How Gareth Henry is fighting for the LGBT Community

For those people in the lesbian, gay and bisexual community, the teenage years come with plenty of challenges. Also known as an individual’s sexual orientation, many youths find themselves in a confusing state when trying to find their identity in sexual matters. For one Gareth Henry, the journey to coming out and embracing oneself has been worth the struggle. Born in Jamaica, the vocal badminton player is committed to assisting those who are struggling with their sexual orientation to embrace themselves and reach out to likeminded individuals who can offer the same support. Growing up in his hometown, he lost about 13 friends who identified as gay to assassinations. As of now, his country has criminalized such relations thereby arresting those who come out. For that reason, Gareth Henry is dedicated to empowering his peers through different programs that support same-sex relationships.

Early Life

Growing up, Gareth Henry did not have a relationship with his absentee father. His mother supported Gareth Henry’s siblings in the single-family home. But, Gareth Henry had a close relationship with his grandmother. When he turned 10, Henry started school. It was then that he realized he was attracted to boys. For years, he lived a lonely life because same-sex relations were unacceptable and punishable. He could not come out. When he turned 16, he moved to his uncle’s place and got some liberation from the discrimination in Jamaica. He then started living a normal life as a gay man. While in Kingston, he went to the Excelsior Community College then the University of West Indies for science and social work. He also studied communications and behavioral change.

Working with the LGBT Community

In 1997, he started working with the Jamaica AIDS Support Group, one of his country’s largest organizations for human rights. He also offered to participate in community work and collaborate with gay men. Besides, he worked with the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians and All-Sexuals as well as Gays organization. Although he tried to fight for the LGBT community in his country, his pleas fell on deaf ears. That is why he decided to flee the county and settle in Canada where he sought refuge. He received refugee status and started working with the LGBT community in Canada. Today, he is a free man still trying to educate masses about embracing the gay community.

Gareth Henry: Tremendous Athlete, Fearless Advocate

Gareth Henry is a Jamaican-born athlete who is known for playing badminton and perhaps even more well-known for his role as an activist. He competed in the Commonwealth Games and multiple times in the Pan American Games. He has successfully competed in Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles categories.

A professional badminton player in her own right Gareth’s sister, Geordine Henry, has partnered with him professionally several times. The siblings teamed up to win the Mixed Doubles title while playing in the Jamaican National Badminton Championships six times over the span of 2008-2016.

Gareth Henry is also quite a vocal activist for gay rights. He has long been an open supporter of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays, which is well-known as the pioneering organization for gay rights in Jamaica, JFLAG.

Asserting his support of gay rights in Jamaica has come at a price for Gareth Henry. He actually plead for refugee status in Canada after incidents in 2008 in his home country becoming untenable. He stated that Canada was a place that protects and understands human rights.

Some of the horrific actions against gays in Jamaica that Gareth Henry had to witness included the death of 13 gay or lesbian friends between the years of 2004-2008. One of the most horrific of these deaths included a man who was being chased by a mob merely over the suspicion that he might be gay. The man was chased directly into the harbor, but unfortunately this man was not able to swim. The mob and innocent bystanders fearful for their lives if they were to assist simply watched the man drown.

The knowledge that his human rights were not the same in Jamaica as were afforded to millions of others in the world came crashing down on a personal note one Valentine’s Day for Gareth Henry. He was suddenly surrounded in a pharmacy and had no available exit and an angry mob to face. There was not an assistance offered by the police or the state. It was made abundantly clear that the police were not on his side or there for his protection.