The Power of Vulnerability:Pose Teaches Us What It Means to Be & Feel Seen
“Lean into the discomfort of the work” As a storyteller it is inevitable to sometimes become afraid of writing the real stories due to the lack of certainty and “worthiness” in the art. Seeking validation from any source other than yourself can be dangerous. However,what you must be sure of is, if you have even an atom of creativity in your being that you are familiar with vulnerability and all of it's tumultuous imperfections and things will in fact be okay. In my latest therapy session I was introduced to a qualitative researcher who goes by the name of Dr. Brene’ Brown.
Dr.Brown held a Ted Talk in Houston, TX back in 2010 that summed up my life and the lives of the two million other people that fawned over this visual of purpose and meaning. In this Ted Talk ,Dr. Brown delves into the concept of Wholeheartedness. In her flowy tone and witty banter she digs into authenticity, value and worthiness. She speaks on how worthiness are those warm feelings of love and belonging, and how there are two different types of people in this world; those who are in the know of what it means to be complete, but unafraid of the unknown and the opposite. The dynamics that separate the two are distinguished by excruciating vulnerability, those that are way too accustomed with shame and fear. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging , of love…” Out of the entire twenty minute and forty four second video, the most striking information was the formula provided to recognize and achieve a healthy level of emotional unfamiliarity and radical acceptance. Those who understood it had three strong qualities; courage, compassion, and connection. What will bring this all together and force you to seek therapy if you don't identify with it is the connection component, the willingness to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were. In the constant rat race of society it is so easy to become deferred by our own perception of what we think the world wants us to be, and when we are not said thing we panic-this panic leads to anxiety and depression, leaving us in a worse position than we were when we started.
We, humans,lack the comprehension of radical acceptance most of the time until it's too late and whatever experience that got us here has already done it's damage.Thus meaning taking things and people at face value and accepting them for exactly where they are ,in this moment without any association to disdain, pain or dysfunction. This includes not stressing or striving to change,sugar coat, or do away with, but simply understanding that actually it is what it is. Too often insecurities show themselves when vulnerability is present and shame overcomes us. Dr. Brown gives the definition of shame as the fear of disconnection, she follows up with a question that has plagued us all at one time or another. Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection? The thought provoking gems in this video sat in my mind for days. They mulled over and over until I was able to attach some sort of logical explanation to how are we to recognize that this is an issue first, and then the question of where and how do we learn the coping mechanisms to combat it in the long run? It wasn't until I was wiping at my puffy eyes filled with the full bodied tears that had taken over my face while watching season two series finale of Pose that I found answers. If you are unfamiliar with Pose, it is set in the 80’s and it gifts us a deep sea of emotions as we are introduced to the ballroom culture and daily life struggles of the LGBTQIA communities when the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit the hardest. The disease was killing homosexual men and transgender women at an alarming rate and because it was so new and ridiculously powerful, the drugs to still live a normal life hadn't yet been manufactured. This season we watched the relationship between Lil’ Papi ( a man who identified as heterosexual) and Angel ( a transgender woman) blossom into the goals of anyone who desires to be loved from the inside out.
A natural born hustler, Angel took her talents into sex work and made her living down at the piers and in peep show booths. She held her head high knowing that regardless of what the world thought of her , she was a woman in every right and she would do what was necessary to keep herself fed,warm and looking good. Men fell at her feet, but even in her disbelief in her abilities, she paid them no mind if the dollar amount wasn't set to her standard. Angel had no desire to be kept and the one attempt she made at commitment put a really nasty taste in her mouth.
But then came Papi, seeing through her tough exterior into the soul of a woman that deserved to be cherished, he confessed his undying love for her and she fell, reluctantly. As the season progressed Angel embarks on her dream of modeling, and as a transgender, she is not met with smiles. She is evilly engaged with perverted photographers and malicious onlookers in fear that they would know her truth and reveal it. And when they did, her dreams came to a screeching halt. The tears of yearning begin when her love stood by her,loved her, supported her , saw her through life's adversity and she prevailed.
In a regular world, an Angel facing those circumstances would have given up and to be honest, I don't think anyone would have blamed her. The odds were stacked against her because of who she was and who the world said she was. That question of “Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection?” stopped her in the midst of her high. However, through Papi’s vulnerability and love, the connection was restored. Angel was then equipped with the courage to be imperfect and still shine. His display of worthiness made her understand her own. Recently, art met reality in the headlines as the story of a young Philadelphia man committed suicide after being bullied for being open about his relationship with a transgender woman. A video went viral of Maurice Willoughby being confronted in the streets about his relationship with a trans woman, in the video ‘Reese’ is ridiculed and shamed after admitting his love for a woman that others didn't see as worthy. You see, this world will tell you that you should be this and you should act like that, think like them and behave like the rest, and if you don't you will be damned forever in the eyes of those who don't mean shit to the trajectory of your life, but you will feel like they do.. The importance of this lesson is to understand that it absolutely cannot matter to you what onlookers that have never experienced the type of fully flushed feelings that you have , have to say about you and your choices. Their opinions can and will break you, if allowed. In the millennial generation any sort of affectionate display is seen as a sign of weakness, so it is hidden like the cure to cancer, regardless of how much we truly crave the intimacy it yields.
We shy away from it , afraid that if we give in to the emotions that we naturally feel for whatever or whoever is evoking these sentiments, then we lose. But lose what exactly? No one is really certain. We’ve been programmed to believe that the first person to feel anything is bound to be played, when the reality of the situation is that we should be operating in that uncertainty. That's where life, love, joy, creativity and passion lies in the shadows of what we are scared to acknowledge. It takes strength to be bold in these things because we haven't been taught how to understand or express this to no capacity. I, for one, didn't realize how much I had no clue what authentic love even looked like or the various ways that love could be shown until I began to really pay attention to Pose and what it represents. This is a community of people that have been subjected to every sort of oppression imaginable, in each stage of their maturation. Allow yourself to ponder for a moment about the type of person you would be and what your views on the world would look like if the hate for your identity, your sexual orientation, your love interest, your entire existence began in your home, from your parents who are obligated to be your first introduction to all the good things this world will deprive you of. Who would you trust if the very trust that you unconsciously held for your loved ones was the one thing that you never received? Essentially, love stems from trust. When we decide to love, we are letting go of our fears and saying I trust you with these, please don't weaponize them. You are at your most vulnerable when you engage with your parents, you're their baby, they are supposed to love you unconditionally. But you grow up and go in a direction that they don't approve and they throw you to the wolves. Your lack of connection begins right there. Your entire existence is now rooted in shame and fear. You are forced to be strong, to be resilient, not because it is what you were taught, but simply because it was your only means of survival. If there was ever a time in my life where I was grateful for the arts and what they represent for all mankind, it is right now , while this show is getting the spotlight it deserves. To get on national television and give people no choice but to see you unapologetically, when the world says shut up and sit down before I literally kill you, is the purest form of self love. The unfortunate reality is, we have to see it seasonally on a television show to understand that it is without a doubt life or death.