Although she has lived a private life for over 20 years, Actress Kristy McNichol chose to come out officially as a lesbian in an effort to prevent children from being bullied late last week.

McNichol has lived with her partner Martie Allen for the past two decades, but she decided to make a public statement about her sexuality as she approaches the age of 50. She told People magazine in a statement through her publicist that she wants to be open about who she is.

Jeff Ballard, McNichol's publicist, told People she is very sad about kids being bullied and she hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different.

McNichol is best known for her Emmy-award winning role as Buddy Lawrence on Family and later as Barbara Weston on Empty Nest. She left acting to focus on her struggles with bi-polar disorder.

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

Many celebrities have spoken out in the past about their sexuality in an effort to prevent bullying and suicide related to sexuality. Neil Patrick Harris sent a message to America's gay youth on MTV.

For the love of pete, there's no need to harm yourself if something is going bad, he says. You can act with strength, you can act with courage, you can act with class, and, stand tall. Be proud of who you are. This is a good time we live in and we are granted more and more rights. And that's awesome.

Take a look at 7 other celebrities who have publicly come out of the closet, including Ricky Martin, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Neil Patrick Harris, Clay Aiken, Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto and Elton John.  

Watch Neil Patrick Harris speak out to gay youth: