“When I was 13, I was holding hands with a boy and these guys called us fags. With the help of Google, I figured out I was gay. It wasn’t something I could talk about with my parents or teachers. Actually, I remember one of my teachers saying lesbians and gays get cancer because they don’t have children. We have a lot of work to do to let people at all levels know why it’s okay to be diverse.”
These are the words of Jeremy Dias, who, like so many youth, was bullied in his high school. Despite efforts to make changes in his school, he was stopped by school administrators, and experienced severe bullying and discrimination on a daily basis because of his ethnicity and sexual orientation. As a result of his experiences, he challenged his school and school board at the Ontario Human Rights Commission and, after 3 years, was awarded Canada’s second largest human rights settlement ($5000) at the age of 21.
Feeling strongly that the funds should go to making a difference in his community, he and a few friends founded the Jeremy Dias Scholarship, which, in 2005, then became Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative. The first transformation was prompted by hundreds of emails and messages from youth across Canada and parts of the world who wanted more support beyond a scholarship and took inspiration from Jeremy’s own struggle.
Ten years later, Jer’s Vision went through another transformation that resulted in the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), this time galvanized by non-youth communities who, over the years, asked for collective, national, or regional empowerment for their local leadership. This shift into CCGSD also brought a clarity and focus to our mission and mandate, which informs our programming so that we can serve communities in a more sustainable way.