U of O grad and founder of gay advocacy group Jer’s Vision does what he does best
Nadia Helal | Fulcrum Staff
He started a non-profit organization against bullying, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination. He’s travelled all over the country making sure proper acceptance programs are being set up in elementary and high schools. He created the International Day of Pink, an event that attracted more than 8 million people on April 11 earlier this year. All this, and he hasn’t even hit 30.
Jeremy Dias, a psychology and political science graduate from the University of Ottawa, discusses the nuts and bolts of his growing organization Jer’s Vision, and offers invaluable advice to help communities move forward with inclusivity and indiscrimination.
The Fulcrum: How did Jer’s Vision make its debut?
Jeremy Dias: JersVision.org was founded in 2005. It started when I won a lawsuit against my high school; I had challenged them in a human rights case regarding my experiences of homophobia by teachers and students. After receiving the financial settlement, my friends and I decided to use it to create a scholarship fund that would be used to support youth who stop bullying. Seven years later, we are running Canada’s premier programming to stop bullying in schools and youth communities.
Are attitudes changing toward LGBT people in Ottawa and in Canada?
That is really what we are trying to do. Since homosexuality became legal in Canada in 1969, as a community there has been great progress to move forward human rights legislation, but respect seems to be something that has been lacking. This requires not only intense work, but also intergenerational work that keeps the dialogue going. We are doing that. Things are changing, but not changing fast enough.
What did you hope to gain from the “Teacher Ally Training” at the U of O?
This was a big first for us, and was a huge success. Over 200 future teachers learned about how they could stop bullying in schools. We hope to truly give future teachers the tools and resources to stop bullying, homophobia, and transphobia in schools and youth communities.
The International Day of Pink is perhaps your greatest achievement. How did that idea come to be?
The idea actually comes from two students in Nova Scotia who saw their gay friend being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt to school]. After intervening, they also bought hundreds of pink shirts for everyone in their schools. Following this inspiring event, students volunteering at JersVision.org wanted to share this message with the world. With the support of the two original students, the Day of Pink was born.
Can you describe the Jeremy Dias scholarship program?
This program was our first initiative and seeks to support a youth who is doing work to stop bullying, and entering post-secondary education.
What are your hopes for the future of this organization?
We hope to continue to expand our programming, but also ensure that our work is growing in our community.
What was your experience like at the U of O?
I loved being at [the University of Ottawa]; however I did have some challenges. I was gay-bashed a couple times, but was lucky to be supported by many friends, services, and most of my professors.
What advice would you give to LGBT individuals struggling with identity in schools?
I think it is really important for youth struggling—no matter what their challenge—to reach out and get help. Help can be what I do, like calling Kids Help Phone or reaching for professional support like counsellors. As most problems are complex, they need complex solutions to address them.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
What advice do you have for University of Ottawa students?
Be proud of your university; contribute, challenge, and move our community forward.