Kristy McNichol is Gay: Former Child Star Comes Out

If you’re a queer lady who came of age in the 70’s and 80’s, it’s very much quite possible that you had a crush on Kristy McNichol, who was best known for her roles on the TV series “Family” and “Empty Nest.” The certified tomboy pinged, so to speak.

hello kristy!

Well, she pinged because she’s gay, obvs! The 49-year-old, who has been out of the public eye for many years, has lived with her partner Marite Allen for the past two decades and came out yesterday in People magazine because she is “very sad about kids being bullied… She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different.”

Martie Allen and Kristy McNichol

McNichol, a friend of Desi Arnaz and sister of fellow actor Jimmy McNichol, was cast as Leticia “Buddy” Lawrence on Family in 1976, after several years working in commercials and playing bit parts in series like Starsky and Hutch, The Bionic Woman, Love American Style and The Love Boat. McNichol won two Emmy awards for her role on Family, a show which broke ground for its attention to ‘real-life issues.’

One of the biggest teen stars of the era, she began recording music with her brother, appearing in holiday specials with The Carpenters, and participating in shows like Battle of the Network StarsShe broke into films with The End in 1978 but perhaps is best known for her role in Little Darlingsa cute coming-of-age movie about summer camp, co-starring Tatum O’Neal, Matt Dillon and (fellow lez) Cynthia Nixon. Future film parts saw her earning an unprecedented six-figure salary and Golden Globe nominations.

cynthia nixon & kristy mcnichol

Her career faltered a bit in the 80s, and McNichol did as well. There were rumors about drug use and she developed a reputation for ditching work. She was cast as Barbara Weston on Empty Nest in 1988, but her attendance on the set was erratic. In 1992, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and left the series to focus on her health.

Since then she’s been working as a teacher and “focusing on tennis, yoga, travel and raising her beloved miniature dachshunds.” In the Kristy McNichol True Hollywood Story, she told E!:

“A lot of people have wondered what I’ve been up to. I retired from my career after 24 years. My feeling was that it was time to play my biggest part – MYSELF! I must say that it has been the best thing that ever happened to me. So many fans are disappointed that I’m not currently acting, however some may not realize that the process I’m in at this time is necessary and vital for my personal happiness and well-being.

She’s more or less stayed out of the public eye until yesterday, when she came out! Look at Kristy winning a relay race!

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.


  1. god why don’t they do battle of the network stars anymore?? i would watch the hell out of that.

    • Me too! I’d love to see Kat Dennings vs Amy Poehler running the Obstacle Course.
      Volleyball with the cast of Big Bang Theory? C’mon, make it happen networks!

    • Kristy mcnichol was also one of my crushes and im also a bipolar patient and it can be really hard to handle alot of things at one time appreciate her being open and honest

  2. I think it is awesome that she came out. People may argue that she should have done it sooner, but, visibility matters whenever it does happen. Folks who watched Kristy in Family, Empty Nest and all her movies now “know” someone who is gay.

    Anyone else willing to admit they saw “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” in the theater? With their mom?

    And how much do I miss the old Battle of the Network Stars?

  3. Awesome that she’s stepping out now after staying out of the public eye to work on her own happiness. I never really crushed on her as a kid because I liked the femme girls, but I thought she was really cool. I LOVED the pirate movie. It was hilarious!

    Good for her wanting to make a difference.

  4. Unsurprising. I think they cast her as a cop on Empty Nest to mask her more masculine traits.

  5. I just watched Little Darlings last night. Which is a very very gay movie. I managed to develop big crushes on both Kristy and Tatum O’Neal and also I pretended Matt Dillon was a lesbian. THEY HAD MATCHING HAIRSTYLES. AND NOW THIS. I KNEW IT, BUT STILL, HOORAY.

  6. I was on a 80s movie binge the other day watching classics like “Breaskfast Club” “Lucas” and them my sister wanted to watch “Little Darlings” because it had all the things we were looking for: coming of age, camp, camp uniforms, teen and sex. Anyway we clicked on the movie and she yells, “LULZ that’s your people [name redacted], haha!”

    I am like, “Matt Dillon?”

    My sister laughed and was really talking about Kristy McNichol and when both of the “lesbian” characters Matt Dillon’s character and Kristy McNichol do the do, I swear my sister said, “wait are we accidentally watching the L word or something, this seems soo…gay LOVES IT!”

    I nearly passed out laughing because we were drinking boxed wine and having a good time before she left to go back to school. Peeps, my sister is like my BFFFFFF and ally for all the LBGT things. She’s awesome!

    Thank you for letting me share this memory :D

  7. I dunno, KRISTY MCNICHOL LESBIAN doesn’t have quite the same ring as EVAN RACHEL WOOD BISEXUAL.

    C’mon 2012, you’ll have to do better than that.

  8. When I saw that one of the Empty Nest daughters came out, my first reaction was, “The younger one, right?” I didn’t crush on her because I’m mostly into femmes but when watching her while growing up I JUST KNEW that there was SOMETHING ABOUT HER.

