Gareth Henry: Activist for Social Justice

After being the victim of violence due to homophobia, Gareth Henry left Jamaica to seek asylum in Canada. The badminton player and activist for HIV/AIDS, social justice, and LGBTQ rights was born to a teenage mother with a father who was completely absent from his life. He realized he was gay during his teen years after starting high school at only 10 years old.

When he was 15, Gareth Henry left his home so he could finally feel free to come out as who he is. After graduating, Gareth Henry moved to Kingston and earned a bachelors degree in social work as well as a masters in communications. He began volunteering for an AIDS support program in order to help his community. He continues advocacy for community in his new country of Canada.

Not only was he able to help others through his work, Gareth Henry was able to associate with other gay men in the area. In 2004, he became the leader of J-FLAG, an organization in Jamaica that is fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community. This organization was the first of its kind. This position was given to him after the murder of its co-founder, Brian Williamson.

It took a great deal of bravery to take this position as it made him a target for violence. Gareth Henry was one of the very few people that had any interest in taking up the important position out of fear of violence or death. During his time as the leader of J-FLAG, 13 of his friends were murdered due to their sexual orientation. He himself was the victim of homophobic violence 3 times by police.

One of these attacks occurred at a pharmacy in Kingston where he was beaten with guns by police officers in front of an angry mob consisting of hundreds of people. After issuing complaints about the treatment of the LGBTQ community, he realized that his concerns were largely ignored. This attack made international headlines and Gareth Henry knew that he had no other choice but to leave Jamaica, an opportunity that many in his community do not have.

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