In a powerful moment on last season’s Southern Charm New Orleans, Tamica Lee’s cousin Jared Sampson confronted her husband, Barry Smith, for using discriminatory language about his sexuality (clip above).
It’s not the first time we’ve seen Bravolebs speak up for themselves and others when faced with something offensive, but there's always something to learn about these situations and the people who try to make them better.
Personal Space caught up with Jared to talk about what other people can take away from this moment on the show, and also learn more about his story.
How to Address Prejudice and Bigotry Head On
First off, as hard as it may be, if someone says something offensive to you or around you, taking a moment to pause can help you move forward in a more effective and less emotional way.
“It’s important to show them a level of respect that they didn't show you, not let your emotions get the better of you and [make it] more of a teachable moment for that person,” Jared explained. “When they don't know the gravity of the words that they're using, [it’s] just making sure that they're educated, hopefully by pulling them to the side [so] you don't make the situation worse and it becomes something that they learn from.”
Plus, an important golden rule reminder never hurts.
“Even if you don't believe in what that person is and how they're living their life or that you don't believe it's not a choice, you can at least extend the values of 'live and let live,'" Jared continued. “You know if that's not someone you want to be around then you just don't add to the problem.”
Why Supportive Family and Friends Matter
Jared, who skipped his senior year of high school and graduated at 16, explained that this decision was in part because, around that time, he “realized that something was going on.”
“Prior to that I didn't know anything about sex or sexuality, I just knew that something was different,” Jared said. “So when I got to the point of understanding my sexual attraction, I did not have the support (at the time) of my family.”
He went on to explain the importance of finding a new support system: “You form a family because a lot of times you don't have that so… you recreate it. And it's an amazing experience if you're fortunate enough,” he continued. “I was able to clear my head, get back to what I knew I needed to do and attend college and set off on a path that I needed to set off on.”
“I think parents really need to know the homeless rate is high... if you're afraid of what being gay is going to do for their life, what about being gay and out there in the world on your own? So, my story is very fortunate because of my upbringing. I did revert back to the teachings of my mother and father. But it took me a while to fully understand that they just were not at a place where they were accepting or could understand what I was going through because there was no one else in my family who probably ever had to deal with that. So, you're the first, the only son. There is so much pressure that you put on a child and it's just not fair for a child who's still dealing with trying to sort out their brain [and] you expect the child to understand something that you don't even understand as an adult," he explained.
Now that so much time has passed, his sexuality “is what it is.” “I don't think [my parents] fully still understand... they're understanding but they don't understand. I don't think they fully understand that this is not something that anybody has done to me. I didn't just wake up one day and, oh guess what, this is what I want to do. It sounds like fun.'”
Raised by “very traditional Southern parents," Jared broached the topic with his dad the night that episode aired. “A few months later he opened up and talked to me about it a little bit more and just said he loves me no matter what."
How to Find — and Keep — Your Strength
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with identity, finding your inner strength or being a supportive voice and ear is key. “It really just comes down to confidence and knowing who you are as a human being and, while your love may look different, that it is still love. It's still a situation where your heart has to lead the way," Jared explained, adding, "That's different from sexual orientation. You have to fall in love with someone and be sexually attracted to them; that's two different things."
“I have to educate myself and know that there are many stereotypes that I have to overcome and I just can't allow myself to get caught up in what the world is saying when I know who I am and I look at myself every day in a mirror. I know that I'm a good person and I am a kind person and I want to make the world a better place whereas other people are doing damage, damaging their children and instilling values in them that are going to be passed on. So it's really by breaking a generational cycle, and you have to break that with yourself as well to live competently and boldly. Confirming one thing about yourself should not negate the 99 other things that make you a whole person.”
Why, Once You're Living Your Truth, the Rest Will Follow
Oftentimes, the first thing to overcome is your relationship with yourself. Jared explained that when coming out, you have to be prepared for whatever you get from family or friends, and not let whatever someone else says or does impact your life and your choices.
“They have to know that 'I am ready to be me' and it doesn't matter if someone else is ready to accept it,” Jared said. “If you know your family's religious and you know they're going to try to throw a Bible verse at you, then be prepared to have your own rebuttals. Make sure you are armed with knowledge and armed with information if they come at you with, maybe stats about illness or whatever stereotypes are regarding gay men, then you can come back and be armed and educate them with, 'No, I use protection.' [Relate it] back to a situation where they instilled a good value in you and you can almost turn the argument around on them where they really don't have much to say if you are coming [with] a kind-hearted manner.”
“Everybody has their own timing and everybody's path is different. Do it on your terms but just know that it's not as bad as it seems. You paint this horrible picture in your head. The only person who really could benefit from it, in my opinion, is you. You free yourself so much... you could say it and then you never talk about it again [but] at least it's out there in the open.”
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