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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