Gareth Henry Finds a Home Away From Home

Jamaican badminton player and social justice activist, Gareth Henry had to flee his home country amidst violent attacks, from not only an unruly mob of citizens but also a corrupt police force. His only crime, being gay and fighting for other members of the LGBT community, many of whom were homeless and even a few that suffered from the HIV/Aids virus. Henry would take these men in and provide them shelter after their families had turned their backs on them.

Gareth Henry was very outspoken within the country’s pioneering gay-rights organization J-FLAG, Jamacia Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays. During his four years with the organization, Herny said he witnessed 13 of his friends killed. He personally identified several of their bodies. After the former leader of J-FLAG, Brian Williamson was murdered in a homophobic attack, Herny would take over as the leader of the group. A job that many in the community had no interest in.

While Gareth Henry would suffer attacks perpetrated by police officers on three separate occasions, the one that would garner the most media attention would occur on Valentine’s Day in 2007. Henry along with several other gay men were chased into a nearby pharmacy and cornered by an angry and hostile mob. The police were called, but once they arrived, Henry said they were abusive toward him. He claims all four of the policemen beat him with their guns. The attack itself would make national headlines. Henry thought with the national coverage of the beating that maybe things would begin to change. It prompted Henry to meet with the Jamaican ministry of justice. Though he would receive no justice from them, only increased hostility and harassment from the police.

With no other options, Gareth Henry had to flee his home and country to a place more welcoming of members of the LGBT community. In Canada, he has been granted asylum and from there he will continue the fight for equality and try to spread his story as a means to end violence and oppression toward the LGBT community.

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