After he left rural Nova Scotia, it was Montreal’s gay village that Jody Jollimore credits with raising him with survival skills that are the reason he’s alive today. And because of that, he always wants to give back.
During his career, Jollimore, who has lived in Vancouver for more than a decade, has worked for the local Health Initiative for Men, and—due to a lifelong interest in politics—on public policies from sex-worker rights and student loans to same-sex marriage. Now the executive director of the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC), a Vancouver organization that expanded nationally in 2018, he's helping, along with his colleagues, to champion advancements in Canadian queer male health.
He explains by phone that CBRC focuses on four pillars. First, there’s research, particularly with their signature Sex Now Survey, the country’s largest study of men who have sex with men (MSM). There’s also knowledge exchange, namely the annual Gay Men’s Health Summit, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary.
The organization’s other two main facets are intervention development—with programs like Totally Outright for youth (which Jollimore implemented and led), Investigaytors for emerging researchers, and Pivot for adult health advocacy training—and building health networks. Jollimore adds that CBRC is also working with the parliamentary health committee on Canada’s first LGBT2Q health study, and they’re developing a queer health list for federal political parties.
Yet despite LGBT progress in Canada, Jollimore still believes that “stigma is killing us.” He says that many people believe that because of “immense advances in political and human rights”, LGBT people are “fine”. But he points out that they haven’t seen equivalent results in health outcomes.
He explains that while a lot of people may not be aiming to harm LGBT people, they’re also not thinking about LGBT people either. He points out how many people are shocked when he provides them with statistics about LGBT people still having lower incomes or being overrepresented in homelessness, mental health, suicide, and addiction issues. He adds that as younger people are coming out at younger ages, they’re subject to more bullying during school years than those who came out as adults.
Although he’s aware that it may take time for LGBT health to catch up, he and CBRC aren’t resting on their laurels waiting for that to happen.
“It’s becoming clearer and clearer that that’s the new human-rights work we need to do,” he says.