Ernesto Moreno, Darren Brady and Ade Adeniji recently sat down for an interview with Brené Brown to talk about her work as it relates to the lives of gay men. Here Darren shares his reflections on the journey to meeting Brené .
There are moments in life where reality meets a dream. The moment someone agrees to a date, we hold the keys of our new home in our hand, we look into the eyes of our new born child for the first time, we open the letter containing the results of our hard earned qualification. These moments can be large or small, outwardly major or seemingly insignificant but they contain a magic where suddenly what we imagined becomes possible, what we dreamed of emerges in front of our eyes. And so it was for me on the day we met Brene Brown.
A few days before we received confirmation that Brene would be able to meet us during her upcoming trip to the UK, a friend had sent me an Internet link to one of her famous Ted talks. Ade and I had just completed one of our foundation weekend workshopsand as I watched this talk I had the repeated realisation that almost everything she was saying was the same as what we were doing with the gay men who had just completed the workshop. It was as though her last 12 years of research was being plugged directly into what we were exploring within our workshop.
Shame, trauma, courage, love, vulnerability. She was saying it all and we had been experiencing it all only a few days earlier. I immediately emailed the link to all the participants of the workshop and also to the other gay men that we had worked with previously. I wanted to share with them the data, research, knowledge and wisdom that supported the self development journey they had bravely taken and to let them know that it was being shared around the globe in the powerful form of Brene Brown. I felt it was important that they knew this pioneering work being undertaken around the world and also that it was work that related to the whole of human kind. I wanted the guys to see that healing the pain of childhood trauma ( for that is the experience of growing up as a young gay child ) is also a human endeavour that has other faces.
It felt like a meeting of minds watching and listening to Brene on my iPad – little did I know then that a real meeting, in person, would be happening just a few weeks later. The thing that struck me about chatting with Brene was just how natural it all felt. Almost like meeting a special friend for a coffee and having a really good catchup. Ade, Ernesto and I sat in the lobby of the hotel where she was staying and waited excitedly for her to appear – empty chair strategically positioned and our questions ordered and prepared.
Murdoch, her agent, had met us first and and was chatting amiably, laying the foundation for Brenes’ appearance. Then from quite a distance she breezed in and called out “Hi…hi” The warmth and rapport was established before she even sat down. Here she was, the woman whose words I had read, whom I had watched so many times on the Internet and had seen being interviewed by Oprah. I remember her speaking so openly and excitedly to Oprah saying how thrilled she was to be finally meeting her and thought to myself that in many ways meeting Brene was like my ‘Oprah moment’ too.
Almost as soon as we started talking there was depth, openness, warmth and vulnerability in what was being said. There was a feeling of significance to the conversation and a sense of purpose too. And throughout it all there were a lot of nodding heads and ‘hmmmnn’s’ of agreement. She spoke with passion and clearly understood the significance that growing up gay has within the themes of her work.
We had wanted to explore how she had managed to engage so many people in a conversation about a subject that so many found challenging, how she responded when she meets resistance and what her findings were in relation directly to gay men. We also wanted to know what message she had for gay men.
While it was framed as an interview, it felt more like a conversation as it flowed so effortlessly. I found myself completely immersed in the conversation with only the occasional lapse where I just stared at her thinking ‘this is Brene Brown’ and for a few seconds I saw her mouth moving but did not register the words being spoken.
Nearing the end of the interview we presented Brene with a copy of our book- “Love Me As I Am“. The title uncannily mirrored something she had just been explaining and she looked at it, pointed to the title and said – ” Oh my god- well who would have known?” This felt like yet another ‘blending’ moment where what she was saying was being echoed by the work we were doing. It was directly after this that with a look in her eye she suddenly turned to Murdoch and declared “We need to give these guys three tickets for “Daring Way!”
I had no idea what she was talking about, but I assumed it was one of the talks she was giving over the next few days in London. Ade asked ‘What is Daring Way?’ She explained that this was the title of a new initiative of hers to bring together practitioners working in the area of shame in a whole variety of different contexts for a 5 day program. The aim was to create a supportive and powerful community, sharing insights and methodology.
It slowly began to dawn on us that Brene had just invited us to be her guests in Texas! For me this was a pivotal moment. One of those fleeting and seemingly insignificant moments I referred to earlier. But for me it was the moment that our work shifted into a global context and it was a moment that would have implications we still cannot even imagine.
To be supported in this way was such a gift. Two years after creating The Quest for Gay Men, we were talking and sharing with one of the most eminent people in the field….and we were going to be working with her and a whole group of other amazing people who are committed to empowerment and freedom. While we had reached out to help gay men, here she was reaching out to help us. This turn of events blew me away and was totally unexpected. I think of it now I still find it a little hard to believe.
To an onlooker this meeting may have appeared insignificant enough – a group of people gathered around chatting intently- but for me personally and for The Quest as a whole it was a far bigger deal. Something inside me altered as a consequence. My confidence increased in the knowledge that we had such a powerful ally and my determination to continue on our mission to transform the lives of Gay men was re-doubled. Ade, Darren, Brene and Ernesto
We had photos taken together, got books signed, hugged each other and then she and Murdoch left. The energy between Ade, Ernesto and myself was electric. We looked at each other beaming and, for a moment, speechless. And then came a babble of excited words that spilled over each other, tumbling forward.
Later that day as I cycled home, I replayed snippets of the conversation we had had and I audibly sighed as a feeling of love swelled with each memory. Cycling home that evening was as close as I think it is possible to get to floating on a cloud.