Pretend this has a thesis: underemployment, a college graduate’s first job, and kinda gender

November 27

Dear Leslie,

I completed my first week at my job today, thus ending five long and odd months of unemployment. After graduating from Oregon State University in June after a flutter and jumble of two years of class, jobs, activism, and occasional tongue-in-cheek mischief that kept me occupied nearly 24/7 by the end of college, I was deposited outside OSU’s Reser Stadium with a fancy degree, awards, and no idea of where to go besides home to Portland where I could plot my next move in the rent-free comfort of my childhood home. What a privilege I hold, having a place to call home, and one where I can currently live without accruing additional debt beyond the growing interest on my student loans. Alas, I joined the ranks of unemployed and underemployed young folks all over, college educated, high school educated, and otherwise. I was fortunately offered a job this month, and while it isn’t full-time and doesn’t pay what I need for loan payments and independent living, I am thankful. I am a late autumn blossom curling through leafy debris, grateful for the opportunity to inhale, exhale, and grow.

The job is a Powell’s Books customer service position in their local warehouse. I’m not only employed, I have a job that sits right with my conscience. While call center work does not relate to my degree (major Liberal Studies: Decolonizing Community Conversations/minors in Natural Resources and Writing), it also doesn’t sit in opposition to it or my guiding values. I get to work at a wondrous independent seller of new and used books (with the largest book store in the world!)—a company whose stores’ aisles I grew up wandering and breathing in. Conversations are central to my work. And those beautiful books? They have the ability to expand worlds, sparking imagination and wonder.

If I had obtained the salaried Account Director position at the digital marketing firm I interviewed with this past summer, I would have been serving automobile companies rather than everyday folks and marginalized populations. I would have been miserable. It would have been a gross use of my mind, heart, and energy for me to serve automobile companies who have absolutely no need for my time, who certainly do little to protect humans and our ecosystems from climate change. But at Powell’s, I get to talk to people from all over Oregon and the United States about books! Anybody could be on the end of the line, so long as they have access to a phone.

Does gender need to be mentioned in every post? It wasn’t my instinct to address it in this one despite the nature of this blog, but gender does of course come up for me in work and job application processes. One of the many benefits of working at Powell’s is that I get to wear jeans and t-shirts to work. So long as my outfit isn’t exceptionally casual (thinking I need to leave my “I feel fancy and fly” Adidas sweatpants at home), I can wear what I want and not worry greatly about fitting my gender dysphoric self into slacks or skirts and uncomfortable flats. Unless all of my radar is on the fritz, I’m certain at least a few of the folks I’ve passed in the break room or outside in the warehouse are queer. And although I could be mistaken, one of my supervisors is trans, not that it’s my business one way or another.

In my union pamphlet (International Longshore and Warehouse Union), I read that the union successfully obtained  trans-specific health insurance benefits recently for eligible Powell’s employees. Amazing. What a beautiful thing, Leslie. There’s so much that needs to change for trans and queer folks all over, mostly how other people and systems treat them, but I am grateful for the bits of good that I get to see and experience. I can wear clothing that doesn’t make me tense up, I have a trans boss, and the union I am now a member of is advocating for trans-inclusivity.

I always have so much to give thanks for. This day, week, and year are no exceptions. I am thankful for my family, education, communities, conscience, new job at a great company, opportunities to learn more about my city–even on bus rides across town–, and autumn snow on the Cascades.

The moon was luminous last night. As I walked home through falling temperatures, I cast my gaze upwards, smiling.





2 thoughts on “Pretend this has a thesis: underemployment, a college graduate’s first job, and kinda gender

  1. Raye

    My union (UFCW) also got trans inclusive health care, if I remember right!! Go unions! Also, I love Powell’s forever ❤️ definitely one of the highlights of my last visit to Portland.


    1. That’s wonderful! It’s great seeing more unions obtaining trans-inclusive healthcare. I was born and raised in Portland so I grew up loving Powell’s. I knew it was a kickass independent bookstore but never realized how well-loved it is by folks who live elsewhere too, despite having relatives who plan to visit the downtown location every time they are in town.


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