Kristy McNichol’s Out

But wasn't she always a lesbian?

Kristy McNichol (right) in Little Darlings

When Kristy McNichol, the star of such television shows as Family and Empty Nest (no, she wasn’t on Married With Children – that was Amanda Bearse), came out of the closet recently, was everyone in the LGBT community thinking the same thing: Wasn’t she always a lesbian?

While the gesture is certainly noble – McNichol says she wants to take a stand against anti-gay bullying – we couldn’t help but be reminded of another Hollywood phenomenon. When a celebrity we always assumed was gay or lesbian comes out, it’s a little like when those awards shows run the “who’s dead” montage. We see that favorite old movie star we could have sworn signed off years ago (oh, how we miss Mildred Natwick) and have a kind of a-ha moment.

It’s not like we forgot that McNichol was a lesbian and very much alive. We just haven’t thought about it for a really long time. Or at least not since Little Darlings was rerunning on TV (Sapphic sister Cynthia Nixon was in that one, too – not to be confused with Foxes starring Jodie Foster).

Has someone been taking notes from Meredith Baxter? Half kidding.

But really she and Baxter do share a similar story. Both women starred in highly successful television series more than 20 years ago. And both women have only recently opened up about their personal lives at a later age. “As I approach 50,” McNichol told the press, “I want to be open about who I am.”

She also shared a photo with People magazine with her longtime partner Martie Allen.

And while McNichol has been off the celebrity radar for many years – the last project we could dig up was a voiceover in an animated series called Invasion America in 1998 – the LGBT community can certainly use a few more good allies in the fight against discrimination. Even if many of us will always remember the actress most fondly as the feisty teen Buddy in the Emmy-winning drama Family (anyone remember that “very special episode” in which her character was controversially endeared to a lesbian teacher?), she has our support for being open, honest and coming out for an important cause.

Here’s a scene from Little Darlings in which McNichols’ coming-of-age character Angel Bright is accused of being – gasp – a lesbian (NSFW):