Category Archives: Athlete

Gareth Henry Conquers Challenges

Gareth Henry began life with many disadvantages. He was born in a small town in northern Jamaica called St. Mary’s, on October 20, 1977. Henry’s mother was a teenager, and his father was not around. Henry was mostly raised by his grandmother and aunt.

At the age of ten, Henry began high school. As a teenager, he became aware of his attraction to other males. Henry had witnessed the treatment for gay men in his town, and kept his sexual orientation secret from everyone. He definitely felt he could not let his family find out, and spent a lot of time alone. When Henry was nearly sixteen, he moved away from home. For the first time he felt he could be true to himself, and began living as an openly gay man.

After high school, Gareth Henry moved to the Jamaican capital, Kingston, and completed college there. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work, and a Master’s in Communications for Social and Behavior Change. He began doing volunteer work with JASL, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, where he met other gay men. In 1998, he began volunteering with J-FLAG, The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays, the first organization of its kind in Jamaican history.

In 2004, the spokesman for J-FLAG was murdered, an act many believed was due to homophobic beliefs in the community. Gareth Henry soon became the new director and lead advocate for J-FLAG. As part of his responsibility, Henry informed the police of hate crimes. However, over the years, homophobic attacks increased, and Henry lost thirteen friends, often being the one to have to identify their bodies. He himself was the victim of three attacks, in which the police were perpetrators, not helpers. Police harassment increased to the point of verbal threats on his life, and as Henry realized the danger he was in, he went into hiding. In 2008, he chose to leave the country and fled to Canada, where he was granted refugee status.

Henry began working with the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, and Rainbow Railroad, which helps relocate LGBTQ people who are in danger. Gareth Henry has built a life for himself in Canada, and refuses to let any of the disadvantages he has experienced stop him from supporting others.