Gareth Henry’s Life As A Gay Man In Jamaica

August 21, 2018
By Rel

Gareth Henry was born in St. Mary’s, Jamaica, to a single mom. He mostly grew up living in his grandmother’s home and has never known his father. In his teenage years, he started to realize that he was attracted to other guys. In Jamaica, gay men are heavily discriminated against and can experience violence and even death. They are often referred to as “batty man” which is the Jamaican term for someone who is gay.

Just before he turned 16 he talked to one of his uncles and was able to move away from his family. He says that this allowed him to start creating his own life and learn about who he was. Once he was ready for college he became a student at the University of the West Indies. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degree there and then started a career in social work. Gareth Henry also started to volunteer for two LGBTQ nonprofits including J-FLAG which is the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. This organization was the first human rights organization of its kind in that nation.

One of the top leaders of J-FLAG, Brian Williamson, was murdered in 2004. Gareth Henry says he was still a bit naive and so became the new director of this organization. He ended up getting beaten by the police a number of times and had 13 friends murdered. One day he was stopped while driving by a police officer who threatened him, saying that he was going to be the next one to die. This led to him moving to Canada and applying for refugee status which was granted.

Gareth Henry now works for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation and volunteering for another social justice nonprofit. This nonprofit is Rainbow Railroad which helps people flee their countries because they face violence and even death for being LGBTQ. He also spends his time professionally playing badminton. He has been involved in a number of athletic competitions including the 2015 Pan American Games and the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He competes in men’s singles, men’s doubles, and mixed doubles.