Jamaican-Born Gay Rights Activist Gareth Henry

Being born on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, one of the 76 countries that criminalized same-sex relationships, Gareth Henry, who himself is a homosexual man, later became an advocate for the LGBTQ community to fight against the injustices that those who are a part of that group face on a constant basis. Having witnessed a lot of tragic events involving close friends who are also gay, he felt the need to stand up and speak out for gay rights in his home country, and to assist others with escaping persecution and death by finding ways to relocate them to safer places in the world.

Gareth Henry had to escape this same type of persecution himself in 2008 when he fled Jamaica and relocated to Toronto, Canada, where he was given the status of refugee. While pushing for change in his home country by leading the All-Sexuals and Gays group, also known as J-FLAG, he was targeted by policemen who ambushed and beat him, and he’s said that at least 13 of his friends were killed there in homophobic attacks. After moving to Canada, he began working at the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation, an organization where he still serves as Interim Director. In order to continue to fight anti-gay hate crimes, Gareth Henry also joined the Rainbow Railroad as a volunteer.

The Rainbow Railroad is much like the historic slave relocation service known as the Underground Railroad, which was responsible for helping many runaway slaves maintain freedom. Through the Rainbow Railroad, Gareth Henry has so far assisted more than 60 LGBTQ refugees by finding safer places for them to move to. Most of them have been from his own country.

Gareth Henry was born in St. Mary’s, on the northern coast of Jamaica, and he spent his growing years attending elementary and high school there. He later attended Excelsior Community College and the University of the West Indies, earning a BS degree in Social Work and a Master’s degree in Communications for Social and Behavior Change. He continues to be a passionate advocate for the rights and safety of gay people and their families.

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Gareth Henry-Helping to Free Refugees

We don’t know the persecution and hate toward same-sex partner as they have in many countries including Jamaica. Gareth Henry is from Jamaica, and he knows firsthand what it is like to be hated and persecuted against simply because of your sexual preference.

He was driven out of his own country of Jamaica because of the hatred and crimes against him, and his friends life-threatening and simply unbearable. He lost 13 of his friends to hate crimes, and he has many stories to tell that would make your skin crawl about the way human begins are treated simply because of their sexual preference.

Gareth Henry now lives in Toronto, but when he lived in Jamaica, he was an outspoken activist for the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays, or J-FLAG. He was pinpointed and targeted for hate crimes, and his life was threatened, so he decided to flee the country in pursuit of a better and safer life.

Gareth Henry has opened the eyes of the rest of the world to what is going on in Jamaica and many other countries. There are many refugees who have been given the name of “gully queens” which is a Jamaican term for LGBTQ outcasts. These outcasts have been forced to make their homes in the cemeteries and sewers where they live out their days in shame and misery. One 29-year-old had his intestines ripped out of his body by a pit bull while another young man was sexually assaulted. Another was disfigured by an angry mob who threw acid onto his body while still another committed suicide as a way out.

Gareth Henry has a wish that people will be more accepting and loving towards those who are different. If they were the world would be a much happier and compassionate place to live.

Gareth Henry has helped 60 refugees to relocate to new countries in 2016 alone, and many of them were Jamaican. He continues to devote all the time that he has to help refugees escape to better lives through Rainbow Railroad, an organization dedicated to helping refugees.