Although Gareth Henry is recognized as a successful athlete and one of the best badminton players from Jamaica, there are many other ways to describe him that hold much more value to the former athlete. As a proud gay refugee now living in Canada, he has dedicated his life’s work not to badminton but to ensuring that other gay, lesbian, and transgender people suffering persecution in their home countries can find safety and peace. Gareth Henry was forced to flee Jamaica in 2008 after receiving death threats due to his work with the LGBTQ community in Jamaica, known as J-FLAG (Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexual and Gays).
Although it may seem like living in the island nation of Jamaica would be an idyllic life, for those in the LGTBQ community, including the supportive family members, life is full of worry and fear. Due to same-sex relationships still being criminalized in Jamaica, along with 76 other countries in the world, same-sex relationships are highly persecuted and violence against the community is either ignored or oftentimes encouraged, even by law enforcement. Gareth Henry was on the receiving end of such threats and violence from law enforcement, nearly losing his life as they beat him with a crowd cheering them on. After this attack, another police officer later approached his car and told him that he would be killed. Fearing that he would not survive continuing to live in Jamaica, Gareth Henry fled to Canada after filing for refugee status.
Not to be silenced, Gareth Henry dedicates all his time to the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation as well as the Rainbow Railroad, helping persecuted gay, lesbian, and transgender people flee their country to get to safety. Gareth has helped many Jamaicans escape, some of whom experience even worse conditions than he did. Unfortunately for many, Gareth’s help is not enough. Gareth is calling for change in Jamaica that enables all sexual orientations to live free from persecution, hate, and violence.