Big Brother 11's Kevin Campbell Discusses Growing Up a Jehovah's Witness

October 14, 2009
Recently GLAAD had the opportunity to talk with Kevin Campbell, the third place finisher on the most recent edition of CBS' Big Brother, and discuss his experiences as an out and proud gay man who was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. Kevin Campbell1On how being raised a Jehovah's Witness impacted his life as a gay man: I remember the moment I realized I was gay was when I was in a meeting at church and they were reading a scripture in the Bible about how men who sleep with men are evil and wicked. And I remember as a kid, listening to that, and I was like, “Oh my God, I think that’s me!” I felt like the whole congregation was looking at me and I felt dirty, and you know, it definitely impacted me. I think conversely though, it helped me become the fabulous person I am now because I never want to go back into that corner—I never want to go back in the closet. I never want to have that feeling again. I just don’t want to go back to that space again, and that’s why I was fabulous like I was in the house, because I didn’t want anyone to put me in the closet again. On coming out to his family: My brother basically outed me. So what happened was, I told my brother, I was like, “Oh my God, I think I’m gay.” He freaks out. He told the elders in the congregation, which are like ministers or priests or whatever—he told them. My father had a heart attack within this week, so I go to visit my father in the hospital and these elders come to go pray for him. And they come up to me and they’re like, “So you know, your brother told us about your situation. If you don’t tell your father and your mother in the next week, we’re going to tell them for you,” so I was like, “Oh my God.” Needless to say, I came out to my mother in the hospital cafeteria, and then she told my father—later though, because he was still recovering from the heart attack.
Kevin (2nd from top right) and the cast of <i>Big Brother 11</i>

Kevin (2nd from top right) and the cast of Big Brother 11

On his ex-communication: They made an announcement to the whole congregation that I’ve been ex-communicated and they’re not to talk to me anymore. And ever since then, literally, the next day, my friends disappeared. I couldn’t talk to my mother, my father. My mother actually told me when they made the announcement—she cried—my mother’s Japanese and she rarely shows any emotion. She cried, and this is the second time in my life I’ve ever seen her cry…she told me that she has to think of me as being dead, because if she knew I was alive and living down the street, it would be too hard for her. Consequently, they moved to Japan like maybe 6 months later. But yeah, it was a hard experience. It was very crushing. I thought my life was over. I thought…I honestly thought that everything was done with me, but I just decided it wasn’t going to be the end of me, and I just kept going. And I just feel so sorry that certain organizations or certain people can do this to our community, and make us feel so horrible and split our families up. On reuniting with his family: Part of the reason why I wanted to do Big Brother is because I haven’t spoken to my mother and father in like, nine years…and I wanted them to somehow know that I was still doing okay. So deep down inside, I thought, well if I go onto Big Brother they would at least hear about me see  through the television that I’m happy.  So, after the show was over, CBS contacted my parents and I was connected to my parents, and we actually had dinner for the first time. They met my boyfriend for the first time, the day before yesterday. It was so awkward but so amazing. I think they are more open, I think they realize that, whoa, Kevin is serious. I mean, nine years with a man is serious. Nine years with anyone is very serious. I think I’m definitely opening their eyes, or their hearts at least, to the concept that, yeah, maybe they’re not completely accepting of me, but at least we need to show that we still love him. Because you know, a phone call goes a long way.