Woman fishing


“One of us is not free until all of us are free.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

I’ve been reflecting on this meditation quite a bit lately. To take this a step further, if we want to love others, each of us must have the courage to be our fullest, most authentic selves and intentionally create spaces where others can feel safe enough to do the same.


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For many of us LGBTQIA+ folks, being our best, most authentic selves often comes with great risk. The reward is also truly great.

When we call others in (a.k.a. ‘come out’), we invite them to know us better and therefore, invite them to be known.

I know this sounds pretty dreamy, but there are innumerable quiet acts that present themselves daily to do this, if we are open to them. 

These quiet acts look like:

  • Working to understand the lived experiences of the people around us and how those experiences have shaped the decisions we make at school or work, how we spend our time doing what we love, or whether or not (and how) we engage with those around us. 
  • Inviting folks who aren’t always invited to the table (and encouraging them to contribute while looking through the lenses of their experiences) when decisions are being made, whether that’s in a student organization, during class, in a work meeting, etc.  
  • Being honest when things are difficult or when you disagree with something.
  • Checking in on a friend who’s going through a rough patch and celebrating when things are good. 
  • Inviting someone to learn about something you’re passionate about and asking someone to share their passion with you. 
  • Belly laughing without embarrassment when a huge hatch of mayflies starts while you’re on the river, fly fishing with a friend.
  • Letting your friends show up for you when you’re vulnerable. 

Calling others in when I realized I was queer hasn’t come without some really difficult moments, but I’ve been truly lucky to have amazing colleagues, friends and family members that have worked hard to create space for me to be authentic. My experience at Northern firmed up a solid foundation for me to both celebrate the differences in others and to learn to invite others in, especially when I realized I was a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. NMU  was the first community I felt safe to do that in. As a result, it has shaped my career in student affairs and has helped me build a set of skills that I rely on daily. It has also allowed me to create space for others to do the same at work as the Director of Student Life and Conduct at Grand Rapids Community College, on the river while sharing my passion for all things fly fishing, and in my relationships with the people I love. 

The freedom that comes with being seen and known, along with seeing and knowing others is one of the truest gifts we can give and receive. Pride month can be a celebration for those of us who have called others in, in any capacity.


Alumni Author Information

Name: Lina Blair

Year graduated from NMU: 2005 BS, 2008 MS

Current job title: Director of Student Life and Conduct at Grand Rapids Community College