  9. Maybe she just got tired of “pumpin’ and blowin'”? (if you get that joke, I will marry you)

    • Oh it’s clear she’s had to “swallow something more than water”..But I don’t think it was pride

  10. Yay, Kristy!! This made my f*cking day. I first realized that I wanted to kiss girls when I was in 8th grade and saw her in Little Darlings. THAT FACE, OH MY GOD. I’m really happy that the woman who inspired me to kiss girls also likes to kiss girls.

  11. I am European, and I have never heard of Kristy McNichol, but the sheer fact that she just did what she did makes me very happy. Visibility. Props.

  12. Battle Of The Network Stars!! Every year Scott Baio & Kristy McNichol would dominate and Robert Conrad would melt down as Gabe Kaplan watched in amusement..Shit..Am I really that old?


    1) She’s hot

    2) Why wasn’t I old enough to appreciate this

    3) I think I had that haircut… I think I need that haircut again

  14. Hey..Merideth Baxter was on that show and she turned out to be gay too.. Guess “Family” was aptly named!

      • I think the best part of this clip is in the first minute when she kicks the guy in the balls. The next five minutes include Kristy in a tank top(!) and a fight between her and Tatum O’Neil. What’s not to like when you are a 13 year old budding lesbian like me?

        I first developed my crush when she played the tomboy Buddy on Family. I owned the album she made with her brother, I watched everything she was in including Battle of the Network Stars, The Bionic Woman and The Love Boat. *Sigh* That hair, that smile.

        I can’t explain why it took me until I was nineteen to come to terms with being gay.

        • I had the hearts and a crush on Kristy McNichol from watching her role as Buddy on the TV series Family.
          I was nineteen when the movie “Little Darlings” first came out and have to admit that the best highlight in the film was when she kicked that guy squarely in the balls in the opening scene. Even though it was very painful and devastating to watch for guys like me, it was indeed kinda cute and sexy. You could hear all of the guys at the Drive-In Theatre going “WHOO”.
          That hidden lesbian side is what made her so special.
          I’ll always love, admire and respect her tough tomboy image.

  15. I had a huge crush on her growing up. BRAVA, Kristy! And Riese – glad you used that pic. :-)

      • Damn. I almost pm’d you last night about but figured-

        a. you probs already knew about the breaking news
        b. wasn’t sure you would cover it given that 96.3% of readers here won’t know who tf she is.

        I’ll try to be less wrong next time & kudos for equal opportunity coverage as always.


  16. I second whoever said little darlings was queer totally— Dillon is extremely femme in this film (so sad what he later turns out like– like that nightmare flick “wild things,” etc), but from my perspective the real tension is between McNichol and O’Neal— I mean right?? I thought that this subtext was actually intended by the screenwriters. Dillon just becomes the necessary (“correct” und easy) target of all that sleep away camp sexual energy— (so sorry spoiler) to top it off how dissatisfied she is with the sex in the end. Like her face was like — “that was it??” She should have hooked up with O’Neal’s character.

  17. I’m having Deja Vu. I could’ve sworn she already came out. Maybe it was only reported that she had a partner and I assumed she was out. I dunno…seems like if you have a same-sex partner and you’re not hiding the fact, that makes you “out”.

  18. The tiny pause in that last line in the first video made me raise my eyebrows: “And I hope someday she comes…back because she’s very talented.”

    Who else half-expected her to say “comes out”?

  19. I had a huge crush on her, I just didn’t know it was a crush. I “thought she was really cute and cool” (on Empty Nest, ’cause I am 29 so that was my era) like so many of my other crushes. So many girls I thought were cool and cute from softball (ha), school, and celebrities have ended up coming out. That whole pinging thing is so true!

  20. Totally watched “Little Darlings” in a bar a few days ago, while out on a lesbogay double date. Our gaydar went off the chart.

  21. Thank you for this! I am 46 and she was one of my biggest crushes. I agree with all the comments about her and Tatum Oneal. That was the real romance of the movie. And she still looks hot! Sigh – I feel like they don’t have cute Hollywood tomboy stars like her anymore . . . that are really gay.

  22. She was cast as “Buddy” and this is news?

    …here I thought Martie Allen was a dead comedian, was I ever wrong

    • Ohh those denim legs in “Little Darlings”
      What’s not to love about a cute teenage tomboy who wears denim jeans, jacket and converse sneakers and thinks nothing about kicking mouthy boys in the balls. Good for her…Way To Go Girl. YES!

  23. I can’t find any other article about her coming out. Why don’t you quote where you got this information. Sorry, but I am very skeptical as there are a lot of stars that supposedly “came out” who deny it, and they would know if they were gay or not. If she is not in fact gay, then you have done her harm by saying she was.

  24. I have always been attracted to tomboys, and she was #1 in my unreachable list!! I do hope she is controlling her bipolarity!

  25. I figured she was lesbian when she was a young teen. I guess I was right. What a waste.

  26. Despicable. So she is concerned about “bullying” is she? Ok, what about the kid who is bullied because he quotes scripture saying that being a homo is a sin? She care about his/her bullying? Of course not. She could give two hoots about bullying. She wants to promote sexual deviancy to children. Seriously? How difficult is it to see beyond this charade?

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