the early 1990s after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Bullying and suicides of gay and lesbian teens and young people struggling with their sexual identity has become a major social issue in the United States in the last two years.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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