Team Effort

Life is a team effort.

Humans have never been solitary creatures.  We need to build communities — families, villages, tribes and so on — to take care of each other, collecting our skills and efforts for the greater good.   We come together to create a world we can live in.

The most important thing I taught my Aspergers parents in their last years was teamwork.   They were both dedicated individualists, especially my mother who had little experience in the world of work, but as things got more challenging for them we had work together to get what was needed done.

The most obvious task came when she fell down or fell out of bed.  She wanted to get herself to her feet, but that required help.   We got a tarp — the small one on sale that she wanted, not the big smooth one I thought would be easier to use — and got her butt on it, which I then hauled to the stairs.  With me spotting her, she would then go down the stairs until she was vertical.

I pushed her in a wheelchair, helped her with showers and did lots more for her.  My sister understood how we had learned to work forever when she pitched in, usually when I was in the hospital with my father.   My mother would instruct her in what to do and she knew that these techniques had been worked out by me.

The fact that our mother saw these procedures with ownership, saw them as hers, was a mark of how she changed from the early days when she would just point and wail, expecting others to fix what upset her without instruction or support.  She did not want to have to lead, instead delighting in the self-pity that came from our failure to tend to her as she desired, another failure to savour.

By the end, we were very much teammates my father paraplegic because someone didn’t supervise his use of the scooter properly, my mother broken hearted and with lung cancer.

One key I try and explain to other caregivers is to become part of the care team.   The medical profession runs on team work, with people having different roles that all mesh to provide better outcomes.   Your role as both close support for your loved one and as an advocate for their needs and concerns can make the whole team better in doing what needs to be done.

For people who aren’t used to being members of a team, though, this can be a very difficult challenge.   Every team collaboration depends on a kind of respect that holds people together through both the cooperation and conflict which adds up to collaboration.   Each team member brings their own strengths and weaknesses, each team member has to both learn and teach, each team member has to sign up for working together.

Teams need a range of views and talents.   The more homogeneous a team is the less it is able to have the creativity and resilience to face new challenges.   Monoculture is easy up until the point where something different happens and the old system breaks down.

Transpeople, the two-spirit shamans who crossed worlds, always had their part to play in human communities.  For example, hidden in the records of even modern communities, like the huge draft American army of WWII, you find queer people playing their unique part.

For small teams today, though, the benefit of diversity is often missed.  People like to be with people they sense are like them, avoiding the conflict (and benefits) that come with diverse viewpoints.

I miss being on a team.  I liked working with other people to achieve shared values and goals.

But what I miss most of all is having a team that supports my own unique, queer expression.    Most teams demand that I play along, putting my own values on hold for the good of the whole.   That’s not empowering for me.

Many drag queens are very clear that their expression is a team effort, from music producer to bookers to designers and stylists.   They come together to support a vision, one that is both artistic and commercial enough to create enough energy for all to share.

Of course, drag performances come in gay bars where people have always come together to connect, one-on-one or in teams.   Queens speak for communities, keeping up cultural values and offering the power of queerness into the room (1996).

Transpeople, though, are on a much more individual path.  The hardest thing about trans has always been doing it alone (2002), without the support of a team.   We bring the queer.

Every organization from six to 60000 people
needs a Brahma, a Vishnu, and a Shiva
– a creator, a preserver, and a destroyer.
And you need those tensions simultaneously….
The problem with the average-size corporation
is that eventually the preservers take over and stagnation sets in.
You need to protect the Shivas, the destroyers.
—Tom Peters

I was proud to take on the very, very difficult job of teaching teamwork to my parents.  I like teams, know how to be effective on them.

Not being able to find a team that is looking for someone like me as a member, though, is a real pain.  It leaves me alone and struggling.

We humans, well, we just weren’t meant to be alone.