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.